Judging Restaurants – Palena


I’ve been super curious about Palena, located at 3529 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. The menu looks mighty tempting. I’ve always thought it was odd that a presumably high end restaurant sat right next to a gas station. But I love Italian food so I’m dying to know – thumbs up or down?

19 Comment

  • Thumbs up. I really like this place and have found the food and atmosphere to be great. We have a small group of friends that like to travel around and try different restaurants, and we’ve gone back to Palena as a group a few times because it’s been so good. The food is seasonal, so the menu can vary quite a bit from month to month.
    It’s expensive – $30/$40 entrees- not your average weeknight dinner, but well worth it. I had a cold pureed pea soup at Palena and a scallop dish that I can still remember a year later. And the deserts are wonderful; they have a former white house pastry chef on staff.

  • Thumbs way up. Palena is a very serious and very good restaurant. Frank Ruta is largely known in the industry as a Chef’s Chef, a title that was in evidence on my last visit by the number of other restaurant professionals having dinner there too. My advice is to sit in the front room as both menus are available from there. However the first visit should focus on the simple elegance of their food. Split an appetizer, order the burger, the roast chicken, and split the fry plate. It would seem unusual, on it’s face, to order such common dishes from a restaurant of this caliber; but that is the point. There is not better burger in the city, and I have had no better chicken on this side of the Mississippi River. Include dessert, a reasonably priced bottle of wine, and tip and the tab might be around a c-note. The next time you go, and there will be a next time, splurge and order from the bistro menu too.

  • the thing with this place is that its so well known for its burger yet its really a fancy shmanz place. The burger is great But even though you get it in the front of the house area where there are slightly cheaper options. the waiters seem to get irritated if you are just getting a couple of their famed burgers and beers. god forbid you dont order a 40 dollar entree

  • I went there to get the burger as well. for some reason they told us the fry plate no longer was on the menu but would be coming back again at some unforseen date. not sure what that was about. got the burgers and yes. dealt with a waiter who seemed pist he would be getting tipped on #30 instead of $90

  • One of my favorite spots. As others have noted, if you are looking to cut down on costs, sit down at the front of the restaurant.

  • I LOVE PALENA. My chef boyfriend loves Palena. It’s our go-to place for birthdays and anniversaries. I once met a guy who makes the fry plate outside the Raven, and it was like meeting a celebrity. I totally freaked him out by my excitement to meet him.

    Anywho, Palena is awesome. Sit in the front section for an amazing meal at a reasonable price; sit in the dining room for a special occasion and an unforgettable dining experience.

  • It will always be Kenny Roger’s Roasters to me…of course, I haven’t been able to afford a meal there since it *was* Kenny’s place.

  • This place is amazing. It actually operates like two restaurants, with finer dining in the back and a really causual Cafe in the front. At the cafe, you can order a perfectly marinated half chicken for 13 dollars, or one of the best cheeseburgers in the city for 10 dollars.

  • Haven’t been, but have heard amazing things. It’s definitely on my “to eat” list and glad to hear it’s getting such rave reviews here.

  • I went there after hearing about how good the chix is. It wasn’t bad, but I was underwhelmed considering all the hype. I may try the burger from there since everyone raves about it…

  • The burgers there are amazing, and cheap. Definitely worth the attitude you get for ordering an $11 burger at a fancy restaurant.

  • My absolute favorite restaurant in DC for many years. Hands down. It may not be clear from others’ comments but you can order anything from the full menu in the cafe as well as the cafe menu.

    Also Palena isn’t an Italian restaurant. The style can’t really be pigeonholed, you will find dishes reminiscent of many styles. I’d call it “nouveaux american” which of course means nothing.

  • Ate there last Wednesday for the first time. We are both ‘kitchen people,’ big eaters & cooking enthusiasts. It was great to enjoy the prix fix in the cafe part of the restaurant: ate like king & queen in pauper dress. Still paupers after paying the bill, though…!

  • My friend ordered the burger there. They didn’t have ketchup on the table so my friend asked for some. They then served it on a saucer and told my friend that he should try it first without ketchup as it’s meant to be that good without condiments. My friend still put ketchup but said it was a pretty good burger. Thought that was funny but my entree, a soup, was pretty good too so I’m sure it’s an excellent restaurant.

  • I’ve had the famous half chicken there and was not impressed. First, it was clearly brined, which is supposed to make the chicken more juicy, but to me it made the texture very rubbery. Also it seemed like the chicken had been marinated with cloves and way to many of them – my mouth was actually numb by halfway through the meal. The overall impression was that I was eating fake processed chicken which I’m sure is the opposite of what they mean to convey.

  • Palena is the most cosistently excellent restaurant in DC. Where others have let me down, Palena never has. My wife and I enjoy the sitting in the front cafe and ordering items from the regular menu as well as cafe menu.

  • Good food but somewhat overpriced. Plus, the last time I was there our table was swarming with fruit flies, which really grossed us out (I understand they have taken care of that, however).

  • The truffle burger is incredible.

  • It’s fantastic–great hamburger at the bar.

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