Bus Stop Sandwich Shop

dining_LenaCafeA small triangular kitchen looks out upon the bus lanes at Santa Cruz’s Metro Center. Here at Café Lena you’ll find breakfast and lunch plus smoothies, coffee drinks and candy.

Morning bus commuters enjoy a variety of toasted bagels with cream cheese ($2), turkey ($5) or spreads such as pesto and sun-dried tomato along with a 20-ounce cappuccino ($2.75) or smoothie ($3.75). I ordered a plain bagel with buttery hummus ($2.75) which was both filling and flavorful. (Don’t forget the napkins!)

For lunch, the list of sandwiches ($5) includes roast turkey and veggie pine nut pesto. Fresh salads ($5.75) such as Greek, Oriental Chicken, Caesar, and Chef bring the best of springtime to the workday.

The panini machine was unavailable, but Lena offered to heat a sandwich in the oven instead. Two slices of oatmeal and sunflower seed-studded bread were each topped with thinly sliced, salty ham and flavorful Gruyère-like Swiss cheese, baked, and then stuffed with freshly sliced tomato. It was quite possibly the most marvelous ham sandwich I’ve ever eaten: I could taste each of the well-flavored ingredients in every bite. From another sandwich, creamy tuna salad oozed out between large slices of pillowy sourdough bread. Crisp romaine lettuce added crunch.

The well-stocked refrigerator includes sodas, Snapple, and even San Pellegrino Limon. Plenty of gummy candies are bagged for a quick stop, and Jelly Bellies are also available.

For those who find themselves at their desk at noon, Lena’s delivers a selection of sandwiches, salads, desserts and microwaveable pasta to Santa Cruz offices. (There’s a minimum order size for the more distant towns.) Café Lena also caters.

Café Lena, 920 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 425-5362. Serving breakfast and lunch 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Closed weekends.

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