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  • Palena Cafe

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Palena Cafe
Palena Cafe
  • Address:
    3529 Connecticut Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20008
    Cleveland Park
  • Cuisine:
    Contemporary American
    Price: $31 to $50

Palena Cafe Details

  • Dining Style: Casual Dining
  • Website: http://www.palenarestaurant.com/cafe.html
  • Email: palena@palenarestaurant.com
  • Phone: (202) 537-9250
  • Hours of Operation: Dinner: Monday - Saturday: 5:30pm - 10:00pm
    Brunch: Saturday: 11:00am - 2:30pm
  • Payment Options: AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
  • Cuisine: Contemporary American, French, Italian
  • 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.
Foodspotting photos
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Diner Reviews
  • "However the dining room in the cafe was rather dark and the chairs not that comfortable."
    Dined on 4/15/2014
  • "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!!!"
    Dined on 4/12/2014
  • "Service and suggestions excellent. Food was exceptional. A wonderful dining experience."
    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."
    Dined on 4/12/2014
  • "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."
    Dined on 4/10/2014
  • ""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."
    Dined on 4/3/2014
  • "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."
    Dined on 4/5/2014
  • "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."
    Dined on 4/6/2014
  • "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."
    Dined on 4/4/2014
  • "Just a few things on the menu, but simple ingredients, well prepared, reasonably priced. Interesting wine list,"
    Dined on 4/1/2014
  • "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!"
    Dined on 3/30/2014
  • "Great food. I have been a few times, and I recommend the chicken and the cheeseburger! Ambiance is a little dull and given the quiet scene, the tables are too close together to the point you can hear another conversation next to you, but the food is so delicious that it is worth going to! I definitely recommend."
    Dined on 11/1/2013
  • "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."
    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."
    Dined on 3/21/2014
  • "Great spot in Cleveland Park with interesting, reliable menu, good, friendly service."
    Dined on 3/20/2014
  • "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."
    Dined on 3/19/2014
  • "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."
    Dined on 3/10/2014
  • "Very good quality. Small portions but very good flavor."
    Dined on 3/14/2014
  • "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."
    Dined on 3/8/2014
  • "I go to Palena for the food which is outstanding and the quality of the food drives my overall rating. I have been eating at Palena regularly since it opened and it is one of the few DC restaurants whose food could hold its own among similar restaurants in Manhattan or the San Francisco Bay Area. There are too few of these in DC. It is definitely worth a visit. The food has many of the same qualities as Chez Panisse (Berkeley, CA) or Gotham Bar and Grill (NYC). The service is fine but could be better. The baked goods from the coffee shop are a delight and worthy of a trip on their own."
    Dined on 1/14/2014
  • "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."
    Dined on 3/1/2014
  • "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."
    Dined on 2/27/2014
  • "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."
    Dined on 2/22/2014
  • "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."
    Dined on 2/20/2014
  • "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!"
    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."
    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."
    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."
    Dined on 2/15/2014
  • "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."
    Dined on 2/10/2014
  • "As others have said-the service wasn't good, and the food wasn't good enough to make up for that."
    Dined on 2/9/2014
  • "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"
    Dined on 2/8/2014
  • "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."
    Dined on 2/7/2014
  • "definitely good restaurant; more relaxed on a sunday nite-- not crowded due to Super bowl later on."
    Dined on 2/2/2014
  • "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."
    Dined on 2/1/2014
  • "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."
    Dined on 2/2/2014
  • "Food was good, but not great. Service was uninformed, rushed, and they overcharged by $70 and delayed the check correction by 30 minutes. Unprofessional."
    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."
    Dined on 2/1/2014
  • "Portions not suitable to price. Service was fast though. We were seated next to the window, and it was quite cold."
    Dined on 1/24/2014
  • "Everything here is wonderful. Save room for dessert."
    Dined on 1/30/2014
  • "Palena is not only my favorite restaurant in DC because of the quality of the food and its excellent service but also it creates a welcoming atmosphere every time I go. The changing menu keeps visits interesting besides the perennial favorites (I maintain it has the best hamburger in town; the meat is fresh and juicy, the brioche bun is so light that I have never put aside one half but consumed it all. I love their varying seasonal offerings and desserts that have been exceptional on all of my visits. Now comes a guilty pleasure: the bread! Do order if you love good bread! I Loved the dessert- a novel and most delicious interpretation of a cannoli! And now they offer espresso after dinner as well. How lucky can you get?!"
    Dined on 1/24/2014