Washington, DC’s quaint neighborhoods, spectacular riverscapes, and burgeoning culinary scene all conjure romance. Whether you’re celebrating a proposal, an anniversary, or a long overdue night together, a charming perch is never hard to find in the nation’s capital.
A Dupont Circle townhouse, made for intimate occasions, serves top-notch Mediterranean plates on its wisteria-clad patio. Korean and Southern flavors come together at a handsome Penn Quarter hotspot, sure to up the ante on any anniversary. In the West End, a laid-back wine bar, with barrels that stand in for tables, is an ideal setting for an early-in-the-game date.
Read on for a guide to 12 date-worthy restaurants in Washington, DC, ready to host your romantic night out.
For a first date
District Winery (Navy Yard)
The district’s only commercial winery is sprawled along the Anacostia River in the southeast neighborhood of Navy Yard. Get acquainted with your date over shareable boards and snack plates, featuring treats such as cured Hungarian pork, fried Brussels sprouts, and a knockout grilled cheese. All pair well with the restaurant’s made-in-DC wines and craft cocktails. If there’s a lull in the conversation, take in the sweeping waterfront view. For an especially impressive setting, pick a table at the heated outdoor patio, sure to deliver prime sunset vistas.
For a second date
Moonraker (Southwest Waterfront)
The inventive, Japan-inspired menu at this show-stopping rooftop (inside the Wharf’s Pendry Hotel) is a surefire conversation starter. As is the circular bar, lit by a striking brass pendant chandelier. Graze on okonomiyaki (savory Japanese pancakes), cacio e pepe rice cakes, and seasonal maki rolls as you get to know your date better. And don’t miss accompanying drinks, such as the Shoga Shogun, a Japanese highball made with malt whisky, ginger liqueur, lemon juice, and ginger beer.
For an intimate and cozy night out
Iron Gate (Dupont Circle)
This Italian and Greek oasis in a former stable and carriageway now boasts one of the most popular patios in the district. The cozy, sought-after outdoor spot is adorned with hanging grapevines and centuries-old wisteria, which instantly set the mood for an amorous and intimate meal. Go for Iron Gate’s pikilia menu, named after the Greek word for variety (offered every Friday and Saturday afternoon) and linger over small plates including trumpet mushroom arancini, charred Mediterranean octopus, and parmesan fritters, best paired with a selection of Greek and Southern Italian wines.
Floriana (Dupont Circle)
In a red brick rowhouse that screams “quintessential DC,” this underrated Dupont Circle spot opened in 1979 and is all about handmade pasta and exceptional service. The cozy indoor dining room serves as an ideal backdrop for an especially intimate occasion. On the menu, expect Italian classics such as the Chianti-braised lamb gnocchi, burrata ravioli, and scallop and shrimp risotto. The helpful staff is ready to recommend a bottle of wine to complement your romantic meal.
For an anniversary or romantic milestone
Succotash PRIME (Penn Quarter)
Cognac-tufted leather booths, hand-painted murals, and plaster ceilings lend opulence to Succotash PRIME, a swish steakhouse that was made for anniversary feasts. Steered by James Beard Award-winning chef Edward Lee, Succotash’s menu marries Korean flavors with Southern American cuisine, featuring options such as spicy gochujang honey-fried chicken (served with a side of kimchi-and-country ham), collard greens, and creamy corn succotash. Housed in a historic landmark building, this 10,000-square-foot Penn Quarter hotspot is all about setting lasting impressions.
Tabard Inn (Dupont Circle)
An intimate, parlor-like setting makes for an unforgettable romantic meal at Tabard Inn, one of The District’s longest-running hotels. Housed in a trio of Victorian-era row houses, The charming trio of employee-owned Victorian rowhouses is also home to an award-winning New American restaurant. Chef Cliff Wharton’s commitment to locally sourced, seasonal ingredients ensures every meal, which might feature plates such as hoisin-glazed duck breast served atop a parsnip puree, is one for the books. To woo your date, book a table on the restaurant’s shaded garden patio, adorned with ivy-covered brick walls and striking bronze sculptures. The property’s recently renovated fireplace lounge and grand dining room also make romantic backdrops.
Das Ethiopian (Georgetown)
The District is home to the largest Ethiopian population in America, meaning excellent East African food is never hard to find. For a night of fine-dining, romance, and some seriously good beef tibs and injera (fermented flatbread), head down the charming cobblestone streets of Georgetown to Das Ethiopian, a MICHELIN Bib Gourmand award winner. Vegetarians need not worry—the shareable menu includes several meat-free dishes, including shiro wat (chickpea stew), gomen (collard greens), and red lentils with red pepper sauce. White tablecloth service and a seasonal patio raise the bar on any romantic celebration.
For group dates
Bottles Wine Garden (Foggy Bottom)
The ivy-walled patio and wine barrel tables at this charming bar make it a group wine-tasting favorite. Claim one of the teardrop swing chairs and let sommelier Erika Parjus (whose resume includes stints at DC stalwarts Zaytinya and RPM Italian) guide you through the rare vino selection, which prioritizes female winemakers and owners, in addition to minimal intervention vineyards. Though wine is undeniably the headliner here, tasty accompaniments include charcuterie, cheeses, spreads, and a seasonal prosciutto flatbread, providing plenty of fuel for your group gathering.
For an adventurous and transportive date
ilili – DC (The Wharf)
ilili, a 4,500-square-foot Lebanese transplant from New York City, allows Chef Philippe Massoud’s Lebanese heritage to play a starring role on the mezze-heavy menu (the kibbeh, minced raw steak and bulgur studded with mint and jalapeño, is a must-order). Beirut most definitely inspired the dreamy interiors here: a 19th-century limestone fountain anchors the sprawling space; cane bird cages with steel doves hang from the ceilings, and blue floral tile work and citrus trees round out the getaway vibes.
dLeña (Mount Vernon Triangle)
A meal at this rustic-chic Mount Vernon stunner evokes an Oaxacan holiday. As the latest District restaurant from acclaimed chef and restaurateur Richard Sandoval, dLeña’s modern approach to traditional Mexican plates includes wood-fired grilled meats, seafood, and fresh ceviche. The restaurant’s sexy wraparound bar, built for mezcal tastings and flights of Mexican, South American, and Spanish wines, sets the tone for an extra special evening. For the ultimate privacy, opt for one of the many roomy booths.
For an evening of eatertainment
When Pinstripes opened its bowling alleys and bocce courts in 2014, it was part of a revamp for the Georgetown Park mall. Today, it’s a DC destination that executes the food-and-activity double play exceptionally well, making for a popular, low-key date spot. At its Italian American restaurant, expect hearty plates of pasta, wood-fired pizzas, and a slew of hyperlocal craft beers. On Sundays, bottomless Aperol spritzes pair well with a brunch buffet of made-to-order omelets and waffles, cheese ravioli, and an herb-crusted prime rib with au jus and horseradish.
For a proposal-worthy place
Chez Billy Sud (Georgetown)
Consistently ranked as one of DC’s best restaurants, Chez Billy Sud’s alluring interiors, complete with gilded mirrors and a quaint lamplit courtyard, also make it one of the District’s most romantic. A perch at this charming, Provençal spot lets you and your date embark on a French-inspired rendezvous. Celebrate your evening together with timeless classics such as escargot, chicken liver mousse, and roast chicken. Then sweeten the deal with Basque cheesecake—or the ultimate question.
Christabel Lobo is a food and travel writer based between Washington, D.C. and south India. Find her on Instagram @whereschristabel and Twitter @wheresbel.
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