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NYC Import the Meatball Shop Closes in D.C. After Less Than a Year

The late-night option is the latest casualty on 14th Street

Paintings, tables, and chairs in the dining room of the Meatball Shop on 14th Street NW
The dining room at the Meatball Shop on 14th Street NW
Rey Lopez/Eater DC
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

The Meatball Shop, which operates six locations in New York City and opened on 14th Street NW last October, couldn’t survive on one of D.C.’s busiest strips for nightlife.

Popville flagged a photo of its papered-up facade this morning, and its D.C. address (1720 14th Street NW) has been removed from the company’s website. Yelp marks the location near Logan Circle as “permanently closed.”

The company sent the following statement to Eater: “We are so thankful to the DC community for welcoming us into their amazing and vibrant city. Unfortunately due to some challenges beyond our control, we have made the difficult decision to close this location. We still believe very strongly in the city of DC and look forward to returning to the District under better circumstances.”

According to the Meatball Shop, all employees received advanced notice, and the company is working to place them in other jobs.

The chain, which debuted its customizable meatball model in 2010 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, took over the space formerly occupied by Cork for its first D.C. restaurant. The wine bar consolidated operations in its market space across the street.

The 2,400-square-foot space was completely gutted and redesigned with lots of playful, food-themed art for its new life. The 70-seat interior was billed as a hip hybrid of an Italian grandmother’s house, complete with a bustling bar.

Washington Post food writer Tim Carman panned the brand soon after its D.C. debut, writing the menu of build-your-own meatballs was full of pitfalls, like a lobster melt full of shellfish balls that represented a “crime against crustaceans.” The shop also served salads, “baller” platters for big eaters, Jell-O shots, and strong sangria. There was no happy hour.

D.C. diners patiently waited for the delayed venture to debut. It was expected to open in late August but experienced some unanticipated kinks in D.C.’s permitting process.

Meatball Shop CEO Adam Rosenbaum told Eater last year his burgeoning restaurant group, which opened its first six shops in four years, was mindful of not going overboard with its D.C. debut. Soon after opening, he said he was eyeing Georgetown for a second potential location.

“For us it’s important not to be this New York institution that comes in and says, ‘We’re gonna show you how to make meatballs the right way,’” Rosenbaum said.

The Meatball Shop is the latest closure on the concentrated dining strip that’s bleeding tenants thanks to high rent and rising competition.

Latin-Asian restaurant and lounge Masa 14, which for years has boasted lines out the door, ended its 10-year run last month. Drafting Table, a low-key spot to grab an affordable beer or take in a soccer game, closed in June — the same month Policy Restaurant and Lounge shuttered after a decade.