Many of us in the food world would rather not eat at the hottest/fanciest spots for Valentine’s Day, when prices and crowds run higher and bigger (you may find Washingtonian critic Ann Limpert at Shake Shack). Still, there’s a happy place in between your couch and Pineapple and Pearls. Here are a few ideas, good for foodies and/or procrastinators.
For causal-yet-romantic: Rappahannock Oyster Bar
1309 Fifth St., NE (Union Market)
This first-come/first-serve Union Market oyster bar is turning out some amazing seafood these days, from bracingly fresh shellfish to creative plates (try the riff on clams casino with Thai sausage and coconut). Add a few delicious cocktails or a bottle of bubbly, and you have a celebration.
For inexpensive, but still impressive: Lapis
1847 Columbia Rd., NW
Share a variety of plates (including vegan/veggie options) at this lovely modern Afghan bistro in Adams Morgan. The spice-infused libations and latticed decor make a date-worthy setting, but it won’t break the bank.
For a tasting menu: Conosci
465 K St., NW
This candlelit tasting room adjoining Alta Strada is undeniably romantic, with hundreds of candles and table-side cocktails. The sushi counter-style kitchen will serve two tasting menus for Valentine’s Day: one for $85 and another for $135. An all-bubbles pairing will be available as well. As of now, there’s still space.
For a group date night: Kogiya
4220-A Annandale Rd., Annandale
You won’t have to twist any arms to get a hungry crew to Annandale’s best Korean barbecue joint (they also have a new-ish sibling in Centreville, VA). Load up on meats for tabletop grilling, cold beers, and plan to hit a nearby karaoke bar after.
For dinner with your bestie: Bantam King
501 G St., NW
Chances are slim of roses and lingering proposals at this Chinatown ramen shop. Instead, you’ll find some of the city’s best noodle soups and crunchy fried chicken. Feast up, then head downstairs to the no-frills Free State Atlantic bar.
For swoon-worthy takeout: All-Purpose
1250 Ninth St., NW
We’d be pretty psyched with a carryout pie or two from this Shaw hotspot, rounded out with a bottle of Champagne and Netflix.
For the reservation-adverse: Himitsu
This Petworth gem is tiny, with only 24 seats. Plan to go early, put your name in, and grab a drink at one of the nearby Upshur Street bars—though save room for co-owner Carlie Steiner’s incredible cocktails. The nouveau-Japanese fare includes beautiful sashimi-style plates (get the yellowtail with Thai chilies and orange vinaigrette), creative rolls, and some of the best fried chicken karaage around.