People love to complain that DC’s dating scene is terrible, but that doesn’t mean your date destination needs to be. Here are some great options for seeking out a spark—and a great drink.
725 T St., NW
In many ways, this is the platonic ideal of a neighborhood bar, though hopefully one where you can move beyond a platonic relationship. The low-key Shaw corner spot with shaded patio is the kind of place where you can get a simple, well-made cocktail or a solid beer and wine. Thanks to the effortlessly comfortable vibe, all you really need to worry about is conversation.
Astoria and CopyCat Co.
1521 17th St. NW; 1110 H St. NE
A great date is no guarantee, but at least a great cocktail is a given at these sister bars. The menus are designed to let you customize the classics—with variations on old fashioneds, Moscow mules, and bourbon smashes—plus, there are some fun tiki options. The tight quarters lend themselves to leaning in close and swapping secrets. You’ll know things are going well if you stick around for the Sichuan menus with chili wontons and mapo tofu, though things may have gone too far if you end up with an order of the “sober soup.”
Bar à Vin
1035 31st St., NW
Is your date charming or is it just this dark and handsome wine bar? Located next to Georgetown’s Chez Billy Sud, this is your place if you’re going for classy and intimate with a glass of something French. The snug, wood-and-brick-paneled hideaway features tall ceilings and a fireplace for cozying up on cold nights.
1737 Connecticut Ave., NW; 925 N. Garfield St., Arlington
If you need a little help to break the ice, may we suggest a round oft Don’t Break the Ice? Grab a beer and a board game at these Dupont and Clarendon bars, which let you rent out more than 30 games for a $2 fee. Options include Mouse Trap, Scattergories, Battleship, or Scrabble (the most DC choice of all?). The larger Arlington location also doubles as a brewery. Just be careful: If you’re feeling iffy about your date from the get-go, you don’t want to get stuck in an endless game of Life.
50 Blagden Alley, NW
This tucked-away Blagden Alley hangout has all the casualness of a friend’s backyard party. The airy bar opens to an ample garden patio where you can channel your inner kid with adult juice boxes (like a gin-spiked lavender lemonade) or get a buzz going with draft espresso martinis. Feeling it? Split a tomato pie. Not feeling it? Just split.
1337 14th St., NW
Keep your options open—for drinks, we mean!—at this beer haven boasting 50 drafts and nearly 500 bottles and cans. Whether you’re looking for something funky or smooth, there’s something for all proclivities (again, talking about the drinks!). Lesser known is that this moodily lit Logan Circle bar also has a respectable cocktail and wine menu, so it’s all good if your date turns out to be more of a negroni or a pinot person. More importantly: are they a truffle cheese fries person?
Multiple locations include 14th Street, Dupont Circle, the Wharf, Potomac, and Mosaic District
If you like pina coladas… these Cuban-inspired cafes have some of the best. The colorful day-to-night outposts offer the flexibility of a casual coffee meetup or a lingering evening of empanadas and guava negronis (the rooftop on 14th Street would be our preferred perch for the latter). It’s also hard to beat all-day $8 mojitos.
360 Seventh St., SE
Wine nerds and novices will both appreciate this Capitol Hill wine bar with mid-century style. The easy-to-navigate menu is broken down into categories such as “If you like… Sauvignon Blanc” or “If you like… rosé,” from which you can choose good representations of the staples or lesser-known grapes with similar taste profiles. If you like cocktails, spritzes, or draft beer, you’re covered too. All you need to worry about is if you like… your date.
1337 H St., NE
Nothing fancy, just good vibes at this H Street haunt—and not just because the neon sign says “good vibes only.” The bar focuses on classic cocktails, including many in the relatively affordable $12 range, alongside a no-frills beer and wine list. The front bar in the historic rowhouse has a cozier feel, but check out the garden and carriage house out back for a casual oasis.
1301-A Fourth St., NE
This high-brow dive is the kind of place where you can get a solid Sazerac or a PBR-and-whiskey combo. Drinks are always affordable, but cheap dates will particularly appreciate the 4 to 7 PM happy hour with $5 draft old fashioneds and $3 pints. Bonus: you can both embarrass yourselves over a round of darts. Being in the Union Market area also gives you the option to add on a quick food-hall bite or stroll around the nearby shops.
2031 Florida Ave., NW
Low ceilings, dim lights, and a rustic wood-and-brick interior set an intimate tone at this whiskey and cocktail retreat. The drinks are serious but fun, with rotating conversation-sparking themes. (One recent menu included cocktails named after “red flags” like “Doesn’t Have Any Books” or “Hates Tiki.”) Plus, you know you’re in good hands when the bar’s number one rule is “Don’t be a dick.”
3120 Georgia Ave., NW
Despite the name, no one is saying first date kisses are off-limits! The Park View bar, attached to Sonny’s Pizza, has a groovy retro feel with an illuminated color-changing ceiling and velvety green banquettes. Alternately, head out back to the spacious patio with picnic tables and a vintage milk truck converted into a bar serving natural wines and lively cocktails.
Other Half Brewing
1401 Okie St., NE
Any brewery would be a great option for a daytime date, but the roomy covered patio and bright taproom at this Ivy City destination give you the brewery experience without the meeting-a-stranger-in-a-warehouse feel. (Plus, how cute would it be if you found your other half at a place called Other Half?!) The Brooklyn-based transplant is known for its IPAs, but appeal to a wide range of tastes with smoothie sours, lagers, stouts, and even a non-alcoholic draft option.
1400 14th St., NW
This high-energy Logan Circle basement bar is styled after a 1970s rumpus room with tons of games to unleash your date’s playful (or competitive) side. Go for a round of pool or foosball, then move on to some Skee-Ball and vintage PacMan. If you’re really hitting it off, you might want to take a turn at the sex-toy-filled claw machine.
1130 Maine Ave., SW
This three-story rum distillery and tiki bar is one of the more fun places to drink at the Wharf. It’s got Painkillers for bad dates and “big ass bowls” that two can share if you’re ready to inch in closer. If sparks are flying beyond the flaming limes, extend the date with a walk along the waterfront boardwalk.