By GEORGE MORRIS
Restaurant reviewer for The Advocate
Published: Jan 7, 2011
Just inside the front door of The Ambrosia Bakery is a wonderland of sugary confections, which should come as no surprise. Work your way past the cakes, pies, cookies and pastries and you’ll find something not as sweet or, perhaps, not as expected.
The Ambrosia Deli has a small but creative menu of sandwiches, wraps and salads for those who’ve worked up an appetite shopping for the more decadent items in the building — or for those who just want to stop in for a bite.
One of Ambrosia’s more interesting sandwiches is the Road Runner ($7.95), which offers a large chicken breast grilled and topped with American, Swiss or provolone cheese, grilled onions and jalapenos on toast. The jalapenos, as one might expect, give this sandwich a sinus-clearing kick, and overall we thought it was OK, but might have preferred something to balance those occasional bursts of pepper — maybe a thin tomato slice. On that note, given the option of chips or a fruit cup, we chose the latter to complement the sandwich, and the mixture of strawberries, cantaloupe and honeydew melon slices had the desired effect.
We also sampled the Philly cheese steak sandwich ($7.95) and the Pepper Jack roast beef wrap ($7.95). The former is a large sandwich with thinly sliced steak covered with caramelized onions, red and green bell peppers and topped with provolone cheese and mayonnaise on French bread. Sandwiches like this are often made or broken on the quality of the bread, and this bread was just right — crisp and fresh, with an abundance of roast beef on the inside. The coleslaw was a nice complement to the dish.
Not as filling but quite satisfying is the wrap, which is accented with chipotle sauce, lettuce and tomatoes. The beef is quite tender and easy to eat, and the wrap is pleasantly moist, but, like the Philly cheese steak sandwich, not sloppy to eat.
Cotto salami, Genoa salami, tangy olive salad, provolone cheese — everything about Ambrosia’s muffuletta sandwich is familiar, everything except the bread. It’s round and sprinkled with sesame seed, but it’s not the same as you’d get in that city to the southeast of Baton Rouge. The texture just isn’t the same. It’s not bad, though, even if it is a bit drier than you’d expect. But the sandwich, just like the New Orleans version, is big and filling — the half size ($6.95) is plenty large enough to feed one person. The meat and cheese are warmed enough to soften the provolone. The olive salad is salty and satisfyingly crunchy when you bite it. If you don’t have time on your lunch hour for the 70-mile dash to the Big Easy, this is a wholly acceptable alternative.
Still, the sweets are there, too.
One thing that is absolutely fiendish about Ambrosia’s deli set-up is that customers must order and pay next to a display case of some of the most tantalizing gelatos and sorbettos one can imagine. If you can resist that, you’re a better man that I am, Gunga Din. On another customer’s recommendation, we sampled the apple pie gelato ($3.25 for a small cup), which features apple chunks and even some bits of crust in the light, sweet Italian confection. The strawberry version is nice but not nearly as memorable.
Ambrosia also serves breakfast, including the Ambrosia egg sandwich ($5.95), which is made of two scrambled eggs, two bacon strips and American cheese on white or wheat bread or croissant and comes with either grits or hash browns. It’s a pleasant, filling breakfast sandwich and reached our table hot, with the melting cheese melding with the rest of the ingredients. The hash browns, also quite hot, were extremely salty.
Our breakfast foray solidified an impression we also formed at lunch. Ambrosia’s deli is not a fast-food place. On each of our visits, it took 20 or more minutes for our food to arrive after ordering, which is on the long side for sandwiches and breakfast, and especially when there were few other customers. We’re not sure how well the staff could handle a big crowd, so if you’re in a hurry, this may not be your place. For those on a more leisurely schedule, and particularly those who want to browse Ambrosia’s impressive displays of bakery delights, the deli offers a way to make that pleasant task even more enjoyable.