Embrace the long Valentine’s/President’s Day weekend
The most difficult time to get a table in the whole city: Sunday, February 14. Why not go out on Friday, plan a romantic brunch for Saturday, or even better, make it a federal holiday love-fest on Monday (a.k.a. President’s Day). If you really want to get in theme, Mount Vernon is celebrating George Washington’s 284th birthday on Monday (free cake!), and you could take a romantic stroll around the grounds before popping into the Mount Vernon Inn for a meal or local wine.
Snag a last-minute reservation (and cheat if you have to)
Think what you will about apps that charge for restaurant reservations that are otherwise free—if there’s ever a time to spend $15 for a seat, it’s in a pinch on Valentine’s Day. Pay-for-reservation services like Table8 and Resy can get you in the door at otherwise-booked places for a fee, which varies. That being said, slipping a bill to the e-hostess isn’t required. Opentable shows what’s available from their partner restaurants on February 14, including early spots at a few of our 100 Best Restaurants like Bibiana, DBGB, and the Riggsby. Remember: there’s no shame in the early bird special, especially if you extend the date at a bar or movie after.
Order fancy takeout
If you can’t cook, fancy takeout will always impress (some pre-ordering required). Red Apron Butcher whips up a dinner-for-two with a 24-ounce porterhouse with apps and sides ($74). Seafood fans can order from BlackSalt, which offers a three-course menu with options like lobster bisque and herb-roasted salmon ($100). Society Fair in Alexandria pulls out the stops with coq au vin and bubbly for two ($110). Need a real last-minute save? Try delivery services Caviar or Postmates, which draw from a number of desirable eateries such as Doi Moi or 2 Amys.
Check out a pop-up
Doing something a little offbeat can help with crowd control, and you’ll earn points for creativity. Here are six awesome options to check out, including a shopping/dining extravaganza at Maketto, and a bubbly-and-cheese class at Union Market.
Fancy theaters with luxury seating, cocktails, and bountiful menus are on the upswing, and they don’t tend to book up like restaurants. Check out our review of three: Agelika Film Center (Fairfax), iPic Theaters (North Betheda), and ArcLight Cinemas (Bethesda). A great DC bet: the Atlantic Plumbing Cinema, equipped with a full bar and bounty of casual nearby restaurants that take walk-ins, such as the Royal or Declaration.