District of Columbia? More like District of Canoodling. Don’t let DC’s buttoned-up reputation fool you—there’s no shortage of romantic restaurants in DC to set the stage for seduction in the nation’s capital for your Valentine’s dinner and beyond. For a truly special occasion—and a night that will end with love songs blaring, and no breakup songs playing—say it with flowers with our top florist picks and a table at one of these most romantic restaurants in DC. Want to make it a night you won’t forget? Get a room at one of the best Washington, DC hotels and follow up with a decadent brunch in the morning.
RECOMMENDED: Find more Valentine’s Day ideas for Washington, DC
Best romantic restaurants in DC
You’re just a reservation and a major paycheck away from a trip to the Italian Riviera by way of the Potomac. Chef Fabio Trabocchi reveals his passion for seafood at his Georgetown Harbour spot with all the subtlety of a PDA. Consider the house cocktail: The gin-based Doppia Libidine (“Double Lust”) comes paired with an oyster and granita to up the aphrodisiac factor. The seafood platter is a Baroque orgy of langoustine, clams, king crab, urchin and other briny delights. Expect sweeping river views, whole roasted fish, streams of bubbly—and a mega-bill to match.
There are so many ways to do it at this rebooted Dupont landmark eatery, when “it” means feast. Spontaneously with small plates at the bar? Sure. Slowly after cocktails in the sun-dappled courtyard? Yes. Or by firelight in the carriage house? You can’t go wrong. Chef Anthony Chittum and his gang use a combination of immersion circulators and open flames to coax out bold flavors in small and family-style plates in the grand Victorian setting. The tasting menus are just as impressive: four ($60), six ($80), and the mega-course chef’s tasting prix fixe ($110, or $200 with wine pairings) start with a cavalcade of mezze. There are velvety soups, fresh pasta and roasted meat and fish. If at the end you want a second helping of the sesame-crusted feta, we understand. You brought gum, right?
Johnny Monis’ Greek-inspired formal dining room, Komi, is an epic experience, but it’s his less expensive Northern Thai joint just below that heats our blood. With a limit of four people per table, this intimate spot is tailor-made for romance. The menu riffs on the meals the owners ate on their honeymoon and the open kitchen delivers a prix fixe ($45) of seven fiery, funky plates like Mekong whiskey-basted ribs with sticky rice. There are no substitutions (sorry, vegetarians) and no reservations. Line up when the place opens to snag one of the two seatings. There’s no attitude at the door—Little Serow has the warmest service in town.
On the wall of this eclectic Barracks Row bistro is a pink neon sign that glows “Awesome.” And that’s exactly how this snug spot makes people feel. (Bon Appétit magazine agreed, proclaiming Rose’s Luxury “America’s best new restaurant” in 2014.) Delicacies like smooth popcorn soup topped with grilled lobster, foie gras on French toast and house-smoked brisket are served under strings of fairly lights, making the popular date spot feel like a foodie prom. There’s just one catch: It doesn’t take reservations. Joining the long line of optimists is part of the experience. And who knows? You might just meet someone new.
Joined at the hip to Minibar, Jose Andres’ wildly exclusive 12-seat modernist kitchen, this cocktail lab is as brain-bending as its next-door twin, but twice the size and easier on the wallet. Resembling a Surrealist toy box, it’s all about adult fun—try to snag seats on the cactus couch. Reserve a two-hour slot and explore the list of 100-plus cocktails. Try a labor-intensive classic like the Ramos Gin Fizz and steal a little one-on-one time with your date. The whiskey-based Big in Japan comes garnished with a mescal marshmallow. Make a dinner out of molecular nibbles like spherical caviar cones courtesy of Minibar.
There’s no sign outside. A handwritten menu is the only indication Peter Pastan’s fine seasonal Italian restaurant is within this handsome Dupont Circle row house. If you care about food—where it’s from, how it comes together, why it brings us joy—Obelisk is a must. The five-course prix fixe changes daily but old friends reappear from time to time. Cross your fingers there’s buratta sprinkled with sea salt to start or chocolate-polenta cake for dessert. Pastas are pillowy, fish is cooked gently, and desserts have such wit that table talk hovers around the “You’ve gotta try this” variety. The lights are low, there are fresh flowers and enough space between tables for truly private conversations, so you can canoodle away.
Set in a cottage surrounded by a tiered garden, this beyond-sweet gastropub has been luring romantics to Potomac, Maryland for almost 100 years. And since Nick Palermo’s arrival in 2011 (he's since moved on), the food is on par with the experience. The crave-worthy menu warrants a midweek getaway: fresh oysters, bowls of Thai-spiced mussels, rack of lamb, a killer cheeseburger, and hot apple crisp. If you plan to Uber home, explore the collection of single malts after dinner.
The strikingly modern decor combined with James Beard Award–winning chef Vikram Sunderam’s highly styled Indian cuisine is as heady as a spice market on Mars. From fragile Palak Chaat (flash-fried spinach laced with tamarind) to robust curries, airy breads and fragrant desserts, his menu seduces. The original location in the Penn Quarter is excellent too, but if you’re seeking privacy, try the larger West End location where private booths are styled like a 22nd-century maharajah’s palanquin. Both are popular among DC’s decision-makers.
If Amélie is your ideal date movie, allez to this intimate Georgetown spot. As cute as a box of macarons, the mint-colored dining room delivers southern France on a plate. Nuzzle over warm olives, wine-poached duck eggs, fish soup topped with toasted Gruyère, roasted trout with fennel, and profiteroles filled with ice cream and bathed in warm chocolate sauce. When the weather is fine, relax in the private patio with a bottle of rosé for less than the price of a cab to Dulles. The restaurant is the baby sister of Petworth’s Chez Billy, which is also brimming with bon goût.
Tucked inside a Federal row house near the university campus, this Georgetown mainstay might as well be located at the corner of Memory Lane and Fancy Street. The restaurant has set the scene for dozens of proposals and remains an enviable destination for anniversaries. Start with cocktails in the clubby bar and then settle at a fireside table in the John Carroll Room. The seasonal American menu is a primer in white-tablecloth luxury. Start with a foie gras parfait and share Alba white truffle risotto and beef Wellington. Split the cheese course and at least one of the warm desserts oozing chocolate and fruit. The 11,000-bottle wine list was built to impress.
Inside a quirky family-run hotel south of Dupont Circle sits an elegant restaurant serving decadent New American cuisine. Start with oysters on the half shell or bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with mascarpone. This is food you want to eat: grilled octopus; a real Caesar; scallops with parsnip puree and roasted grapes. Come early for cocktails by the fireplace or go crazy and spend the night. The top-floor garret suite has a killer claw-foot tub. Wake up for brunch and join the throngs who know to start with the piping-hot doughnuts served with bowls of vanilla whipped cream.
“She’s a tight Republican. He’s an unkempt Dem. But together they’re rocking the free world.” If you entertain ’90s rom-com fantasies, the Tune Inn is the place to act them out. What opened in 1947 as a Capitol Hill watering hole has matured into a great American dive that specializes in deep-fried everything (even the signature burger is battered). You can belly up to the bar or stand beneath the taxidermy, but truly great dates take place in one of the black pleather booths with a couple of ice-cold beers and a basket of mozzarella sticks. Sometimes opposites do attract.