10 Date Night Picks from Love Experts
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Feel that spring fever? It's time to hit the DC area dining scene for date night. With so many options, we turned to people who know a lot about love. Each of the following 10 date night picks are owned by husband-and-wife teams. They range from casual to proposal-worthy.
Ellen Kassoff who co-owns Equinox with her husband, Todd Gray, says their downtown restaurant offers a “calm, soothing and serene place to dine.” This is a welcome change for couples just getting to know each other that may not want to fight the decibel level at buzzy spots with too-close tables. “For a romantic evening, we recommend dining in one of our booths (ask for table 11 or 12),” Ellen says. She also recommends trying the chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings because it’s something two people can experience together. The menu currently concludes with a sexy Valrhona Soft Chocolate Ganache dessert. “After dinner, take a stroll by the White House because who doesn’t love a moonlight monument tour,” she adds. We snapped the couple during a recent dinner.
2. Fiola Mare
Schedule an early dinner date at Fiola Mare for your best chance to land a waterfront table that mentally takes you to a coastal town far from the daily grind. Chef Fabio Trabocchi and his wife, Maria Trabocchi, had romance in mind when they designed the Georgetown restaurant. “For a date, there are so many simple luxuries that add to the experience,” she tells us. “From the doorman at the entrance, to our company driver, Elias, who can take you to your hotel or the theater after the meal, to the ‘show’ of tableside preparations, Fiola Mare was designed to impress.” Fabio recommends starting the evening with oysters and caviar and a glass of Billecart-Salmon rosè champagne. “It’s all about the seduction, so the meal should serve as a kind of foreplay, stimulating all the senses—sight, smell, taste, touch, even sound,” he says.
When Lary Hoffman met Erica Soren, Lary was running Galaxy Hut in Clarendon and Erica was a master’s student at George Mason. Erica fell in love with the craft beer bar, and eventually with Lary. They launched a similar concept, Spacebar, in Falls Church and the rest is history. The Hoffmans have created a laid back, pressure’s off, date spot where sampling 24 craft beers on draft and building creative grilled cheese sandwiches is all you have to worry about between blips of get-to-know-you conversation. But even though the food leans after school snack, there are no kids. "Our 21-plus age policy makes Spacebar a natural date night choice for adults seeking a low-key, intimate evening," Lary tells us.
4. Cork Wine Bar
Cork Wine Bar, owned by the husband-and-wife duo Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts, should be as famous for its romantic setting as it is for avocado toast. "Our guests feel at home, so it takes the edge off first date nervousness," Diane tells us. "It must work, we have had numerous proposals and even engagement parties for folks who met at Cork!" Consider posting up at a patio table on 14th Street for prime people watching paired with decadent small plates and a wine list that boasts more than 50 wines by the glass. Finish by splitting a chocolate mousse parfait just as the sun sets on Logan Circle.
5. Restaurant Eve
“We’ve welcomed many couples from first dates to marriage proposals to those celebrating their first through 50th wedding anniversaries at Restaurant Eve,” Meshelle Armstrong tells us. She co-owns the cozy Old Town Alexandria restaurant with her husband, Cathal Armstrong. Even the president and first lady celebrated a recent anniversary in the romantic Sunflower Room. “It’s pure indulgence. You feel cared for and we adore love. It’s Eve—the temptation is always there, beyond the apple,” Meshelle says. While Cathal does the cooking, a major menu change was inspired by Meshelle’s Filipino heritage. In addition to the traditional tasting menu, happy couples can choose to take on a family-style Asian inspired feast with beverage pairings.
If the team at Maple were to share the recipe for a perfect date at their restaurant, it would call for you, your date, a table for two on their secret garden-like patio, and bowls of fresh pasta paired with intriguing wines—especially on Tuesday nights, when select bottles are half off. Lori Robertson co-owns the Columbia Heights neighborhood restaurant with her husband, Eric Gronning. We snapped them together. Lori points to the lamb ragu topped tagliatelle as the signature dish, so go ahead and have that Lady and the Tramp moment before concluding your meal with affogatos.
7. Flight Wine Bar
A wine bar that serves old world wine from familiar countries in familiar styles is not the best pick for date night. Venturing into the unknown together is far more fun. Flight Wine Bar in Chinatown has a wine list that reads like an atlas and carefully curated flights. We like “Sailing on the Mediterranean” featuring sips from Lebanon, Italy and Greece. Flight is co-owned by Swati Bose and her husband, Kabir Amir. “On any given day, we probably have anywhere from two to five first or blind dates.” “A really fun day for us was when my former co-worker, Stephanie, got engaged at Flight. And since then we have hosted a wedding too.” Swati recommends bringing a date to one of Flight’s classes, like the rosé class on May 4 or Greek whites on June 1.
Get your hands dirty by swiping at Ethiopian dishes in a charming setting on H Street NE, where the husband-and-wife team of Samuel Ergete and Meseret Bekele have created a warm, inviting atmosphere to try something new. Ethiopic, named for an ancient script, is a top contender in DC’s vibrant Ethiopian dining scene. As temperatures start the climb, the kitfo (which we snapped) will be especially refreshing; it’s a take on steak tartare only with flavor bursts of tangy cheese, spices and earthy greens. Or, try a little bit of everything with your main squeeze by sharing a sampler platter paired with Ethiopian beer or wine.
9. Sona Creamery & Wine Bar
“The Love-Struck Viognier from Washington State has romance written all over it,” Sona Creamy & Wine Bar’s Genevieve O’Sullivan tells us. She co-owns DC’s first on-site creamery near Eastern Market with her husband, Conan O’Sullivan. Genevieve recommends starting with wine and a cheese board whether you’re on a first date, 10th date or a rare night out for new parents. If you leave your evening at Sona feeling extra amorous, there’s a scientific reason. “Cheese contains 10 times as much phenethylamine (PEA)—believed to release the same rush of hormones as sex—as chocolate, so have that for dessert!” Sona also offers classes, a fun break from the normal date.
10. Soi 38
Spice things up in every sense by booking a table for two at Soi 38 in the West End. The restaurant from married Bangkok natives Dia Khanthongthip and Nat Ongsangkoon doesn’t hold back on heat. Singapore slings on draft will make you feel like you’re on a hiccup of a vacation, so too will the eye-catching décor. When ordering, play it as safe as Pad Thai or as wild as tongue tingling Tubb Wan made with pork liver, red onions, toasted rice, chili and fresh mint. The restaurant is designed to feel like a Thai night market bustling with street food hawkers.