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3 questions with Kelly Oyama, owner of Meatballs on Main

Former club owner chats about vegetarian meatballs, beet home fries, more



Cultures from around the world have their own recipes and methods for making meatballs. Served up using various meats and other ingredients on top of pastas, in soups, on sticks or in sandwiches — the variations are endless. Meatballs on Main (www.meatballsonmain.com) — located in a bright pink, historic home in downtown Cornelius — offer choices of meat or vegetarian-only meatballs in a number of simple, yet tasty ways. Kelly Oyama and her partner Ann Quagliato opened the restaurant in July 2012. The menu also includes burgers, salads, grilled cheese sandwiches and other comfort foods.

"The concept was being done at a lot of different places up north and we liked it," says Oyama. She and Quagliato previously owned Wine Up, a popular NoDa club known for its spoken-word shindigs, but grew tired of the late-night scene and wanted to try something new. With an interest in the farm-to-table philosophy — whereby restaurateurs support locally grown ingredients — they got the idea for Meatballs on Main. The two buy their pork from Grateful Growers in Denver, N.C., and most of their vegetables from other area farms. Oyama, a native Southern Californian who has lived in the Charlotte area for 20 years, went to culinary school at Central Piedmont Community College and lends her creative talents to the kitchen.

Creative Loafing: On the menu, there are two kinds of meatballs — one a mix of ground pork and beef, and the other made from veggies — which you serve over pasta or on various breads. Are these your two meatball staples?

Kelly Oyama: When we opened, we had at least six, maybe more, meatballs on the menu and it just got to be too much. So we went down to just these two, the best of the best. From time to time, we do have different meatballs that we offer as specials. We did a Greek meatball with lamb and we'll bring our chicken ball back occasionally, but for the most part it's those two.

Can you tell us more about the vegetarian option?

We wanted to have something for everybody, so that was an area where we really tried to focus. We also wanted to have something that wasn't the average veggie meatball. A lot of times you'll see a veggie meatball that has beans and a lot of filler in it, but basically ours is all vegetables and it's a really great meatball.

The home fries made of beets are an oddity. Are they actually good?

Beets are awesome! A lot of people like beets and we were just trying different ways of serving them. When we tried frying them they came out really good. We coat them with cornstarch and put them in the deep fryer and they get nice and crunchy.