When the Ambrosia opened about a decade ago, it was a seedy-looking, nondescript little restaurant that served some remarkably good Greek food at a remarkably low price. Except for a recent minor facelift outside, little has changed.
The ancient plastic seats seem to be patched with more and more tape, and the weekend crowds seem to grow ever larger, but the basic virtues remain. The food is still an incredible bargain, and much of it is better than ever. Service is fast and without frills, as befits a place like this.
Don't expect unusual dishes here. The menu runs to standards such as souvlaki, gyros, phyllo-crusted pies, moussaka, Athenian chicken and a daily special lamb dish or two. There are a few Italian items (including a decent pizza, available with a gyros topping), but these are better ordered in an Italian restaurant.
The phyllo pies are excellent, particularly the spinach variety, with a thin, crackly crust and a filling that strikes just the right balance between spinach and feta cheese. The meat pie is thicker-crusted and less delicate, but it's a real rib-sticker, with a dense, nicely flavored meat filling.
A good light meal for two people might consist of shared meat and spinach pies, a Greek village salad and a big platter of tomatoes, cucumber, feta cheese, black olives and anchovies.
The gyros served in most restaurants is fatty or dry, and the worst gyros combine both faults. But at Ambrosia this pressed lamb-beef mixture is moist, relatively lean and nicely garlicky. High marks for the souvlaki, too, the chunks of roasted pork succulent and well-flavored. Both are served on good pita bread with a pleasant yogurt sauce (ask for a little extra on the side).
Among the hot platters, beef stefado consists of big cubes of tender, well-trimmed stew beef in a zippy tomato-based sauce that's slightly hot, slightly sweet and blessedly light on the cumin.
Just as impressive is the sometimes available lamb youvetsi, a generous hunk of lamb shoulder, cooked long and slowly so that it's falling off the bone, and served in a mild meaty sauce with orzo, the wonderful pearl-shaped Greek pasta.
Another excellent special features the same lamb in a lively tomato sauce, served with green beans that soak up the flavors. The least satisfying platter lately has been the Athenian chicken, its skin unpleasantly doused with too much dried oregano. All of the platters come with soft, barely edible sub rolls. Pay a little extra and have an order of warm pita bread instead.
If you like your baklava big, wet and sweet, you'll love Ambrosia's version, an immense slab that's saturated with honey and will easily serve two. We prefer ours drier and cracklier, but at $1.40, who's quibbling?