Palena Cafe
Palena Cafe
Reviews Coming Soon

Palena Cafe

  • Dining Style: Casual Dining
  • Website: http://www.palenarestaurant.com/cafe.html
  • Phone: 202-537-9250x
  • Hours of Operation:
    Dinner: Monday - Saturday: 5:30pm - 10:00pm
    Brunch: Saturday: 11:00am - 2:30pm
    Sunday:closed
  • Payment Options: AMEX,Discover,MasterCard,Visa
  • Cuisine: Italian, French, Contemporary American
  • Executive Chef: Frank Ruta
  • Dress Code: Casual Dress
  • Accepts Walk-Ins: Yes
  • Additional Details: Banquet/Private Rooms, Bar Dining, Beer, Cafe, Farm to Table, Full Bar, Non-Smoking Restaurant, Patio/Outdoor Dining, Personal wines welcome, Personal wines welcome (corkage fee applies), Private Room, Takeout, Weekend Brunch, Wheelchair Access, Wine, Wine Bar

Getting there

  • Parking: Public Lot
A word from Palena Cafe
The Cafe offers inspired food with a frequently changing menu, reflecting our locally sourced products and highlights include items from our wood burning oven and grill.
Continued
Foodspotting photos
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Palena Cafe reviews from OpenTable diners
  • Palena Cafe is Closed.
    MBJBVIP
    Dined on 5/7/2014
    Actually, Palena Cafe is now closed, and has been for a few weeks. You need to update your system. It was very distressing to go there and find that it was closed. Such a loss.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
  • Wonderful restaurant, sad to see go
    OpenTable Diner Since 2006
    Dined on 4/26/2014
    I have been going here for 10 years and absolutely love this little neighborhood spot. The atmosphere is cozy (especially if you are seated in the cafe by the kitchen), the cocktails are creative and tasty, and the food is hands down some of the best in DC. The roasted chicken is to-die for and the burger always has a perfect char-grilled flavor. I am sad to see this place close and have yet to find another restaurant in DC as consistent and delicious as this. I hope Frank Ruto takes his chicken recipe with him wherever he ends up! Kudos to Palena for an amazing decade+ in DC - you will be missed!
    Special Features:
    Fit For Foodies, Romantic, special occasion, Neighborhood Gem, Vibrant Bar Scene
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • OpenTable Diner Since 2009VIP
    Dined on 4/26/2014
    Everything I've had there has been great. Simply delicious. Sad to see the place closing.
    Special Features:
    Neighborhood Gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Last Tango
    OpenTable Diner Since 2014
    Dined on 4/25/2014
    I was saddened to find out on the night we dined that Palena was closing the following night. The fine dining side will be especially missed.
    Special Features:
    Late-Night Find
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Great food and service
    DoeBee
    Dined on 4/15/2014
    However the dining room in the cafe was rather dark and the chairs not that comfortable.
    Special Features:
    Great for Brunch, Fit For Foodies, Great for Lunch, Neighborhood Gem, Notable Wine List
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Palena Cafe - Exceptional
    Bobv
    Dined on 4/12/2014
    Service and suggestions excellent. Food was exceptional. A wonderful dining experience.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, notable wine list, neighborhood gem, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
  • Good brunch
    Vegetarian
    Dined on 4/12/2014
    First time at Palena Cafe, excellent food, reasonably priced, friendly unobtrusive staff, could have wished for a couple of more egg-vegetarian options, maybe an interesting herby omelet. Great selling point is the parking at Sam's.
    Special Features:
    neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Brunch on April 12
    Wambo
    Dined on 4/12/2014
    A very pleasant experience. The Brunch was exquisite and the $1 Bloody Mary a very happy surprise—not only was it a bargain but it was delicious. As were the Polpetinni and Polenta and the pancakes. Good job!!!
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for brunch, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • One of our favorites
    Mike
    Dined on 4/10/2014
    We love Palena and have been going for years. Most restaurants that have been around this long have a significant drop off in food, but Palena has been able to keep the level of quality as high as it was when we first went in 2000.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Never on Sunday
    Sandra
    Dined on 4/6/2014
    I should learn not to trust the online menus. This one had shrunk by about 5 main dishes. That was because it was Sunday, we were told, a day when a lot of restaurants are tired. My salad was basically lettuce, nothing special, but the Caesar's salad was well received as was the hamburger with the egg on top. Fries are extra and so is the basketful of day old slices for $3. The steak was soft and tasty and done right but came just warm. I had a thin vegetable soup. The dessert was not memorable; slices of sponge cake a bit too dry which had lost its fruit flavor a while ago. The place was busy, the light very dim and the service very slow. All in all, perhaps it performs better during the week but I don't think we are going to find out.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Although the food was good,
    OpenTable Diner Since 2002VIP
    Dined on 4/5/2014
    Although the food was good, the service was not. Wait staff not properly trained, not polished, did not know menu. Also, charging $3 for a bread basket is insulting, considering the prices. The bread was good, but not worth charging extra.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • A little disappointing
    BC123
    Dined on 4/4/2014
    We were really excited to use a gift certificate from a friend who had raved about Palena. The host staff and waiter were both really cold, despite our efforts to engage. We asked for recommendations (for wine, and then for food) and the waiter looked at us like we were crazy. He also forgot the bread we ordered. The food was good - especially the frites - but we left a little wanting.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • "Very good food and service*****"
    wlisadc
    Dined on 4/3/2014
    "Very good service, Excellent food, and loved the attentive warm napkin given to us after enjoying the best Bouillabaisse in town Do yourself a favor and go here on a non week end day. We will be definatly come back.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelCannot Recall
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Straight-Ahead Good Food
    DCnewbie
    Dined on 4/1/2014
    Just a few things on the menu, but simple ingredients, well prepared, reasonably priced. Interesting wine list,
    Special Features:
    neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Overpriced and questionable service
    OpenTable Diner Since 2001VIP
    Dined on 3/30/2014
    Fries are $7 - had better elsewhere. Waitress didn't even ask if we wanted dessert. Brought the check at the end of dinner before we even asked. Guess they wanted us out of there quickly. It wasn't even late!
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Great dinner spot
    NickM
    Dined on 3/21/2014
    Made a dinner reservation for 2 on the day of. Place was packed when we got there but were still seated quickly. Attentive service and great quality of food. Cocktails were made well (manhattan and old fashion). Small plates were interesting and tasty. The burger is a must.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for outdoor dining, neighborhood gem, hot spot
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Burgers rock
    businessperson
    Dined on 3/21/2014
    The burger was delicious and had a great crunch. The fries were also very good, but salty for my taste. Cafe salad was also delicious.
    Special Features:
    neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Neighborhood gem
    CanuckDC
    Dined on 3/20/2014
    Great spot in Cleveland Park with interesting, reliable menu, good, friendly service.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Always Excellent
    ProntomacVIP
    Dined on 3/19/2014
    Frank Ruta provides one of the finest cafe environments in Washington, with a menu that is dynamic and inventive--much more than what you see at most places. There is great care in the cooking, and everything arrives in perfect shape. We had quite a range of food--pastas, chicken, and his classic cheeseburger---everything really excellent--and the pinot noir we drank was also outstanding.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Very good quality. Small portions
    OpenTable Diner Since 2013
    Dined on 3/14/2014
    Very good quality. Small portions but very good flavor.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelCannot Recall
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Great opportunity to sample
    Raven
    Dined on 3/10/2014
    Great opportunity to sample some fine dishes at a fairly reasonable price considering the location and quality. My one negative was that I thought the Crudo was too citrus-y. Rabbit was very good.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Don't Miss Palena Cafe!
    OpenTable Diner Since 2004VIP
    Dined on 3/8/2014
    Everything about this gem of a spot is so good....the atmosphere, food and service! Everything we had was delicious and house made whenever possible. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and fun.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem, notable wine list
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Fresh food, fair price
    nickname
    Dined on 3/1/2014
    We were disappointed that we weren't given the opportunity to order anything at all off the restaurant menu, since there wasn't a soup on the Cafe one. And it ins't a very welcoming menu for vegetarians. The food was very fresh though, and the hostess/ she was not our server, so maybe she was a manager..... she knew her stuff and our server deferred to her to answer our questions. We had interesting drinks (off the drinks menu, needed some help), and enjoyed our dinner.
    Special Features:
    neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
  • Excellent Food
    Lesnla
    Dined on 2/27/2014
    Interesting concept - American midwest meets Italy. This is a GREAT place for sophisticated foodies who eat meat. For those of us who don't though - there is only 3 things we can have - 1 pasta dish, 2 salads, and maybe the soup- but that depends. So, for veggies, eat before you go, or, sadly, choose a different restaurant more friendly to non meat eaters.
    Special Features:
    notable wine list, romantic, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Bad service
    NYCtoDCVIP
    Dined on 2/22/2014
    My husband and I tried this restaurant for an early dinner on Saturday. The service was bad, staff wasn't friendly at all. We were so bothered by the treatment that we couldn't even enjoy our food. We just wanted to quickly finish and leave.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
  • overrated
    gwynniestVIP
    Dined on 2/20/2014
    this gets good reviews from the post, but we didn't think it was anything special. it's NOT a good spot if you're a vegetarian. our waiter also seemed distracted, and it took a long time to get our wine.
    Special Features:
    neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • A little disappointed
    WorkingMom
    Dined on 2/15/2014
    We had been wanting to try Palena for some time now. Unfortunately, our experience was only so-so. I had an excellent cocktail--a special for Valentine's Day--that was totally delicious. The cheese plate was good, but not OUTSTANDING. The "fruit spread" accompaniment was nothing to write home about. My Mahi Mahi was very salty, and though the celery was surprisingly delicious, the whole thing left me rather underwhelmed. The 'special' Valentine's Day dessert, red velvet crepes, was disappointing. The Butter Pecan ice cream on the side was very good though. My husband enjoyed his pasta dish. His chocolate cake was only good, not amazing. Our server was very friendly and fun--and the service was very good.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • The Food Was Good!
    OpenTable Diner Since 2011VIP
    Dined on 2/15/2014
    The food was good! We will definitely be back! The service was just ok; it seemed like our server was the only server in the dining room and was therefore, not not very attentive. A great cleveland park restaurant overall!
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Very disappointed
    YankeeHeartVIP
    Dined on 2/15/2014
    We'd hope to be impressed by Palena, but instead left feeling that we'd wasted our time and money. The service was beyond awful. At one point, I ordered a glass of wine, and our waiter told me to "remind" him, because he has a "terrible memory." The bread basket (for which you must pay, something I find ridiculous) came with inadequate butter. My husband's entree portion (the daube de boeuf) was laughably small. We ordered a dessert, only to be told it was unavailable. So many, many things wrong, and so few things right. We won't return.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
  • After dining here, I'm a bit
    2tight
    Dined on 2/15/2014
    After dining here, I'm a bit underwhelmed and somewhat disappointed Although the food and service was good, I'm not quite sure why people or food critics) are heaping the level of praise over the place. My wife and I both enjoyed our dishes, but I don't think the menu or the food distinguishes itself to the degree that other fine dining establishments do that we have dined in over the years. The wine list is minimalist, although the prices are fair. The place was noisy---we were seated near the kitchen and tables are close together. While I would recommend it, I don't know if that recommendation would be terribly enthusiastic, and I'm not sure we'd return.
    Special Features:
    neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Always a great experience
    Foodtraveler
    Dined on 2/10/2014
    The service was outstanding with enough attention from our server to fulfill our needs, but not hovering over us. The food was delicious, as always, such a great balance of flavors and unique pairings. The pasta is perfectly done and the chocolate torte is my new favorite dessert.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem, hot spot
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • As others have said-the service
    RedMooseVIP
    Dined on 2/9/2014
    As others have said-the service wasn't good, and the food wasn't good enough to make up for that.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
  • A lovely delicious evening
    Sueq
    Dined on 2/8/2014
    The three of us had delicious meals. The seafood dishes were particularly good- pasta with small squid and shrimp for me and a sea bass and seafood bouillabaisse for our guest. The service was excellent.We were able to eat early and make a 7:00 PM showing of Monument's Men at the Uptown across the street. Parking in the lot at Connecticut and Ordway came to 1$12:00 with the one hour stamp from Palena. A lovely delicious evening
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, romantic, neighborhood gem, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelCannot Recall
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • We had a wonderful experience
    OpenTable Diner Since 2010
    Dined on 2/7/2014
    We had a wonderful experience at Palena Cafe. Our server Jordan read our table perfectly - we were a group of friends getting together for a long overdue catch-up, and she was friendly and helpful but let us enjoy our time there. The food was outstanding, and the wine list was great. It was a wonderful evening, made especially great by Jordan and company.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem, hot spot, great for lunch
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • good vibes and great food
    fussy
    Dined on 2/2/2014
    definitely good restaurant; more relaxed on a sunday nite-- not crowded due to Super bowl later on.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, romantic, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Sunday brunch
    Carolyn
    Dined on 2/2/2014
    Although the restaurant was relatively uncrowded, my party of four literally had to beg to have a waiter come to our table for our initial orders, beverage refills, coffee, our initial food orders and the check. The hamburgers were terrific (as anticipated) but the service was really lousy.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Very Disappointing Experience
    FoxonWheelsVIP
    Dined on 2/1/2014
    What we liked: the water guy and the braised beef shank (perfectly cooked; wonderfully seasoned). What fell short....well short: Our server. He was awful. Haughty attitude. He failed to put our salad order in, which was actually good, because it meant our check would be less and therefore the tip would be less, as well. My meal arrived stone cold. When this was politely mentioned to the guy, he picked up the plate without apology, leaving my boryfriend to eat his meal while I sat there. And sat there. When the replacemtn meal arrived, it appeared that the kitchen had refried the original frites as they were very dark, and there was about 1/4 of the rapini left. On the plus side, the steak was very good -- a perfect medium rare.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
  • good food, rushed service
    OpenTable Diner Since 2007
    Dined on 2/1/2014
    Food was good, but not great. Service was uninformed, rushed, and they overcharged by $70 and delayed the check correction by 30 minutes. Unprofessional.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Portions were too small, prices
    AmeriguyVIP
    Dined on 2/1/2014
    Portions were too small, prices too high. I had the squid ink pasta with seafood which was excellent but I left the table hungry. I would have ordered an appetizer, but all I wanted was a light lunch. Light it was! Service was good.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Our favorite place
    Danae
    Dined on 1/30/2014
    Everything here is wonderful. Save room for dessert.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, notable wine list, neighborhood gem, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate