Multicultural Dining for the Whole Family
By Moira McLaughlin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, Oct. 17, 2008
At a glance: In my opinion, words, makeup and menus should abide by the adage "less is more." Unless, I suppose, you're a novelist, a supermodel or Amvrosia, a Greek, Italian and American restaurant in Ashburn.
"We didn't just want to stick with one thing," said Tasos Sgardelis, 28, the owner. And so they didn't. Instead of adhering to his Greek heritage, he added a couple of more cultures to the menu. It's practically a one-stop shop for all your culinary cravings. If you're hankering for lasagna, your son is jonesing for a BLT and your dieting husband wants a big, fat Greek salad, Amvrosia -- which in Greek mythology is the food of the gods and goddesses -- may be the perfect place.
The restaurant is clean and spacious, with Greek music inside and a plastic man in a checkered apron standing outside, his arms outstretched to welcome you. It sparkles with hardwood floors and booths, murals on the walls depicting Greek scenes, painted clouds on the ceiling, and bright, colorful plastic flowers lining the middle of the restaurant. The place feels fancier than it is. That scares some people, Sgardelis says. Parents think it's not a good place to bring the kids. Rest assured, however, this is a family joint, and moms and dads are free to let their children loose. To prove it, Sgardelis put his money where his mouth is: Kids 12 and younger eat free on Tuesdays. (There must be one child per adult.)
At your service: Can Ashburn be considered the South? Two waiters served me on two occasions and both seemed to exude Southern charm. They were very friendly, accommodating and efficient. Maybe they are used to hordes of kids leaving crumbs and sippy cups on the tables, so serving a quiet couple was a respite. Or maybe friendly service is just a requirement in an independent family restaurant such as Amvrosia.
On the menu: I am not kidding about the options. The menu is seven pages long, not including the weekend breakfast offerings. You can order bar food such as buffalo wings and burgers, kid-friendly food such as french fries and spaghetti with meatballs, or adult food such as French onion soup and New York strip.
The calamari was especially pleasing: buttery, not rubbery, with light and flaky breading. You'll find in ordering a couple of things that the same homemade marinara sauce is used in many dishes: mozzarella sticks, chicken Parmesan, the Greek specialty moussaka (layers of ground beef, eggplant and potatoes). Luckily, it's good sauce. I prefer my marinara a little sweeter, but this is fresh, with chunks of tomatoes.
An interesting appetizer to impress the kids is the saganaki. The waiter douses the fried cheese plate with brandy and then sets it on fire at your table. It's fun to watch and tasty to eat.
If you're a gyro lover, order the gyro platter. The meat was perfect, and it melted in my mouth. The entree comes with tzatziki sauce (a yogurt based dressing) on the side, but the meat was so moist, it didn't need it.
Amvrosia offers Greek specials most Friday nights made by Sgardelis's mom, Dimitra. She whips up dishes such as youvetsi (lamb and orzo) and kapama (lamb and spaghetti). Sgardelis's parents run Two Chefs Pizza in Arlington, where he got his start in the restaurant business washing dishes.
What to avoid: Sadly, for the 12-and-younger crowd (and me), the desserts, which are displayed in a case by the door, are not fresh or kid-friendly. Do a lot of kids like carrot cake, cheesecake or tiramisu? Amvrosia could do well offering a simple ice cream sundae or brownie a la mode to fit with the burger or spaghetti set.
Wet your whistle: Amvrosia offers the standard kid-friendly drinks: soda, juice, hot chocolate and (even) milk. But it also offers adult drinks such as beer, including the Greek beer Mythos, and Greek wine by the glass, half-bottle or bottle. Sundays and Mondays, order a $26-to-$35 bottle of wine for half-price from 5 to 9 p.m.
Bottom line: This is an ideal place for you, your friends and your kids. Can't find a babysitter but really want to see your old college roommate? Hit Amvrosia. Want to celebrate your 6-year-old's first soccer goal? Amvrosia will work. Need a place to take your sister and her five kids who are in town from Minnesota? You guessed it: Amvrosia will welcome you.