trendline meatball nights Little Jacks

Trendlines: Meatball Mondays at Little Jack's Tavern on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017. Wade Spees/Staff

Meet one-night-only meatballs

How do you make one of the world’s humblest dishes seem special? Limit its service to just one night a week. At Stems and Skins, for example, the meatballs come out on Sundays.

Learn their backstory

The fashion for designated meatball nights at upscale restaurants dates back to the early 2000s, when San Francisco’s A16 had spare meat scraps from whole animal butchering. The chef’s Neapolitan-style solution to the surplus morphed into Meatball Monday (the fact that public health organizations around the same time were resurrecting the wartime concept of Meatless Mondays was purely coincidental.)

“You can almost feel the excitement at the table when the waiters say, 'And of course, since it's Monday ... we have meatballs’,” A16’s owner Shelley Lindgren told Food & Wine magazine.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Bauer, who in 2009 wrote, “I promise, Meatball Monday won’t be a recurring theme in my blog,” other Bay Area restaurants followed suit.

Over the past five years, meatballs have continued to make inroads on menus across the country. Although the weekly meatball tends to be round and slathered with red sauce, chefs appreciate the diversity of sizes and styles they can explore within the affordable meatball category. Distributor U.S. Foods recently named meatballs to its list of top 10 appetizer trends.

And order them here

Little Jack’s Tavern, 710 King St.,, 843-531-6868 (spaghetti and meatballs, $15) Available exclusively on Mondays.

— Hanna Raskin

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.