Former White House Chef | Upscale New American | Seasonal Ingredients | Onsite Coffee Shop | Acclaimed Desserts
Who's in the Kitchen? Chef Frank A. Ruta has done it all. Just one year after graduating from culinary school, the White House hired him as an assistant chef. He moved up to executive sous chef, serving both the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations. Since then, he's been wowing DC's less presidential residents at Palena, where he received a James Beard Award in 2007 and the title of Food and Wine magazine's Best Chef in 2001.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Stop into Palena’s onsite coffee shop to work out the kinks in your dinner-conversation game plan over a cup of joe.
After: Keep the good vibes going with a pitcher of beer and a game of pool at Atomic Billiards just down the street (3427 Connecticut Avenue NW).
If You Can't Make It, Try This: Chef Ruta's more casual sister restaurant, Palena Cafe, which whips up the same locally sourced, seasonal cuisine and is located right next door.
Running on a treadmill and bench-pressing roommates aren't the only ways to get a good workout. Enter Pole Pressure, a studio dedicated to pole fitness. Here, students use fitness poles to tone muscles, strengthen midsections, and improve balance with spins, kicks, and twirls in a variety of classes. Each class tackles specific skills?for instance, Pole Level 1 introduces the basics, and Pole Trix includes advanced moves, such as choreography performed upside down.
Start a grassroots campaign for flavorful food sharing that’s equal parts communism and cronyism with today’s Groupon to Sabores. For $15, you’ll get $30 worth of tapas, sangria, and paella to nibble, pass, and bump foreheads over at an unhurried Andalusian pace. Located in Cleveland Park, Sabores is a Metro-accessible mecca for small-plate sharing, sangria sipping, and lively conversation.
Byblos Deli is a diminutive Cleveland Park café, noted for its delicious gyros and souvlaki sandwiches. Sides include standard Middle Eastern fare, from stuffed grape leaves to baba ganoush, hummus and falafel. Don’t want to go Greek? You can also indulge in yummy homemade chicken salad, a variety of subs or opt to sample the daily special, which often features regional delights not often found around DC. The small inside eating area is a little sparse, leaving the focus on the food, and on nice days Byblos sets tables out on the wide sidewalks overlooking Connecticut Avenue. They’re perfect for enjoying the cheap eats and watching folks stroll by.
Executive Chef Billy Klein brings a bit of Spain to Cleveland Park, creating inventive interpretations of tapas that marry traditional flavors with contemporary sensibilities. Befitting the name "Pulpo"—Spanish for octopus—menu prominently features a dish of tender octopus simply prepared with the refreshing citrus-herbal tang of oranges and parsley. Chef Klein and his team also keep the meals close to home by sourcing produce from local farms. This dedication is apparent throughout the drink menu, which features three kinds of sangria, an assortment of international wines, and cocktails made with everything from jalapeño-infused simple syrup to earl grey- and sage-infused vodka.
Washingtonian describes the thoroughly industrial dining room as, "something at once more modern and rustic." Given the worn, black brickwork, well-trodden concrete floors, and caged, warehouse-style light bulbs, this assessment seems especially apt. A three-paneled, black-and-white piece of artwork depicting an octopus adorns one brick wall, and a lipstick-red accent wall flaunts flat-screen televisions and a gurgling aquarium.
Named after the telephone code for Jamaica, 876 Cafe establishes a direct connection between American cuisine and Caribbean zest. Chefs pan-roast fillets of black bass before dressing them with beurre blanc sauce made with ackee, a Jamaican fruit known for its creamy texture. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee steeps into steaks served with mashed sweet potatoes, and grilled pork chops come covered in a flavorful mango glaze. Brunch entrees include the Van Ness Benedict, which pairs poached eggs and applewood bacon with curried tomato hollandaise and sautéed callaloo greens, giving diners a reason to wake up early that is more compelling than their swinging-mallet alarm clock. Ukeleles and paintings by local artists hang on sunny yellow walls, and white tablecloths swath the restaurant's tables.