After yesterday's false start due to a late health inspection, Meatballs opened — for real this time — in Penn Quarter last night. A commenter walking by noticed it was open, a fact that Eater officially confirmed this morning. So the wait is over! Balls for everybody!
But are they actually Michel Richard's balls? Not to rain on the parade or anything, but Chris Shott investigates this question in Young & Hungry this week and unmasks BGR: The Burger Joint's Mark Bucher as the proprietor listed on the shop's liquor license application. And Bucher is the man who has been running point on this restaurant — though he has shied away from being publicly affiliated with it until now. Bucher tells Shott that the "true and actual owner" — you know, the financial backer — is a company called the Food Research Corporation. Richard is the front man, Bucher says, and his own role is merely to help his friend's foray into fast-casual. Shott notes that Bucher and Richard have worked together before on projects but that "[w]hat’s odd is Bucher's caginess about the whole thing."
So what is the deal? Well, in an interview with Eater a few weeks back, Richard hinted that his own day-to-day involvement with Meatballs was minimal, saying that "it's a small place without chef. A restaurant without a chef. I even pushed myself out. No job for Michel Richard. What we're going to try to do with the Meatballs, we hoped it would be a great franchise." So, in other words, you're not going to see Michel Richard scooping your balls.
Eater reached out to Bucher for comment this morning. The BGR owner said he hadn't read the City Paper piece yet so he couldn't comment on "anything written on rumor and innuendo." But he did offer up the following statement:
"My official word is I have no official involvement in this restaurant other than helping a friend open it, and it is now open. ... Everyone that opens a restaurant has a financial backer somewhere, right? Money comes from somewhere. So this is a group that invested in the restaurant so Michel partnered with them. But I can't comment on Chris' story because I haven't read it. But the facts are the facts. I'm surprised why it even is news, to be honest with you. Who really cares? Everyone's got more important things to do in life. But whatever it is, it is."
So, this is probably not something the Meatballs team was hoping to contend with on their first full day in business, but the secrecy of Bucher's involvement is certainly intriguing.