Ambar: From Small Plates to Street Food

What does a small-plates restaurant, built around sharing, do when takeout becomes necessary for their business? In the case of Ambar, the owners asked: “What would someone eat just walking around Serbia?” With this central idea, they crafted a selection of street-food favorites for their takeout menu, with sandwiches and shared meals for two.

We started with a collection of spreads, dips and breads. The breads are specially made for Ambar with their own recipes. The spreads offered an array of colors, each with its own distinct flavors. The beet tzatziki was light and sweet with an inviting purple hue. The garlic bean dip wasn’t too garlicky; it was great if you like beans. The ajvar with eggplant and pepper was exactly what you’d expect from a red pepper spread marinated in olive oil – but that didn’t make it any less delicious.

The assortment of breads added to the exploration of flavors. My personal favorite: the fried dough balls – a nice brown shell with a fluffy center of happiness. It all mingles together in a mix of delightful colors, textures and flavors.

For our main course, we tried three sandwiches (with fries and salad on the side): grilled pork neck, grilled chicken and the Ambar burger.

The grilled pork neck sandwich. Georgetowner photo.

Each bite of the grilled pork neck had a grilled char with a soft, approachable mustard. This one reminded me of a deluxe hot dog. I can imagine walking down the street with this in hand, each mouthful playing a supporting part in the scene around me.

The grilled chicken was surprisingly similar to a chicken parmesan sandwich. It was comforting and familiar, like something I was used to having every day. The sauce was accompanied with sturdy kale leaves above the chicken and finished with light sweet, salty and bitter notes.

The Ambar burger. Georgetowner photo.

The Ambar burger was the best of the three. Like the others, this sandwich was recognizable and new at the same time. The patty was over the whole sandwich and had a nice crust, thanks to a secret blend of meat and ingredients like soda water. Slender pickle spears were stacked on top, providing a satisfying chomp and balance to everything. Of all the sandwiches we tried, this had the most to explore with every chew.

On the side, the fries were perfect. You can trust my judgment here as a fry connoisseur with a deep love for fried potatoes. These were a welcome reprieve from the frozen fries that often accompany takeout sandwiches. These beautiful wedges, dusted with a piquant spice, had the perfect crisp that broke away to a soft center.

The side salad was pretty good, too.

We were stuffed by the end, which I think is the point of Balkan food. It was a wonderful savory feast. The only thing that was missing from the sandwiches was something that was so exciting at the beginning of the meal: experimenting with all the spreads. I wish we were able to keep exploring new ideas for our taste buds. So when you place your order, double up on the dips.

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