Whether you’re new to the city or looking for a new place in an unfamiliar neighborhood, there’s something for everybody on the DC dating scene. Swanky cocktails in intimate lounges, a game of darts over a few beers, a literary reading and coffee, even adopting a cat together -- they’re all here, and then some, in our picks for the best date spots in almost every neighborhood in the city.
Bedrock BilliardsAddress and Info
The craziness of Adams Morgan has gone the way of U Street, and 18th St is now fun for all ages. Check out this basement pool hall where you can enjoy a beer and show off your foosball and billiards skills. There’s no food, so you might want to start your evening with a rice bowl from nearby Donburi.
Anacostia Arts CenterAddress and Info
Check the calendar to see what’s happening during evenings at this hidden gem that celebrates local artists. You can wander through the art gallery, take in a show in the black box theater, or host your own event. If you’re visiting in the daytime, try out a yoga class, enjoy a smoothie at Art-drenaline Cafe, or wander through the Den, where you’ll see local artists’ wares on display.
The Pub and the PeopleAddress and Info
If you’ve driven by this spot on North Capitol, and thought, “Wow, that looks fun,” you’ve got the right idea. It’s dog-friendly, and the weekday happy hour -- $2 off draft beer and wine, or $4 for a rail cocktail -- starts at 3pm. The menu is eclectic, with everything from pumpkin mac & cheese to a s’mores waffle during brunch, or you can just go for $6 Moscow Mule Mondays.
NidoAddress and Info
Brookland is quickly becoming a hipster’s paradise. And while a simple Sunday stroll will help you uncover the likes of the combination bike store and coffee shop, Nido provides the setting for a proper date night or classy brunch. This Mediterranean bistro showcases fresh, straightforward dishes that are fun to share and won’t break the bank. People rave about the house-made whole ricotta that’s light and creamy, and we recommend following it up with the patatas bravas and octopus, unless you’re on the kind of date where it’s cool to have just cheese for dinner.
AmbarAddress and Info
Owner Ivan Iricanin saw that DC was missing out on food from his Serbian homeland and decided to fix that, and the success of the Balkan restaurant resulted in a second location in Clarendon and one in Belgrade. If you’re not sure where to start with the mezze of flatbreads, spreads, sausages, and the like, go for the chef’s tasting option.
Little Red Fox CafeAddress and Info
Here’s a solid date itinerary: browse the books at Politics and Prose then walk up the street to Little Red Fox for a cup of single-origin espresso and split a delicious pastry. Or if it’s later in the day, grab a beer or kombucha and dine on their ever-changing, innovative menu.
Atomic BilliardsAddress and Info
Does a good round of Big Buck Hunter get you in the mood? If so, this basement bar is perfect for you. If shooting video-game animals isn’t your style but you’d still like to get competitive on your night out, Atomic also has shuffleboard, pool, darts, and board games.
Thip KhaoAddress and Info
Don’t try to go here on the weekend without a reservation -- it’s just too popular. That said, the first Laotian restaurant to grace DC is delightful for happy hour. Sit at the bar or grab a table for two, explore the unique cocktail menu (Earl Grey seltzer!? Hot Scotch?), and dare your date to eat off the “jungle menu,” which includes everything from pig ears to alligator. Don’t worry, there’s a regular menu too -- try the crispy rice salad or one of several fish options that are steamed inside banana leaves.
DC ImprovAddress and Info
A lot of laughter is guaranteed to make a date better, and this DC institution is part comedy club, part restaurant, and part school. If you want to spend a few bucks, check the calendar to see which nationally renowned comedians are stopping in, or if you’d rather go cheap, see the local talent at the free monthly open mic night. And if you really want to make a commitment, you and your special friend could sign up for one of their improv or stand-up classes.
Kramerbooks & Afterwords CafeAddress and Info
This bookstore/bar/restaurant is a great option for all hours of the day. After browsing the shelves or attending an author reading, you can grab a coffee or a glass of wine at the bar. Or, if you’ve been out elsewhere earlier in the evening, stop in for their late-night brunch and split some steak and eggs.
President Lincoln’s CottageAddress and Info
If you loved Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals or Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, you have to visit his the former President’s home, which has since been reimagined as a “museum of ideas” dedicated to his progressive values. There are guided tours and rotating exhibits to see, and the gorgeous grounds are great for a quiet stroll.
Hillwood EstateAddress and Info
The tagline of this spot is “Where Fabulous Lives,” and that’s no joke. The estate was home to the late Marjorie Merriweather Post, of the Post cereal empire, who bought Hillwood in 1955 and opened it to the public to display extensive art collection. The pristine mansion features Fabergé eggs, 18th-century French and Russian art, and even Post’s clothing, accessories, and trinkets. If the weather cooperates, you can tour the lavish gardens then sit down for a picnic on the grounds, but even when it’s cold or rainy, Hillwood makes for a beautiful date spot.
Kreeger MuseumAddress and Info
The Kreeger is another example of a fancy residence that became a non-profit art museum. David and Carmen Kreeger spent decades building their collection before having a home built that was big enough to showcase it all. Tucked away behind tall hedges in Upper Northwest, the museum offers paid tours on Fridays and Saturdays, where you and your date can see the works of Monet, Picasso, Munch, and many more, or you can visit the free sculpture garden is Tuesday through Saturday. And if all that art somehow made you hungry, we recommend hopping over to Jetties to split a giant Thanksgiving sandwich.
RangeAddress and Info
This place used to be a Stein Mart? The massive former department space is why Top Chef alum Bryan Voltaggio can feature not one but several open kitchens, including a raw bar, wood oven for pizza, and a bakery. The menu highlights mid-Atlantic ingredients and the small plates are served tapas style, which gives you some time to decide how much of the cuisine you want to explore and how long you want to linger. Two dishes not to miss are the skillet cornbread with bacon marmalade and crispy Brussels sprouts with fish sauce. And if it’s a really special occasion, remember to save room for the homemade truffles on the dessert cart.
Kennedy CenterAddress and Info
The breathtaking view of DC from the rooftop terrace at the Kennedy Center offers an excellent place for a mid-date selfie. Pick up some candy and wine at one of the concession carts or swing by the KC Cafe for a sandwich, salad, or full hot meal. If whatever ticketed show on the calendar that day isn’t for you, you can always stop by the Millennium Stage at 6pm for a free performance of music, theater, or dance.
Crumbs & WhiskersAddress and Info
If you’re thinking about adopting a cat or you just like some feline companionship, why not make a date of it? DC’s first cat cafe lets you have a cup of coffee, nibble fancy macarons, and blow up your Instagram feed with funny photos of cats who are looking to be rescued. And before you share your snack with the kitties, remember the cafe’s rule: “Cats eat cat food. People eat people food.”
H Street Corridor
Church & StateAddress and Info
Head upstairs to this tucked away spot on H Street, where you’ll find quirky decor like a confessional booth and stained glass behind the bar. And if you and your date are impressed with the cocktails, sign up for a mixology class at their sister bar, Wisdom.
Left DoorAddress and Info
This mostly hidden cocktail parlor serves twists on classics like the $100 French 95, made with 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and Cristal, or the $10 version with rail ingredients, the “Gimme a Fucking French 95.” The bartenders mix a gorgeous drink and are the perfect mix of friendly and unassuming to make your evening go smoothly.
Purple PatchAddress and Info
This family-run Filipino-American restaurant has plenty of space and tends to be quieter than the typical DC venue. Upstairs is all white tablecloths and fresh flowers while downstairs is a bit more casual, where you can sit together at the bar or grab a high-top along the exposed brick wall. As long as you order Mama Alice's lumpia, the restaurant’s take on the spring roll, you’ll be in for a good night.
Due SouthAddress and Info
If you’re into Southern cooking, this place doesn’t shy away from pimento cheese and barbecue. It’s great (but crowded) during baseball season given its proximity to Nationals Park, but also makes for a great brunch date with its biscuit menu. Let the squash-puppy ordering and bottomless-mimosa drinking commence!
Midlands Beer GardenAddress and Info
A very welcome addition to the neighborhood, this no-frills beer garden has plenty of room for fun. Outside, you can grab a picnic table (and heater, if you’re going in the winter) and stop by “Andy’s house,” where the owner’s hound dog hangs out. Inside you’ll find 14 beers on tap featuring mainly local stuff, as well as cider and wine. There’s often live music, plenty of TVs for sports watching, darts, and a terrific mural from local illustrator Mike Tanoory.
Ruta del VinoAddress and Info
Check out this Latin American wine bar before it becomes too popular. This new addition to Petworth has ceviches, tortas, wood-fired cheese, and a helpfully informative wine list. The bar’s name means “wine route” for good reason -- it takes you on a journey of 18 South American varietals from Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile, and it’s only $4 per glass during the weekday 5-7pm happy hour.
All Souls BarAddress and Info
There are many great spots in Shaw, but this is where you should start (or end) your night. It’s cozy, so you’ll have a good excuse to sit close to your date while you enjoy the craft cocktails, almost all of which are $9. While they’ve only been around for three years, it has the familiar feeling of a place that’s been around for years.
Masala ArtAddress and Info
Despite having a college campus nearby, there aren’t a ton of good date-night spots in this part of town, but this Indian restaurant is a great bet. It features classic Northern Indian dishes (think chicken tikka masala, garlic naan bread, and tons of veggie options like saag paneer), or if you’re new to the cuisine try the three-course tasting menu. Or, at the SW Waterfront location, there’s a rotating selection of seven dishes at the all-you-can eat brunch buffet, which will run you $19.95 (bottomless champagne is an extra $15).
U Street Corridor
VinotecaAddress and Info
This wine bar transplants a little piece of Europe to the District with its Mediterranean-inspired courtyard, complete with hanging plants, a fountain, and a brick-enclosed bocce court. And there’s a ton of wine at a lot of different prices, in case you’re on a bit of a budget. On some nights, you might be able to take in a flamenco performance, or you can sign up for their bi-monthly wine courses, where you’ll be exposed to new vintages while sampling from a custom, themed food menu.
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1. Bedrock Billiards1841 Columbia Rd NW, Washington
2. The Pub & The People1648 N Capitol St NW, Washington
3. Masala Art4441-B Wisconsin Ave, Washington
4. Nido2214 Rhode Island Ave NE, Washington
5. Store Of Lingerie248 Detroit S, Denver
6. Little Red Fox5035 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington
7. Atomic Billiards3427 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington
8. Thip Khao3462 14th St NW, Washington
9. Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe1517 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington
10. RANGE5335 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington
11. Crumbs & Whiskers3211 O St NW, Washington
12. Church & State1236 H Street NE, Washington
13. Left Door1345 S St NW, Washington
14. Purple Patch3155 Mount Pleasant St NW, Washington
15. Due South301 Water St SE, Washington, D.C.
16. The Midlands3333 Georgia Ave NW, Washington
17. Ruta Del Vino800 Upshur St NW, Washington
18. All Souls Bar725 T St NW, Washington
19. Vinoteca1940 11th St NW, Washington
Tucked away on Columbia road, this retro-mod basement pool hall has been around since long before Adams Morgan was cool. The neighborhood bar is a lively mecca for game-lovers, offering pool, shuffleboard, foosball and of course, an impressively diverse selection of beers. Whether patrons would prefer board games (like Chess, Clue or Battleship), or some competitive darts, the place is a (literal) player's paradise, where rounds of Uno are paired with free-flowing glasses of local craft beer -- bottled, canned, or on draft. And while the place does not offer a kitchen, guests are welcome to bring (or order) food of their own -- so hungry shuffleboard athletes need not put their games on pause.
At this North Capitol street gastropub, top shelf bottles of whiskey are tucked between Chick Palahniuk novels and yearly editions of the Roget's Thesaurus. In addition to a full roster of creative American eats, the place is home to a text-and-spirit-heavy library where guests are welcome to flip through mysteries and essay collections while they sip scotch served neat, in tasteful vintage glassware. The food menu offers things like pumpkin-truffle mac& cheese and bourbon chicken liver mousse, while the cocktail list is an impressive amalgam of drinks crafted with fresh herbs, hand-squeezed citrus, and house liquor infusions (try the grapefruit-honey concoction with rosemary-infused vodka). Perhaps the most enticing of the available items, however, is the singular, rotating house barrel-aged cocktail -- it won't be listed on the menu, but be sure to ask your server.
With a maxim that holds cooking to be an art form in of itself, this 45-seat Indian eatery is serving complex, original dishes that demand to be savored with all the attentiveness of a painting or a film. The owner of the green-walled, trinket-lined Masala has spent decades exploring subcontinental cuisine at Dupont's Heritage India, and his plates certainly pay respect to that authentic brand of Eastern flavor -- but with some personal nuances. The menu offers South-Indian standards like buttery "Chicken Tikka"; and Tandoori-spiced skewer-roasted meats, while less typical fare comes in the form of traditionally griddled Tawa dishes, like "Karwari Mushroom" coated with rice flour and South Indian spice blend, or desserts like lychee and sweet-rose-petal preserve over cardamom ice cream. And in the interest of honoring art worth savoring, every Friday night, guests can enjoy their impressive entrées to the stylings of a live Jazz musician.
This Mediterranean eatery boasts a dining room that is equally as Euro-inspired as the menu, with repurposed white-washed woods and expertly curated floral arrangements. The food, mainly drawn from Italian and Spanish cuisine, consists primarily of tapas-like small plates and snacks -- think beef tenderloin carpaccio and warm lentil salad with house goat cheese -- while there are a handful of larger pasta and meat-based entrées available. The weekend brunch menu is divided into two subsets: sweet and savory, and brunch -- like dinner -- is always an occasion for imbibing at Nido. Needless to say, the bi-level Woodridge eatery maintains a philosophy rooted in the importance of good company and great food, served in a place that is every bit as comfortable as it is charming.
Finally selling the dudes of Mile High various unmentionables, SOL will cover your nether-regions with style.
Husband and wife duo Anne Alfano and Matt Carr opened Little Red Fox to bring the best of Washington's own produce to Chevy Chase with gourmet spins on classic American fare. The “Portlander” with fried egg, house-made apple butter, Gorgonzola spread, arugula, and bacon on ciabatta makes the choice for breakfast pretty easy. Just don't let the mouth-watering sandwich selection distract from the highlight of this cozy café: amazing coffee, made with beans roasted by Coava Coffee.
Atomic Billiards has all the diamond-in-the-rough charm of an old, basement pool hall (minus the thick cloud of cigarette smoke) with a full bar. There is a great happy hour 7 days a week, and other than shooting pool on one of the 5 felt tables and playing darts, Atomic has 2 shuffleboard tables, boardgames, and some retro arcade games. So while you sip on one of the 60 beers (8 of which are on tap) ranging from domestic and imported to serious craft (like Rogue, Victory, and Dogfish Head) you can settle into your game of choice. Atomic serves six different flavors of potato chips (think habanero, dill, and BBQ), but there isn’t actually a kitchen so BYO take-out.
Named for the basket used to make Laotian sticky rice, Thip Khao comes from Chef Seng Luangrath (of the famous Thai-Lao restaurant Bangkok Golden in NoVa), who brings Southeast Asian cuisine and expert cocktails to DC with this sleek Columbia Heights spot. On the concise menu, you'll find specialties like grilled chicken thigh skewers with lemongrass and snakefish head steamed inside banana leaves with red curry. To cut the spice of your meal (feel free to let the waiter know how much heat you can tolerate), order the Phak Tai, a Laos-inspired cocktail with gin, mint, lemon, and sparkling sake.
While Kramerbooks is something of a literary haven in of itself, the adjoining (aptly named) Afterwords Cafe draws a whole new crowd of bibliophiles to the landmark Independent book-depot. Offering an all-day menu of upscale American eats, and a full library of beer, wine & cocktail options, the space is an ideal reading, writing or gathering space. Far more than a mere bookstore café, the menu at Afterwords offers a collection of inventive egg plates, an expansive list of entrées -- think blackened salmon filet or grilled pork chops -- and plenty of late night eats, served as late as 3am. Come to browse shelves crammed with eclectic tomes by the likes of Susan Sontag, Henry James, and David Foster Wallace, or come instead for a Gin Gatsby (gin, hibiscus, lime) and a plate of fish tacos. Or better yet, come for all of the above.
With 300 tables, two open kitchens, and a menu that borrows from both Italian and American cuisine, Bryan Voltaggio's newest restaurant shows some truly impressive range (sorry). Stationed in the Chevy Chase Pavilion, the sleek 14,000sqft eatery boasts a rotisserie-equipped wood-oven, a raw bar, and a separate in-house Salumeria for the careful treatment of locally-sourced poultry and game. The menu offers plenty of inventive small plates (alongside house-baked bread), an impressive list of Mid-Atlantic oyster options, and a variety of wood-fired pizzas. The meat-centric entrées like rotisserie pork shoulder topped with apple cider-mustard reduction are inventive (and tasty), and the expertly curated wine list is designed carefully around Range's staple menu items -- while the space is clean and minimal, the cuisine is nothing if not complex.
Part glimmering cat palace and part trendy, local café, this white brick eatery offers coffee drinks, smoothies, desserts, and, oh yeah -- cats. Crumbs & Whiskers is Washington DC's first cat cafe, equipped with a full-service coffee station (try the cat-uccino), a lengthy menu of gluten free macarons, and a rotating selection of 30 wandering felines, all of whom are available for adoption from the Washington Humane Society. It's tough to get in without a reservation (you pay by time slot), but once inside, kittens nuzzle themselves along massive couches and walls plastered with kitty-centric polaroids, while patrons sip their chai lattes and consider going home with any one of the charming orphaned creatures. Nearly all of the Crumb's proceeds go directly to the care and keeping of the animals, and the non-feline customers at the casual spot tend to be just as good company as the cats, themselves.
While D.C. is not a state, and this H street bar is certainly not a church, the place does have a deeply America-centric menu, built of top-shelf cocktails curated exclusively with spirits and additives sourced from within the United States. Hidden atop the bright orange Atlas Arcade, the dimly lit bar boasts tin ceilings, warm woods, and a dedicated belief in life, liberty and the pursuit of craft cocktails. The first of the lounge's several cocktail menus, "The Bill of Rights," offers a lengthy list of permanent classics like Old Fashioneds and Mint Juleps (the enjoyment of which is your fundamental right), while the rotating selection of house-curated drinks follows under the title, "Seven Deadly Sins." At bottom, the place is an ode to an age-old American tradition in quality libations, where patrons are encouraged to come and worship booze a little more literally.
This sultry, polished cocktail lounge from Tom Brown -- the guy behind Hogo and The Passenger -- offers its famous "French 95" cocktail for 100$ a pop. The remainder of the cocktail menu, both classic and original in nature, is surprisingly well-priced. Listing 20 or so drinks featuring an intriguing selection of ingredients -- think gingerbread cookies and ignited lemon peels -- the place is something of a craft cocktail mecca. Food-wise, it serves a number of snacks and small plates -- things like house-made olives and brie with aged balsamic -- but the inventive, original drinks are by far the stand out offering. And while the space itself feels somewhere between an upscale lounge and a well-designed living room, the showy bow-tie-clad mixologists always manage to keep the bar bustling and lively.
Purple Patch, a Filipino-American restaurant in the former Tonic space, features a classy upstairs dining room that is fully date-night appropriate, along with a sporty-meets-sloppy downstairs area for basement-bar loyalists -- though the fare is fare is hardly "bar food." The place serves large-format dishes, like whole fried snapper escabeche and chopped pork shoulder over jasmine rice along, made for sharing, in addition to a variety of small plates, and a substantial weekend brunch (the bacon infused Bloody Mary is a must-have). The cocktails are tasty and cleverly crafted to pair well with the menu's selection of complex eats, while the warm-wooded expansive dining room is as relaxed as it is upscale.
Housed in a repurposed lumber shed in DC's Yards district, Due South is serving a full menu of inventive, sophisticated Southern fare, with eats that fall somewhere between creative, contemporary American cuisine and classic comfort food. The spot serves things like broiled oysters with Tabasco-Parmesan butter and 12-hour Texas style brisket, cooked in the in-house smoker, and served with fresh baked rosemary corn bread, and the cocktails are equally Southern-inspired like the Austin City Limits (Lone Star lemonade with lemon and jalapeño-infused vodka). The wine and spirits lists are impressively lengthy and versatile, and the warm-wooded rustic eatery offers brunch on the weekends and a popular happy hour daily.
From the creators of The Kangaroo Boxing Club, this Park View brewpub is part expansive beer garden, and part warm-wooded taproom. With up to 30 rotating beers on tap, and an impressive menu of small-batch eats (including a section titled "chef-driven sandwiches from the future that are totally not pretentious"), the place is an easy local go-to, for any time of year. The wine menu is extensive, offering bottles of the red, white and pink variety, there are plenty of bottled brews available in addition to the drafts, and the local cider is a totally respectable alternative to beer. The indoor space is dark and simple, while the sunny outdoor area is lined with 20 picnic tables, a 70 ft bar, plenty of dart boards, and last but not least, a small wooden house for the bar's very own dog: Andy Pants.
At this rustic Latin-America eatery, the kitchen isn't interested in trendy small plates -- instead, the menu is built around the classic appetizer-entrée-dessert combination that once ruled the dining scene. With a firm belief in "full meals" over "snack plates," the place serves things like lightly charred octopus and carne asada with black garlic crema, cooked on the house wood-fired grill, and served in heaping singular servings. The battered Chile Relleno is the crowd favorite amongst Ruta's starter dishes, oozing with Oaxaca cheese, and for dessert, the honey-clove chocolate tarte is served with house-made cinnamon ice cream -- the perfect end to a well-balanced meal. And to top it all off, there is the cocktail menu, featuring a caipirinha with as much authentic Latin flavor as the eats themselves, along with a wine list that draws primarily from Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile.
Across the street from a school, All Souls Bar isn't a mad-house, but rather a low-key, 33-seat retreat offering just three classic cocktails (negroni, Manhattan, and a cava-kissed sidecar), and just a handful of beers and wines. It's not about limitless options, but rather curation. Jukebox tunes float inside, while guests snack on olives, cheeses and nuts. An early closing time, and a table-service-only patio (no standing or smoking) prohibits any shenanigans.
Among U Street's most popular wine hideaways, Vinoteca is the ideal locale for wine connoisseurs and bocce athletes, alike. Complete with a back "plaza" featuring an old-world, brick-enclosed bocce court, an ethereal fountain, and an outdoor bar, there is rarely reason to set foot inside (the heat lamps make it fairly easy to stay put all winter). The enclosed bar and dining room are equally charming, with exposed brick, floor-to-ceiling windows, and vintage film posters tacked between towering displays of stacked bottles of wine. The food menu boasts an in-house whole-animal butchery program, but the stand-out offering is inarguably the wine and spirits list, featuring an impressive number of inventive house-cocktails, a selection of craft beers on tap, and a seemingly-infinite catalog of available wines.