Cori Sue and I are like sisters: We finish each other’s sentences. Our families often celebrate holidays together. And we sometimes wage war, flinging insults and attacks (but, also, plenty of hugs, presents, and support when we need it most).
So when her Auntie Deb came to Washington to visit—a family member that I shockingly had not met, but had heard oh, so much about—a girls’ brunch was in order. I was so excited to meet my new Auntie Deb!
I snagged my boyfriend’s little sports car and picked up the two petite women from Cori Sue’s Logan Circle apartment. Then zipped up to Cleveland Park, to Palena, where there is one of the few strip malls and parking lots in all of Washington.
Palena is right on the edge of the strip center, with a cafe, coffee shop, and market attached. Oh, and there’s a lovely wine shop right next door. I highly recommend a visit post-brunch to stock up on some bottles of vino.
But Palena is the focus of the space, and when you walk in the entrance, the restaurant looks deceivingly small. The restaurant actually has multiple other rooms, and it’s quite big, which you realize once you’re off hunting for the ladies’ room.
We sat in the front, by the windows, which allowed us to dog-watch some very cute pups that were heading to PetSmart.
We settled into Frank Ruta’s restaurant and the server was quickly upon us, offering up cocktails and coffee, which was served in little personal pots for refills. The brunch menu was kind of small, but we immediately went for the bread basket and a salad to start.
The bread was just fine, but the salad was gorgeous, made with mixed greens, kale, broccoli, corn, and big shaves of parmesan. It was hard to share as a starter, but we gave it a go.
I ordered the buckwheat crepe, steering away from my usual Benedict, because the menu description was so enticing. The crepe arrived slightly smaller than I was expecting, but when I bit into it, I realized it was so rich that anything larger would have been too much.
Inside, delicious goat cheese and spinach. The crepe was cooked perfectly, so that it was slightly crispy on the outside and piping hot inside. I had a fried egg on the side, which added that bit of protein that was needed.
Cori Sue was onboard with my food fetish at Palena. Though she found the ambiance slightly lackluster, she loved the food. For starters, she ordered the squash soup with wild forest mushrooms and creme fraiche.
Mushrooms and butternut squash soup are two of her favorite things, so this dish was a shoe-in. The soup was flavorful and rich, and the mushrooms large, fresh and hearty. In the middle, a poached egg.
Starving following a long run, CS also polished off her entire plate of pancakes, which were some of the most unique ‘cakes in town. The buttermilk pancakes were layered with sour cream, cooked cinnamon apples, and garnished with cranberries and a delicious cinnamon-flavored syrup.
After chatting about family and Florida (which we all call home), Auntie Deb ordered off the brunch menu and went for the fried fish sandwich. When it arrived, I realized what a true lady she is as she daintily picked off the strips of fried fish and ate them with a knife and fork.
We chatted for hours, and at the end of it Aunt Deb remarked, “I thought you two were in a fight yesterday?”
“Yes,” we replied, “But we’re over it.” Like sisters, indeed.
The Bitches say: B, delicious, high-quality food, but the ambiance could use a boost, and perhaps a bottomless or reduced price mimosa option might help.
3529 Connecticut Avenue N.W.