Details

Palena Cafe (Closed)

3529 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008

202-537-9250

Neighborhood: Upper Northwest, Cleveland Park

Cuisines: Modern, Italian, American

Opening Hours:
Open Monday through Saturday 5:30 PM to 10 PM.

Wheelchair Accessible: Yes

Nearby Metro Stops: Cleveland Park

Price Range: Moderate

Noise Level: Chatty

Reservations: Not Needed

Website: http://www.palenarestaurant.com

Best Dishes:
Fried lemons, onion rings, and potatoes dauphinoise; house-made hot dog with German potato salad; roasted chicken; cheeseburger; raviolini stuffed with duck or oxtail; corned brisket; gnocchi; charcuterie.

Price Details:
Cafe menu, $10 to $14.

Special Features: Wheelchair Accessible, Kid Friendly

Palena Cafe

The no-reservations cafe at Palena is a destination in its own right.

From June 2006 Cheap Eats

The balloon wineglasses, weighty silver, and overstuffed banquettes hardly cry out "budget." They are bonuses to dining in this elegant restaurant's no-reservations front cafe, which has become a foodie pilgrimage in its own right.

"I'd eat here every night if I could" is a remark we hear often. The house-made hot dog, 45-minute roast chicken, and truffled-cheese-topped burger garner most of the praise, and they're certainly deserving. But there are lots of sleeper hits in chef Frank Ruta's cafe repertoire.

The short menu shifts from night to night. The charcuterie plate, which tends to show up on Tuesdays, shows Ruta's attentive approach--he spends months curing bresaola, capicola, and other sausages. More whimsical is a plate of fried lemons, potatoes dauphinoise, and onion rings. And Ruta, who once worked in Italy, has a masterful hand with pastas--oxtail-stuffed raviolini, gnocchi with nettles.

Our one gripe? Pastry chef Ann Amernick's desserts--defrosted layer cakes, berries topped with wan crème anglaise--seem tired.