A Return to Palena Cafe

3 Nov

While we have written about Palena Café in the past, I felt that it deserved another post since this was the first time the two of us have dined there in years.

Earlier that evening, we participated at a fantastic wine tasting at nearby Weygandt Wines in recognition of International Champagne Day (post forthcoming). After meeting fellow bloggers and sipping on several varieties of champagne, we decided Palena Café would be an optimal destination for dinner given the convenient location as well as the reasonable prices.

Knowing that it was Friday night and all, we were prepared for a bit of a wait. There were plenty of seats at the bar, and much to my delight, Founders Breakfast Stout was on tap! If there’s a beer that can help pass the time, especially on a cold and blustery evening, it’s a glass of this brew.

The Palena Cheese Burger

We were seated at our table 20 minutes later, but deciding what to order took less than 60 seconds. The two of us had already agreed that one would order the cheeseburger while the other would get the Palena chicken. These are essentially the requisite dishes when dining at Palena, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

While an order of bread is a nominal fee, we ordered it anyway since the chicken takes at least 30 minutes to prepare, plus we were starving. But let me tell you, the chicken is worth the wait, but more on that later.

I first have to discuss Palena’s magnificent burger: it is one of the very best you will find in DC, period.  Seven ounces of angus beef cooked medium-rare, a slice of Sottocenere al Tartufo cheese, and house mayonnaise all sandwiched by a housemade brioche bun. Simple yet effective. The burger-centric blog Burger Days does a better job of summarizing Palena’s burger than I ever will, but for $12, this patty is well worth it. All of the ingredients work so incredibly well with one another that it’s one of those burgers you just can’t put down. Highly recommended.

Palena Chicken

As for the chicken, I’m in total agreement with Rachel about it being flawlessly cooked. People tend to think that chicken dishes are typically boring, but Chef Ruta works wonders in the kitchen by delivering a chicken that is juicy and flavorful. Featuring a delightfully crispy skin and accompanied with a side of lemon-braised greens, it’s a great value for $17.

After polishing up both of our entrees, the waitress handed us the dessert menu, and after looking over the ingredients of the Autumn Sundae, it proved too difficult to resist. Featuring squash sorbet, apple ice cream, pumpkin seeds, and bourbon caramel sauce, the dessert encapsulated the fall season on one plate. All we needed was some fall foliage instead of the cars driving by on Connecticut Avenue, but regardless, it was a phenomenal dessert.

Autumn Sundae

Friday night’s dinner was perfect in every way. From the chicken to the burger to the seasonally-apt dessert to even the beer on-tap, everything was just excellent. How Rachel and I have not been to Palena more often is bewildering, but after tasting that burger, I think monthly visits are mandatory.

Palena on Urbanspoon

2 Responses to “A Return to Palena Cafe”

  1. Jody November 3, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    Excellent summary of Palena. It’s just so good.

    The burger is the epitome of simplistic perfection. Nothing too fancy –save for the hard-to-pronounce cheese– but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better combo of ground beef and a bun in D.C. And at $12, it’s a steal.

  2. EdLounge November 4, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    Of all the things that Palena does right, the burger and chicken are far and away the most pedestrian and tired. Consider expanding the dining repertoire to include the pastas, composed salads, braised shoat from the wood burning over, stuffed lamb breast, terrines, composed fish dishes and a slew of other items than that weary burger and chicken.

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