Valentine’s Day Pro Tip: Skip Dinner and Go Out for Lunch or Brunch Instead

All the romance without the fuss.

Chateaubriand for two at L'Auberge Chez Francois. Photograph by Scott Suchman

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I like the idea of going out for Valentine’s Day. What I don’t love is having to sign on for an expensive prix-fixe dinner, or worse, an “aphrodisiac tasting” (thanks for making the raw bar icky). Since V-Day lands on a Friday this year, and it’s technically Valentine’s Weekend, you can opt for the best of both worlds: go out for Valentine’s lunch or brunch instead. (This is also a good procrastinator’s hack. Just saying.)

A fun or romantic lunch often bests dinner in my book—there’s less pressure, somehow. Add wine and a leisurely pace and it feels like being on vacation. If you can’t play hooky or take a long (or late) lunch break on Friday, a number of restaurants are extending their Valentine’s Day options through the weekend—no aphrodisiacs involved.

Le Diplomate
1601 14th St., NW
Stephen Starr’s ever-buzzy brasserie only serves lunch once a week on Fridays, and it may be our favorite time to visit (and certainly the only time you can walk in and score a table without an epic wait). The regular menu still boasts all the favorites—seafood plateaus, the burger, the butter salad—plus lunch lasts from noon to 4 PM so you can make it a late one and roll right into the weekend.

1520 14th St., NW
Another 14th Street favorite that offers lunch exclusively on Fridays from 11:30 to 2 PM. Go for the seasonal tapas and delicious staples like pork belly bocadillos and plancha-grilled calamari, stay and linger over excellent Spanish wines and cocktails. The restaurant isn’t doing anything fancy for V-Day so it’s also a good option if you want to go out in the evening sans fuss.

Del Mar
791 Wharf St., SW
Good luck snagging a dinner reservation at this glitzy waterfront Spanish spot at the Wharf over Valentine’s Day weekend. But Friday lunch and brunch a deux? Currently there’re lots of reservations available. You can do it up and split a beautiful pan of seafood paella and bottle of crisp white or, if you go for lunch, there’s a more wallet-friendly $28 prix-fixe tapas meal. Sister Italian restaurant Fiola Mare on the Georgetown Waterfront is another great afternoon bet.

1324 H St., NE
What’s more romantic than cozying up for a wintery fondue brunch? Head to DC’s only Swiss restaurant where you can pick between three styles of fondue, including classic cheese or a version spiked with schnapps. Cap off the meal Alpine-style with spiked cocoa or chocolate mousse.

L’Auberge Chez Francois
332 Springvale Rd., Great Falls
The closest thing you’ll get a French countryside jaunt is Chez François. The romantic, Old World restaurant serves a special five-course Valentine’s Day lunch menu ($50 to $60 per person). There’s also a regular Sunday multi-course “luncheon” (starting at $45) that includes everything from amuse bouche to a sorbet course and gratis mignardises (little sweets). We’re fans of all the throwback pleasures like lobster bisque, stuffed crepes, and beef bourguignon.

The Riggsby
1731 New Hampshire Ave., NW
If your idea of romance involves bubbles, head to the Riggsby on Sunday for brunch when all bottles of Champagne and sparkling wine are half-off. (Hey, everyone loves a deal.) In addition to the regular brunch menu, look for a few Valentine’s specials.

Iron Gate
1734 N St., NW
One of DC’s loveliest restaurants is booked up for Valentine’s Day dinner, but you can still slide in for Friday lunch or brunch. The holiday dinner is prix-fixe, but you’ll find plenty of enticing seasonal Mediterranean options, like winter pumpkin bisque and shrimp scampi, among the daytime offerings.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.