Everyone’s idea of romance is different. What can feel perfect to one person might be too over the top for another. So in our guide to romantic restaurants, we tried to find a little bit of everything, from classic French menus and antique-decked dining rooms to homey American dishes and tiny, offbeat spaces. And of course, we found one place with red roses on every table.
For the old-school romantic: If candlelight and flowers are your thing, reserve a table in the John Carroll Room at Georgetown’s 1789, where a flickering fireplace makes the space—one of five antique-filled dining rooms in the historic mansion—the epitome of classic romance. Chef Daniel Giusti, 25, has injected new energy into the restaurant’s meat-and-potatoes cuisine with such touches as a blue-cheese gratin with New York strip and a savory bread pudding with duck breast.
For the laid-back and casual: With black-and-white family photos and deep-red walls, Cashion’s Eat Place in Adams Morgan has a vintage, neighborhood feel that’s hard to find in Washington. Chef John Manolatos’s menu, which is accented with his family’s Greek heritage, is comforting and accessible—we like the pork souvlaki, turbot with beurre blanc, and an appetizer sampler of Greek spreads.
For an all-out splurge: Komi, our pick as Washington’s top restaurant, is an intimate, unassuming space with low lighting, simple decor, and a lingering clientele. Chef Johnny Monis’s two tasting menus are inspired by Mediterranean cuisine and start with a parade of simple but intensely flavorful mezzethakia (small bites) and end with a house-made lollipop.
To channel French romanticism: At chef/owner Robert Wiedmaier’s fancy West End flagship, Marcel’s, everything from the grotto-like walls to the plush red carpeting feels elegant. The same goes for the rich cooking, which includes spot-on French sauces and rich entrées such as lamb wrapped in phyllo with cumin-Madeira sauce. Most days, a three-course meal is just $52 and includes two complimentary small courses and madeleines. Holiday menus, which include Valentine's Day, have different prices.
For the feeling of being in your own dining room: On the second floor of a Dupont Circle townhouse, the Italian-inspired Obelisk has an air of sophisticated coziness, and the staff—many have been there for years—is attentive without being overbearing. Peter Pastan’s five-course prix fixe menu, which changes daily, includes multiple antipasti to start and a choice of pasta and entrée as well as cheese and dessert.
To cozy up with a cocktail: Although the dining room at the Tabard Inn in downtown DC is intimate, we prefer to snuggle up on one of the worn-in overstuffed couches in the lounge, with its wood-paneled walls and crackling fireplace. Chantal Tseng, one of the best bartenders in town, has a constantly changing list of seasonal cocktails.
When only wine and chocolate will do: Veritas, a shoebox of a wine bar with low ceilings and low lighting, has romantics in mind: Not only are there nearly 80 wines by the glass, but in addition to traditional cheese-and-charcuterie pairings, there’s a selection of six chocolates—flavors range from bittersweet to coconut-lime.
For a room with a view: Picture windows look out on a yellow-lit pond at 2941, where chef Bertrand Chemel turns out textbook French dishes with sporadic hits of Japan and Southeast Asia. Elegant sculptures and paintings add to the sense of opulence—you quickly forget you’re on the ground floor of a Falls Church office building.
For lots of charm with that romance: Fresh roses are on every table, Italian arias ring from the speakers, and vested servers attend to customers at Villa Mozart, an intimate but updated townhouse in downtown Fairfax. Northern Italian classics get new twists from chef Andrea Pace, who pairs chocolate pappardelle with wild boar and uses pungent Taleggio cheese in his lasagna.
For a taste of Paris—on a budget: At Old Town, Alexandria’s Bastille, chef/owners Christophe Poteaux and Michelle Poteaux-Garbee serve the stuff of casual Parisian bistros: coq au vin, baked raclette, cassoulet. The decor—photos of Paris, paintings of fruit, wine-red walls—adds to the charm.
If you want to feel like you’re escaping the city: A tiny mustard-yellow Victorian house in a land of Rockville strip malls, Addie’s has a refreshingly quaint, small-town feel about it. Chef Nate Waugaman’s house-made charcuterie is excellent, and while his other American dishes—fried oysters, veggie lasagna—aren’t the stuff of typical romance, they’re familiar and warming and served in a charming dining room.
For a first or second date: One of the first wine bars in the area, Bethesda’s Grapeseed serves simple but serious food with a touch of whimsy. The blond-wood interior is dressed up with white tablecloths and garnet-colored booths.
For foodies looking for something inventive: Top Chef runner-up Bryan Voltaggio pushes boundaries at Volt, his spare dining room in a historic Frederick mansion. He manages to capture two of the culinary world’s hottest trends—local ingredients and modern techniques—with such dishes as dehydrated beet cylinders with a Maryland-goat-cheese mousse and a peanut-butter/chocolate dessert with cilantro pudding.
>> Looking for the rest of our Valentine's Day guide? Head here.