9 Unexpectedly Romantic Restaurants and Bars in DC

By Rina Rapuano  |  February 6, 2017
Credit: The Sovereign/Facebook

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 nine places to find love where you least expect it.

  • Credit: Brian Liu/Toolbox Creative

    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.
    Must-order: Cheeseburger, moules frites and a Scotch Sunshine Fizz

    829 Upshur St. NW; 202-722-2939

  • Credit: Barbara L. Salisbury

    The Royal
    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 and any drink stirred with the housemade vermouth on tap

    501 Florida Ave. NW; 202-332-7777

  • Credit: Under a Bushel Photography

    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: Roasted sardines, skate wing the way owner Javier Candon’s mother used to make it and the chicken-liver mousse

    660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; 202-930-6955

  • Credit: Mindful Restaurants Group

    Ari’s Diner
    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 Solidcore till tomorrow.
    Must-order: Classic burger, pancakes and a cookies 'n' cream milkshake

    2003 Fenwick St. NE; 202-290-1827

  • Credit: Jai Williams

    Dirty Habit
    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: Spicy tuna tartare, poached hen dumplings and the gin and tonic for two

    555 Eighth St. NW; 202-449-7095

  • Ten Tigers Parlour
    This new noodle shop that replaced the original Chez Billy in Petworth is designed with distressed walls, lacelike woodwork on the furniture and intimate nooks that add to the ancient Chinese teahouse feel. For an extra dash of romance, find a seat near the fireplace in the upstairs lounge, which opens at 9 PM Thursdays through Saturdays (with plans to expand those hours in the coming months).
    Must-order: The green-tea strawberry éclair with tea by day, or soup dumplings and pork rice donburi with a cocktail by night

    3815 Georgia Ave. NW; 202-506-2080

  • Credit: Rappahannock Oyster Bar

    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 then settle in at this oyster bar to take the edge off.
    Must-order: Raw oysters, crab cake sandwich and the lamb and clams stew

    1309 Fifth St. NE; 202-544-4702

  • Credit: Lacey Johnson

    The irony of this hidden speakeasy of a restaurant adjacent to Alta Strada in City Vista is that despite its meaning of “do you know?” in Italian, most people still don’t know about it — making it perfect for a quiet date night. Chef George Rodrigues just moved here from sister restaurant  Tico, and is already introducing new dishes to the lineup.
    Must-order: Pork belly with pickled persimmon, miso-cured Kusshi oysters and octopus with aji amarillo

    465 K St. NW; 202-629-4662

  • Credit: The Sovereign/Facebook

    The Sovereign
    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, choucroute garnie and a simple Liège waffle for dessert

    1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-774-5875