Road-Trip Restaurant: The Meatball Shack

August 2012

Despite its name, the Meatball Shack is no dive. Instead, it's a casual, thoughtfully conceived restaurant that opened in June on Aspen's Mill Street Mall. The menu—not surprisingly built around a selection of beef, pork, chicken, and shrimp meatballs—allows the customer the autonomy of ordering them sauced in a bowl, stacked on a bun, or tucked inside a sub sandwich. Of the beef, shrimp, and spicy pork varieties, my favorite was the unexpectedly light, not-at-all mushy shrimp.

I recommend going the sub route, if only for value: three meatballs arrive in a composed sandwich with a lovely mixed greens salad for $13 (versus one meatball in a bun for $10 or three in a bowl $13). The Shack's riff on the shrimp po'boy is suitably messy and comforting but without the grease: The sandwich comes stuffed with three crispy, baked shrimp balls, strips of whiskey-smoked bacon, shredded lettuce, pickle chips, and a light veil of spicy mayonnaise. You could easily forgo the mayo and not even miss it.

I ordered off the lunch menu, which is slightly smaller than the dinner menu, but I'm happy to see that the quinoa bowl makes it onto both. Tossed with roasted veggies such as zucchini, fennel, and broccoli, the hearty salad gets extra zip from the Shack’s fire-roasted salsa (which also doubles as a good meatball dipping sauce).

Local spin: Jensen Cummings, the executive chef of Row 14, is opening his own meatball shop called the Slotted Spoon in University Hills this fall.

312 S. Mill St., Aspen, 970-925-1349

Image via Shutterstock.