food & grocery: Frugal Friday at Cafe Habana and Lena - share appetizers for an inexpensive outing for two
Mary Bilyeu | Contributor
Our evening began by heading downstairs to Cafe Habana, to visit my friend Bobby Hoffman who was tending bar. Although they are technically part of the same facility and share a chef and some staff, Habana and Lena are different spaces both physically and in terms of atmosphere. The latter is sleek, bright, trendy but welcoming; the former is darker, lively, and particularly giddy once the DJ starts playing and the salsa dancing begins.
Bobby didn't just bring us whatever beverage we'd ordered, but instead took the time to talk with us about what types of drinks we like, what sort of delicious treat we were in the mood for on an oh, so rare evening of frivolity. He brought us tastes of several liqueurs — as they came up in our conversations about food, travel, and amusement — telling us that Habana even makes many of its own from scratch. Bobby is passionate about food, about drink, about experiencing life, definitely a bon vivant. Be sure to ask for him when you go to either Habana or Lena, as he will spoil you rather than merely serving.
Bobby recommended a lovely appetizer to go with our Strawberry Mojito (me) and Posion de Bruja (Wendy, who was tickled to order a Witch's Brew): Baked Goat Cheese. This was a rich, creamy, indulgent treat topped with salsa and served with an abundance of tortilla chips. At $8, it was far more than one person could eat, and it was the perfect dish to go with our potent drinks. (Unfortunately, the bar was so dark that there was no way to get an acceptable photo.) It was an ideal dish to nibble at while talking about life and love ... the kind of stuff Wendy and I always tend towards when we go out.
Although we weren't particularly hungry anymore, we couldn't resist the temptations of Bobby's other menu recommendations; so we walked upstairs to Lena to continue our evening and try a few more treats.
Mary Bilyeu | Contributor
Because it was Girls' Night Out, dessert was mandatory. And who could resist a luscious chocolate treat, especially when it only cost $9 and offered plenty of decadence for two? Pasion de Chocolate, pictured above, is a gorgeous and delicious serving of chocolate cake that is filled with white chocolate mousse, topped with chocolate ganache, and accompanied by sweet lychee ice cream. This was ideal for our evening and would also be perfect to share on a date.
There are a significant number of options on the Habana and Lena menus which cost only $7-9, such that you could share them with a loved one and still stay within our mandatory budget: the Ceviche Trio, beef or cheese empanadas, plaintain tostones, fried yuca rolls with queso fresco, the charred vegetable platter and duck confit. Vegetarians will find that they have not been neglected and that many inspired dishes await them.
For a lively and energetic party, head downstairs to Cafe Habana. And for a quieter, but no less delicious, option, stay upstairs and eat at Lena. But either way, stop by, say "hi" to Bobby, have a drink, socialize, and enjoy some lovely food.
Cafe Habana 226 S. Main Ann Arbor, MI 48104 734-994-2773 Monday - Saturday: 5 p.m. - 2 a.m. Sunday: 5 p.m. - Midnight
Lena 226 S. Main Ann Arbor, MI 48104 734-994-2773 Monday - Thursday: 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. - Midnight Sunday: 12 - 10 p.m.
Go visit Mary's blog — Food Floozie — where she enthuses and effuses over all things food-related; and look for her monthly articles in the Washtenaw Jewish News. "Like" her on Facebook, or send a tweet on Twitter, too.
The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured in this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers - when you come to visit here, may you always be happy.