You Please the IFA: Palena

From Flickr user Conn Ave

From Flickr user Conn Ave

By Ezra Klein

My pictures don’t do it justice. They were taken on an iPhone, after all. The burger is blurry and dark. But it wasn’t. It was a thick patty. Real meat. Dripping with juices, covered in cheese, and served on a light homemade roll with pickled vegetables. A bit overdone on the edges, maybe, but a damn good burger. Great, even.

On my screen, the Caesar looks limp and dim. But it wasn’t. Long leaves of romaine in a sharp anchovy sauce dotted by chewy fried caper and a slice of lemon tempura. Fried lemon slices should become a standard bar snack. I’d eat a million.

But the real reason I can’t post my pictures is the roasted chicken.

Oh my god, the roasted chicken.

My iPhone says it’s pale and gray. My iPhone lies. It’s perfect. No, it’s better than that. I could have been served a substantially worse roasted chicken and called that perfect. This is roasted chicken as I never knew it could be. The meat is juicy deep into the breast. The fat explodes when you bite into a piece with skin. By the end, I was holding the carcass, oil dripping down both hands, gnawing to find those last shreds. It was that good.Which made it all the stranger that the sides — tasteless croutons and weak shreds of red pepper — were so astonishingly poor. But they were meaningless. I would take that roast chicken to meet my mother. I would fly kites with that roast chicken. I would bring it to my office Christmas Party and introduce it to my editor. I would ask it if my tie matched.

Oh, and here’s the kicker: It was cheap. Without wine, a Caesar salad, a burger, a huge roast chicken, and two coffees came to $54. It’s the best value in DC, by far. And I haven’t even mentioned the effortlessly attentive service, or the fact that I split everything with a dining partner and, without being asked, they served all the dishes on two plates, cut them in perfect halves (including the chicken), and garnished both equally.

I almost hate to do this next part. I don’t want to tell you where to find the restaurant, or what it’s name is, or that there’s an affordable cafe menu attached to the more elegant dining room. You might go, and then you’ll tell your friends, and they’ll tell their friends. But I am, at heart, an altruist. The IFA cares, people. So go to Palena in Cleveland Park. Sit at the cafe. Order the roast chicken. Trust me.


3 responses to “You Please the IFA: Palena

  1. Damn you, Ezra… I had just about forgotten about that FREAKISHLY mind-blowing chicken, having moved to NYC from DC a year and a half ago, and you have to post this… Now I’m going to have to mourn all over again!

  2. Shut uuuuuuuuuuuup. I live around the corner from Palena, and there’s already a half-hour wait for a cafe table pretty regularly. Any mention from a wildly influential liberal blogger is sure to push that into the low 2-3 hour range. Do like the rest of us regulars…if you have to mention it, just be like “oh yeah, Palena…that joint by the Exxon station on Connecticut. Ok, but kinda overpriced”. Don’t be your own witness.

    Also, as I’ve said here before, the Palena cheeseburger is the best burger in the DC area, hands down.

  3. In Murphy Square in “downtown Sunnyvale” is a middle eastern restaurant called “DishDash”.

    It is, outside of a few very well hidden sushi and Pho places in strip malls, the very best restaurant in Silicon Valley. It’s about an hour wait for lunch.

    I can understand how people might be displeased that you gave this one away….


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