January 2006: Palena Cafe

Two years ago, Frank Ruta turned the front room of his on-the-rise Modern American destination into a relaxed, albeit elegantly appointed, no-reservations cafe. Now, the overstuffed barstools and cozy banquettes see as much action as the formal dining roo

2006 100 VERY BEST RESTAURANTS

THE SCENE. Two years ago, Frank Ruta turned the front room of his on-the-rise Modern American destination into a relaxed, albeit elegantly appointed, no-reservations cafe. Now, the overstuffed barstools and cozy banquettes see as much action as the formal dining room in back.

WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. That you can drop in on any evening and find a beautifully balanced salad, robust ragu, or excellent roast for the price of a pizza. Or you can order à la carte from the dining-room menu.

WHAT YOU WON'T. The no-reservations policy can mean long waits at peak times. The tab quickly jumps when you factor in house cocktails ($8 to $10) and wine.

BEST DISHES. Fried lemons, onion rings, and potatoes dauphinoise; house-made hot dog with German potato salad; juicy roasted chicken, worth the 45-minute wait; cheeseburger; raviolini stuffed with duck; corned brisket; Ruta's house-cured meats such as bresaola and capicola.

Don’t miss a new restaurant again: Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.


Questions or comments? You can reach us on Twitter, via e-mail, or by contacting the author directly:
Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.