News & Politics

The Most Romantic Restaurants in Washington

Where to eat when you're young and on a budget, romancing a boy toy, single and on the prowl, and more.

Dating a chocoholic? Take them for a romantic experience at Co Co. Sala, an amber-lit, chocolate-obsessed lounge/dining room in Penn Quarter.

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>> Back to Washingtonian.comLooking to find a hottie: Sei, the new sushi restaurant/lounge from the owners of Oya, is primed for beautiful-people watching. Sleek and all white like its sibling, the narrow bar attracts a flurry of spiffily dressed twenty- and thirtysomethings. While you hang by the bar, the lychee-and-ginger-scented cocktails, although expensive at $14 a pop, go down easy. There’s no doorman à la Oya, but you might feel out of place in just any old pair of jeans.

Sei, 444 Seventh St., NW; 202-783-7007

Dating a chocoholic:
Indulge cravings for everything milk and dark, malted and molten at Co Co. Sala, an amber-lit, chocolate-obsessed lounge/dining room in Penn Quarter. This year’s three-course Valentine’s menu ($75 per person) includes Brie vol au vent with cinnamon-chocolate cream, a cocoa-spiced filet mignon, and a chocolate tasting for dessert. But you can also order off a limited version of the regular menu. We like the bleu-cheese sliders with mole sauce, the swordfish sliders drizzled with hazelnut dressing, and the Aztec-themed dessert tasting
Co Co. Sala, 929 F St., NW; 202-347-4265

Feeling flush: The tabs are high (like $65-for-an-entrée high), but the rewards are many at celebrity chef Michael Mina’s new restaurant, housed in Georgetown’s Four Seasons hotel. Dinner kicks off with both a cone of French fries and a skillet of buttery truffled buns and ends with knockout desserts such as passion-fruit panna cotta and a coconut-filled candy bar. In between are luscious butter-poached steaks and an endlessly rich lobster pot pie (it’s market price, which translated to $72 when we had it) that’s good for sharing. In the cushy, leather-clad lounge, the long list of cocktails—both classic and nouveau—are well made too.
Bourbon Steak, Four Seasons Hotel, 2800 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-944-2026

Just wanting to hang out with your friends: If you’re in the Valentine’s-Day-is-the-lamest-holiday-ever camp and want to escape any cutesiness, bring a group of friends to Comet Ping Pong. It requires no advance planning, the booths are large, the music is loud, and the pizza is delicious (we especially love the Yalie, with clams, lemon, and melted onions). And there’s Ping-Pong!
Comet Ping Pong, 5037 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-364-0404

Young and on a budget: Eating Tuna Six Ways at Sushi-Ko can be a zenlike bonding experience. Order two of these horizontal plates so you can synchronize each bite of the ruby-red raw fish. Take your time, luxuriating as you move from the most delicate morsels on the left to the meatier seared toro on the right. You might also try the off-the-menu ikura, made with salmon roe preserved in salt topped with a raw quail egg. Uma Thurman seduced her much younger beau in Prime by telling him eating ikura was "like having sex."

Sushi-Ko, 2309 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-333-4187; inexpensive to moderate.

Romancing a boy toy: Lighting is everything–just ask Catherine Deneuve. The rosy glow of the fire and the backdrop of luminescent white at Oya will make those laugh lines look like dimples. Ask for table 35–the one right in front of the "wall of fire." Royal Miyagi oysters with sake and a glass of Prosecco Valdobbiaden ($50) from Gemin, Italy, are all you need to move things along, but if you're feeling flush, the Roederer Estate Brut Rosé ($80) catches the firelight just so.

Oya, 777 Ninth St., NW; 202-393-1400; expensive.

Single and happy about it: Cream-filled chocolates and gooey platitudes? Please. Dial up some friends and slide into a booth at Jackie's, Jackie Greenbaum's loud, funky Silver Spring comfort-food lounge. Festive plates of pimiento-cheese-smothered miniburgers or guac-laden nachos will make you forget all about The One you're not really looking for anyway. Candy-color martinis and a dance-in-your-seat soundtrack will keep the smiles strong.

Jackie's, 8081 Georgia Rd., Silver Spring; 301-565-9700; inexpensive to moderate.

Married with children: If a hotel lounge seems an unlikely place for an intimate celebration, ask yourself: Where else are they so used to cosseting guests? And you don't have to be in residence or make a reservation. Romantically lit and old-world elegant, the lounge at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner is the definition of class. Everyone can spread out, and the food and drink arrive pronto–Lillet-and-vodka martinis and hanger-steak sandwiches for Mom and Dad, pasta with butter for the kids. And there's live music–a jazz pianist weekdays, a jazz trio weekends.

Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner, 1700 Tysons Blvd.; 703-506-4300; moderate.

Trying to reignite the spark: Rediscover your sense of adventure together at Minibar at Café Atlántico with a dinner of 31 ultra-creative bites–from a demitasse of liquid foie gras (it doesn't get more sensuous than this) to the edgy melon "cured" in sodium chloride and water. Eating at this six-stool counter with four strangers is a surprisingly intimate experience. Two chefs do the honors in front of you with almost balletic precision. The menu is preset. All you need is a silky blindfold to make it feel like 9 1/2 Weeks.

Minibar at Café Atlántico, 405 Eighth St., NW; 202-393-0812; very expensive.

Finding your way as empty-nesters: You're tired of trendy restaurants full of bright young things, yet you're put off by the formality and stuffiness of older, established places. What you want is 2941. It's elegant without being fusty and has a sense of fun. The cooking is luxe and luscious. Ask for a table near the soaring windows by the pond or around the circular fireplace.

2941, 2941 Fairview Park Dr., Falls Church; 703-270-1500; very expensive.

Looking to get away without leaving town: Quirky and loaded with character, the historic Tabard Inn near Dupont Circle has it all: a cozy lounge with a crackling fire, deep couches for snuggling and sipping highballs, artful Modern American cooking (think grilled rack of lamb with mint pesto and chocolate-mousse-pudding cake), and a sky-lit penthouse on the top floor to spend the night in.

Tabard Inn, 1739 N St., NW; 202-833-2668; moderate to expensive.

Want more Valentine's Day advice and information—from where to dine, to where to go, to what gifts to buy? Click here for the Washingtonian Guide to Valentine's Day.

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.