When looking for a place for great food and local entertainment from unique artists check out Lenny’s, at 1274 Bridgton Road, Route 302, at Hawkes Plaza in Westbrook. Lenny’s, under the ownership of Bill Umbel was created to honor the music scene in the area and provide exceptional quality food to keep people returning time and time again.
Lenny’s opened in February and has earned a following that packs the parking lot most weekend nights. Starting a restaurant on a heavily traveled commuter road was a big question mark for Umbel. “In life there are no guarantees,” he said.
The name came from famous guitar player Lenny Breau. Umbel got permission from Denny Breau to name the place as an Ode to Lenny. Denny will play at Lenny’s December 2. He’s a guitar player, too.
Umbel’s plan was to create an outstanding burger and build the business around it and that is exactly what he has done. Chef Kori Reece, a chef with a degree from Johnson & Wales University, helped create the menu to have a few dynamic items that could really wow the patrons. Try the Reuben, a blueberry BBQ chicken sandwich; pan seared salmon or a Lenny’s classic burger. She also prepares a nightly special, last week it was lamb shepard’s pie. Thursdays through Saturdays they serve prime rib.
“It’s really good pub fare. We have a reputation for good food and good entertainment. You can never go wrong with beer and a burger,” Umbel said. “Come here, meet people. Meet a smiling face.” They also have salad choices for those who are health conscious and a starter menu with favorites like house fried potato chips and wings in eight flavor choices. They have started doing take out as well.
Umbel owned the Empire Dine and Dance in Portland for over five years before deciding to sell and do something with the historical building he owned on Route 302. “I’m a real estate guy who wound up in the night club industry,” Umbel said.
The building was once home to Event Records producing greats like Lenny Breau and the first recording of an interracial duo, Allerton and Alton, from the 1050s.
“There’s a lot of music history in this building,” Umbel said. Upstairs from the restaurant are the shells of the old recording and practice studios. The original offices used by Al Hawkes are now the offices used by Umbel and his team at Lenny’s.
“I’m into music. I play. My mom played piano and my dad listened to everything and big bands,” he said. He is the president of the Bluegrass Music Association of Maine.
The music produced above Lenny’s lives on at Harvard Radio, where they still play many of the recordings.
At Lenny’s there is entertainment four or five nights a week. They will focus on local people this winter, hoping to provide a comfortable place for good music and warm company when staying at home gets old. There’s seating for 80 people and Lenny’s employs eight to ten people. They have a full bar that’s open to 10 p.m. each night. The friendly atmosphere keeps people returning.
Entertainers interested in playing at Lenny’s can contact Umbel. They accept a lot of acoustic music, Americana, folk, jazz, blue grass, country and singer songwriters. “It’s all quality,” Umbel added.
“It’s a listening room, not a dance hall,” said Bucky Mitchell, the promotions director for Lenny’s, who also plays drums in a band. “It’s fun to play here. Fun and close up with the people.”
Umbel is in talks to consider expanding and offering more music and possibly ticketed events.