Food & Drink

Cozy Up at These Romantic Restaurants in Washington DC

Every major city has its own list of unfavorable assumptions. Angelenos are airheads, New Yorkers are angry, and Washingtonians only care about politics. Those new to the city might be surprised to find out that politics is not actually a constant topic of conversation, and, contrary to popular belief, we don’t spend date nights delving into our views on the upcoming election while digging into a slice of tiramisu.

DC is actually a great backdrop to find a potential suitor and, while we can’t ensure a second date or eventual marriage, we can at least point you in the direction of the most romantic restaurants that the city has to offer -- each one sure to set the most optimal mood for love without mentioning one single caucus. Now all you have to do is book that reservation and please, we beg of you, turn your phone off once you arrive.

Primrose Wine Bar

Paris-inspired digs and classic French dishes

The intimate bistro and wine bar is a little out of the way, owning an otherwise unassuming corner in Brookland, but so full of charm and natural wine that it’s worth the trip. Known for its uniquely plumed chandeliers and a light blue theme that’s as relaxing as it is romantic, Primrose mimics a Parisian cafe date. Share a bottle of co-owner Sebastian Zutant’s own Lightwell Survey wine and dig into some French onion soup and duck liver mousse. Impress your date by telling them that Primrose was just added to the Bib Gourmand list for the 2020 DC Michelin Guide.

Little Serow

Dupont Circle
Cavernous spot for bold, Northern Thailand flavors
Little Serow is small and tucked away like a secret, down a small set of stairs off a bustling 17th Street. The food specializes in northern Thai cuisine and makes it super easy for first dates to eliminate potential awkwardness with a set, family-style menu. A quick warning: The flavors here aren’t for the faint of heart, so those with a minimal spice tolerance should proceed with caution. For those who can take the heat, Little Serow is a great option when you’re looking for something a little more adventurous but no less romantic than the classic date options of French or Italian.

Iron Gate

Dupont Circle
Italian and Greek small plates in a fancy setting
Iron Gate is located inside a historic mansion’s carriage house, which innately screams romance (and also possibly ghosts but let’s forget about that). The wisteria-covered outdoor patio features a fire pit and is beyond charming, and for colder months you can cuddle up to the fireplace in the indoor dining room. Go all out with the $90 prix-fixe menu or just opt for a few small plates to share and some glasses of vino. You really can’t go wrong either way, with Mediterannean-inspired flavors leading the way for dishes like hearth-roasted carrots and a shaved pork gyro with olive oil fried potatoes.

The Red Hen

Wood-fired Italian trattoria with a unique and well-curated wine list
The Red Hen epitomizes comfort, with its rustic-chic interiors and Italian-inspired comfort food. The corner bistro is all hearth, too, making it an experience in and of itself to watch the chefs at work. You and your date will love witnessing the flipping, sizzling, and baking of your meal before it’s served up to you. Don’t forget to cap your experience off with a stroll around the neighborhood and its endless charms.

Del Mar

The Wharf
Spanish seafood on the Wharf from the Trabocchis

When the District Wharf first opened, lined up with gleaming new restaurant options, Del Mar was an instant standout. The interiors are grand but not stuffy, all inspired by coastal Spain. Expect ridiculously good food, too, coming from Fabio Trabocchi who also brought DC other classic date night spots like Fiola, Fiola Mare, and Sfoglina. If you’re not afraid to ball out a little, make sure to order the paella -- Spain’s signature rice repast meant to be shared.

The Dabney

Hyper-local, Mid-Atlantic restaurant with a huge hearth at its center

The Dabney is one of those quintessential DC date spots that never gets cheesy. The vibe and decor of the restaurant presents itself as warm and inviting, with a roaring hearth as the centerpiece (and the place where all your food will be cooked). The fare, thought up by James Beard award-winner Jeremiah Langhorne, focuses on local flavors and ingredients and pays homage to the Mid-Atlantic region. Blagden Alley itself is now chock-full with charming spots to drink and dine, perfect for if you and your date have a bit of a wait. Make the awkwardness of a lull a thing of the past by grabbing a glass of vino around the corner at the Dabney Cellar. If the date goes really well, a nightcap at Columbia Room will certainly do.

Pom Pom

Whimsical spot to celebrate women and international cuisine

Show your date that you’re just as dedicated to supporting women-owned business as you are to exposing them to delicious food. Pom Pom is the new iteration of what was once the nationally lauded, Japanese-inspired Himitsu, following an amicable split between owner Carlie Steiner and her former business partner Kevin Tien. Pom Pom retains the same charm with some added whimsy, its namesake decorations strung across the space. The menu is super international and ever-changing, and the cocktail names pay homage to inspirational women.

Tail Up Goat

Adams Morgan
Carbs are king at this Caribbean-inspired gathering place
A neighborhood favorite, Tail Up Goat was opened by three former Komi employees (meaning it was bound to be pretty good). The Caribbean-leaning dishes, housemade breads and pastas, and cavernous interior lend itself to a fun experience all around, made even better by an infectiously chill vibe. It just earned its first Michelin star, so make sure to grab a reservation before your visit. The restaurant’s name was even inspired by the US Virgin Islands, where two of its owners got hitched. Hard to get much more romantic than that.

Fancy Radish

H Street Corridor
Philly restaurateurs bring innovative plant-based dishes to H Street

If you’ve been scratching your head thinking up a romantic date option for your new vegetarian beau (and an option that you’d also enjoy), you’ve finally landed in the right place. H Street’s Fancy Radish is so good that meat eaters might forget what they thought they’d be missing, with ingredients that mock meat in the right way: carrots play the role of pastrami and smoked tofu acts as a veg-friendly pâté. 
Their dishes are also globally inspired, meaning you get a little taste of everything from around the world. 
MORE:Looking for other plant-based meals? Read about DC’s best vegetarian restaurants.

Rose’s Luxury

Capitol Hill
Twinkle-lit, farmhouse-chic restaurant known for its bold small plates

In 2014, it was practically a badge of honor to get a table at Rose’s Luxury, Aaron Silverman’s cult favorite New American restaurant nestled into a converted Capitol Hill townhouse. The restaurant became as synonymous with delicious small plates as it did with the ever-present line that made its way down the street as diners sometimes waited hours for a table. Considering that countless new restaurants have opened with just as much initial buzz, we’re almost surprised to say that the line is still there -- a testament to just how good this Michelin-starred restaurant really is. Except now you can use their online system to book date night same-day, taking a bit of the stress out of the experience and allowing you to focus on the stripped down but chic decor, the legendary lychee and pork salad, and, of course, your date.

Sushi Taro

Dupont Circle
Upscale Kaiseki-style Japanese restaurant with an impressive chef’s dinner

Heralded by many as the best sushi joint in town, this upscale Japanese spot is sure to impress, especially considering seats can only be booked via email a month in advance. Just like Little Serow, Sushi Taro takes the guesswork out of the ordering process -- a sure relief for those who aren’t well-versed in the language of nigiri and sashimi. Sit down for a chef’s choice dinner at the omakase counter and let the chefs work their magic, serving dishes like grilled marinated tuna cheek followed by stacks of boxes containing generous cuts of fish.

The Inn at Little Washington

Washington, Virginia
Luxe inn with adventurous dishes ideal for a very special occassion

Technically located in Virginia, this chateau and legendary restaurant will require a 90-minute journey outside of the city, making it an ideal staycation spot. The luxurious restaurant, bedecked with rose-colored silk lampshades above each table, has maintained its position on best-of lists practically since its conception, when Patrick O’Connell began it in a converted garage in 1978. Now, guests come from far and wide for a chance to try its adventurous plates that range from Caesar salad ice cream to lamb carpaccio. This is one of those restaurants you book for a very special occassion, as the tasting menu will set you back a pretty penny.

Maialino Mare

Navy Yard
Elegant Roman-style trattoria near Nationals Park

The new kid on the block, Maialino Mare is a seafood-focused Italian eatery on the first floor of the now-open Thompson Hotel. It’s brought a much-needed elegant spot to the area, with a spacious and dreamy interior to instantly set the mood. Start your meal out with crispy baby artichokes and finish it with a salt-baked sea bass for two, punctuated by many glasses of wine. If the date goes well, you can go up and check out the new rooftop bar, Anchovy Social. It’s a bit dark and moody to mimic the feeling of being on a ship, but modern and unpretentious enough that it doesn’t risk causing seasickness.

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Austa Somvichian-Clausen hails from Los Angeles and now lives and works in Washington, DC. A few of her passions include eating food and writing about it, telling people what kind of Asian she is, and following around Samoyeds that she sees on the street. Follow her on Instagram.