Fall in Love with 15 of DC’s Most Romantic Restaurants
From impressive omakase dinners to cozy dining rooms, we’ve got date night covered.
DC may have garnered a reputation for being a buttoned-up town where it’s tough to find a partner without talking politics, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Our city is actually a great backdrop to find a potential partner and, while we can’t ensure a second date, 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.
There are ample options for romantic dinner spots to suit any mood, budget, and relationship status, whether you’re looking to dine at one of the best restaurants in the city or explore a laid-back spot in your neighborhood. From large, glitzy restaurants that are sure to impress to cozy, casual favorites, here are the most romantic restaurants in DC.
Date night needn’t be stuffy or overly fancy all the time, and Anju is a prime example of a place that impresses without one dangling chandelier present. The much-lauded Korean restaurant is often seen among DC’s best restaurants—and with good reason. Bring a date ready to feast on pan roasted duck breast and slurp up noodles in a spicy seafood broth with you. The innovative dishes will give you plenty to talk about, while white washed brick, bamboo rattan seats, and plants within the space create a cozy, organic feel.
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 run into a bit of a wait. Make the awkwardness of a lull a thing of the past by grabbing a glass of wine around the corner at the Dabney Cellar, and if the date goes really well, a nightcap at Columbia Room will certainly do.
When The Wharf first opened, lined up with gleaming new restaurant options, Del Mar was an instant standout. Luckily, it stayed that way—now an upscale date night classic. 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 dish meant to be shared.
If you’re already a fan of restaurateur Med Lahlou’s other spots around town like Lupo Verde and Lupo Pizzeria, naturally you should bring a date to check out the latest addition to his portfolio: Dolce Vita. As the name implies, the fare at Dolce Vita is inspired by cuisines of Spain, Morocco, Italy, and Greece with unique dishes like octopus gnocchi and Greek moussaka. The restaurant now lives in the old Ghibellina location (RIP), and is full of fun details like greenery on the ceiling and painted Mediterranean landscapes across its rustic brick walls.
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 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.
If you’re looking to bring the wow factor the second your date arrives at the restaurant, Ilili should be your first choice. A Lebanese-inspired transplant from the Big Apple, the vibe here feels like a palatial outdoor courtyard complete with a fountain, citrus trees, and hanging bird cages. You and your date can pretend like you’re dining in your own Beirut home while you dine on braised lamb shanks and sip saffron-infused negronis.
Inn at Little Washington
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. Especially since all overnight guests are guaranteed a sought-after spot in the dining room. The luxurious restaurant, decked out 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 occasion, as the tasting menu (and room reservation!) will set you back a pretty penny.
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. To have the full experience, opt for the prix-fixe menu, but you can also order just a few small plates to share and some glasses of wine to keep things light. You really can’t go wrong either way, with Mediterranean-inspired flavors leading the way for dishes like hearth-roasted carrots and a shaved pork gyro with olive oil fried potatoes.
Newcomer L’Ardente is Italian glam at its finest—perfect for a date night when you both feel like really indulging. Helmed by chef David Deshaies of Unconventional Diner and Central Michel Richard, L’Ardente’s menu offers impressive dishes like a 40-layer truffle lasagna, and for dessert: a flaming version of the traditional tiramisu. The space itself is also indulgent with glossy terrazzo tile floors and golden Italian chandeliers.
Maialino Mare is a modern, seafood-focused Italian eatery on the first floor of the Thompson Hotel. Since opening a few years ago, it’s brought a much-needed elegant spot to the area, with excellent service thanks to restaurateur Danny Meyer and 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.
Primrose Wine Bar
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.
The Red Hen
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 to take in its endless charms.
When this spot first launched in 2014, it was a badge of honor to score 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 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.
Tail Up Goat
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. And 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.
Heralded by many as the best sushi joint in town, this upscale Japanese spot is sure to impress. 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.