Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be all about pricey prix-fixe menus, schmoopy promotions, or cheesy Fifty Shades of Grey specials. It can be a tolerable—and even fun—holiday, if you do it right.
Toast over brunch
Valentine’s lands on a Saturday this year, meaning the whole weekend is fair game. Instead of a forced romantic dinner, why not opt for fun brunch? Cheers with lobster rolls and mimosas at Hank’s Oyster Bar; treat yourselves to short-rib hash and sticky buns at Blue Duck Tavern; linger over eggs Benedict at Mintwood Place; or go casual for dim sum at the best spot in Washington right now, A & J Restaurant (Annandale and Rockville locations). Washington is a brunch town, and there are plenty of spots to try. A number of places also offer special Valentine’s menus, including a “sweethearts brunch” at America Eats Tavern ($50 per couple); a three-course menu at Trummer’s on Main ($42 per person); and another at Commissary that includes a bottle of bubbly and oysters ($60 per couple).
Have dinner at the movies
Don’t feel like battling restaurant crowds? You can still do dinner and a movie—just roll it all into one. Three new cinemas have opened recently that serve food and alcoholic beverages in the theater, along with other perks. Angelika at Mosaic scoops addictive popcorn in flavors like beer-cheddar and offers dishes such as kimchee dogs and a stellar draft list; you can also bring carryout from the theater’s cafe inside. The iPic Theaters in North Bethesda have an even bigger in-theater menu—lobster rolls! Champagne!—delivered to your plush leather recliner in the premium seating section. Bethesda’s ArcLight Cinemas also have a cafe inside the theater complex, though you can only bring beer, wine, and other drinks inside while watching the flick.
Eat all the food, drink all the drinks
Valentine’s Day is excessive by nature, so endless food and/or drink fits perfectly. DGS Delicatessen serves hungry mensches with all-you-can-eat pastrami, corned beef, latkes, mac ‘n’ cheese, and more for two hours at dinner, plus wallet-friendly sips ($8 martinis, $5 beers). More into drinking your date under the table? Try Boqueria, where the $65 set tapas menu comes with optional unlimited cava and sangria for $20. If you’d rather overindulge in the daylight, check out Del Campo. The South American steakhouse offers a fancy V-Day set menu, but also serves an unlimited Saturday and Sunday brunch for just $45 per person with excellent dishes such as crab toast with caviar, Wagyu skirt steak and eggs, and smoked-pineapple mimosas.
No, we’re not talking chocolate body paint. Taking a class together can be a great Valentine’s experience and/or gift. Bourbon Steak hosts a cocktail and dessert course on Saturday from 11:30 to 2 with barman Duane Sylvestre and Tiffany MacIsaac of Buttercream Bakeshop ($60 per person). Over at Union Market, Righteous Cheese leads guests through a cheese, chocolate, and Champagne pairing on Friday and Saturday ($70 per person). And while it’s not an official seminar, couples can learn a lot about the spirits world at Dram & Grain‘s six-cocktail tasting ($85 per couple), held in the basement of Jack Rose on Saturday; call or text 202-607-1572 for availability.
Stay home, even if you can’t cook
Don’t know stock from sauce? You can still have a great meal at home. Three locations of Red Apron Butchery make homey meals for two, including antipasti, Caesar salad, lasagna Bolognese, and cheesecake ($60 for two; preorder and pickup). Society Fair is also a great bet, with a package that includes coq au vin and a bottle of wine ($110 for two; preorder and pickup). Really want to impress you date? Hire a personal chef through online service Kitchensurfing. The new service allows you to pick trained toques—rated by past users—and choose from their menus online, and then he or she shows up at your door ready to whip up a meal ($150 per person, alcohol not included).