Chances are good that you know all the typically romantic restaurants in town. (If not, check out our lists here and here.) But there are plenty of times when all the pomp and circumstance of white tablecloths and sommeliers just isn't appropriate, or even desirable — such as when you're first dating or married for 22 years. Plus, it's always more romantic to let the passion bloom organically rather than feeling forced. Here are 10 places to find love where you least expect it.
It’s tough to feel romantic when you’re just plain tired of adulting. Recapture your youth at this new H Street bar, where you can forget all about your cranky boss or even crankier three-year-old with an evening of Skee-Ball, pinball, a jukebox and classic video games. Be sure to try a few of the awesome cocktails, such as the blend of scotch, tea cordial and lemon. Just remember: Do NOT order the spaghetti sandwich on a date.
Must-order: Raw oysters; clam chowder poutine; steak frites
414 H St. NE; 202-450-3265
Dark, intimate and broody, the decor of this Blagden Alley ode to Hong Kong street food seems steeped in mystery and adventure. Plus, there’s a special menu of cocktails infused with ancient holistic remedies for things like fatigue and anxiety, which could stave off any first-date jitters. For longtime couples, the clandestine feel of the place makes you want to plan a trip away together.
Must-order: Kowloon buns; cheung fun; crispy whole dourade
922 N St. NW; 202-733-1152
Nothing says romance like thoughts of being in the Swiss Alps sipping spiked hot chocolate near a fireplace under a mountain of cozy blankets. At Stable, the space itself is rather sparse and industrial, but Swiss-born chef David Fritsche evokes the ideal snuggle sitch through warming comfort dishes from his homeland featuring rich sauces, potato rösti, cheeses and meats. Reserve ahead for the fondue menu for an extra touch of charm.
Must-order: Tête de Moine cheese with housemade pear bread; veal Zurich style; cheese spätzli
1324 H St. NE; 202-733-4604
Petworth Citizen & Reading Room
It would be easy to peg this place as a regular old neighborhood spot, but the cozy decor, great food, soft lighting and outstanding cocktails take it to the next level. Check out the ultra-romantic Reading Room bar in back, which hosts excellent mixologists — including a Friday and Saturday night series titled Get Lit with author-inspired cocktails from Chantal Tseng.
Must-order: Cheeseburger, fried cauliflower; the Too Soon fizz, a blend of gin, Cynar, citrus and egg white
829 Upshur St. NW; 202-722-2939
While being pampered by fawning servers is a dream for some, others prefer to delve into a deep conversation and lock eyes with their beloved — uninterrupted. This LeDroit Park locale is snug and warm, and you order at the bar whenever you’re ready. Plus, it’s open from breakfast through dinner, so you can get your romance on all day.
Must-order: Grilled avocado; hearts of palm arepa; housemade vermouth on tap
501 Florida Ave. NW; 202-332-7777
Joselito Casa de Comidas
You might pop into this Capitol Hill newcomer expecting another dull power-lunch setting, but what you’ll find instead is all the charm and luxury of a mini vacation to Spain. Each dish can be ordered as a small, medium or large plate, meaning you can graze without feeling overly stuffed — and in the Spanish tradition, you won’t be rushed out the door.
Must-order: Tuna crudo; five seasonal vegetables with warm asparagus broth; chicken-liver terrine
660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; 202-930-6955
Not everything about the ’50s was ideal, but there’s something to be said for embracing the best of that decade by sitting in an old-timey diner and pretending your only worry is whether Johnny’s going to ask Suzy to the sock hop. (There’s also something to be said for finding romance on a budget.) Order burgers, fries and shakes, and don't even think about SoulCycle till tomorrow.
Must-order: Classic burger; pancakes; cookies 'n' cream milkshake
2003 Fenwick St. NE; 202-290-1827
Granted, the name might give you pause for a date, considering it sounds more like a nickname for your deadbeat ex. But step inside the newly overhauled Hotel Monaco restaurant in Penn Quarter, and you’ll be delightfully surprised by the overall chic and amorous effect. Sprinkle in a few of the wonderful cocktails and dishes, and you’re well on your way to l’amour.
Must-order: Wagyu beef tartare; housemade tagliatelle with lamb Bolognese; and the G & Tea cocktail
555 Eighth St. NW; 202-449-7095
Rappahannock Oyster Bar
What’s more romantic than playing hooky on a Friday and sitting at the bar here slurping oysters and cocktails? Nothing, that’s what. But you don’t have to skip work to appreciate this Union Market spot. Any time is a good time to link arms with your honey, promenade through the food vendors and settle in at this oyster bar.
Must-order: Raw oysters; crab cake sandwich; lamb and clams stew
1309 Fifth St. NE; 202-544-4702
The beer nut in your life will appreciate being wooed at this Georgetown restaurant found at the end of an alley and packed with more than 200 Belgian brews served alongside Belgian comfort foods. Considering its proximity to the university, it’s better to get in here during off-peak times when you’re more likely to appreciate the European hunting lodge ambiance — and your date’s conversation.
Must-order: Moules frites; carbonnade flamande; a simple Liège waffle for dessert
1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-774-5875