When I told friends that I had brunch plans at Lena, the Latin American restaurant on Main, I was met with reviews all over the spectrum. Some raved about fabulous food and an attentive wait staff; others warned me of over-priced, underwhelming cuisine and remarkably slow service. Needless to say I wasn’t at all sure what to expect from Lena’s brunch — though I hoped that it’d be on the rave-worthy side of things.
My boyfriend and I arrive at 3 p.m. to a nearly empty restaurant, and immediately I can’t decide if the decor is more quasi-futuristic or 70s-retro. Also unsure how its style ties in with a Latin-American menu — although I guess that it’s cool and inventive — all these thoughts flee when the cozy booth we’re seated in allows us the perfect amount of privacy.
We look over the brunch menu; it shows some serious promise. The description of the manunero (house made hash browns, seared pancetta and two fried eggs) has me swooning, so I check the price: $12. That’s a little more than this thrifty student is willing to spend on a fried egg breakfast, so we decide to get our pancetta fix with the slightly cheaper quiche horneado, which promises an egg bake with seared mushrooms, manchego cheese, verdurita, seared onions and our beloved pancetta for $10. We also decide to order the arepas de chocolate (which are slightly savory pancakes, according to our server), thinking they’ll be the dessert to our quiche entree.
When our food shows up, I’m immediately struck by the contrast in their size. The arepas, which are huge, IHOP-sized flapjacks, dwarf the 4” x 4” slice of quiche. And while the quiche itself isn’t too bad — the crust is buttery and flakey, and the eggs are fluffy without being spongy — it just seems way too small to warrant the $10 price-tag. What’s more? Hardly any pancetta. (Cue the tears.) Big disappointment.
In contrast, the arepas are almost a bit too much. They aren’t bad — the savory batter lightens the dish a little bit, with such a generous helping of sugary chocolate chips and caramel sauce — but they’re just too rich, even for the two us. Since I like my sweets, I would order them again if I could split the dish between 3 or 4 people, though I wouldn’t recommend these for any one person.
All in all, I decided brunch at Lena isn’t bad, but isn’t spectacular. It’s pretty pricey by my standards, and nothing I taste makes me feel like I got my money’s worth. I guess if you’ve got cash to burn, give them a shot on a Sunday. Anybody on a tight budget would likely be happier elsewhere.
Address: 226 S. Main St., Ann Arbor, MI
Hours of operation: Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday: 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., Saturday: 10 a.m. to 12 a.m., Sunday: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Brunch: Saturday-Sunday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.