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The Best Restaurants in DC That Don’t Take Reservations
February 4, 2014 | 9:00AM

It may be too late. There are ten days left until the most Hallmark of holidays and you may be out of luck getting a reservation for your Valentine’s Day date. Do. Not. Worry. Reservations are for squares. Cool people like you and me, we’re like Anthony Bourdain. We don’t need reservations. We’re cool eating spaghetti with a dog in an alley. But we understand that your partner may not be cool with eating a spaghetti meal with a dog in an alley so we’ve compiled this helpful guide.

For Getting Get Laid/Guaranteeing Birthday-level Sex

Little Serow

  • 1511 17th St NW

After a meal at Little Serow you won’t even have to do any work – Johnny Monis, his flawless staff, and his incredible northern Thai-inspired pre-fixe menu will woo your date for you. Just make sure you give that special someone a break before you try to get them into bed since all of their senses will need a refractory period after this meal.

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For the Romantic First Date on Valentine’s Day (Why Would You Do This? No Judgment, But Why?)

Room 11

  • 3234 11th St NW

A standout on our outdoor drinking guide list, Room 11 is the perfect venue for getting to know your potential soulmate over a glass of wine as you share a few small plates. The recent cold weather is also a great excuse to get close to your Valentine under a blanket and toast your feet by their cozy fire pit.

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For The Couple That Wants To Do An Alcoholic Version of the Two Straws, One Milkshake Thing a la Grease

Satellite Room

  • 2047 9th St NW

Booze. Milkshakes. The potential for a retro movie moment. (Or the potential for bringing boys to your yard, depending on your frame of reference.) Whether you’re an established couple who’s looking for a laid back way to spend your Valentine’s or a new couple looking for something completely adorable to do, the myriad delicious and boozy milkshake options at the Satellite Room are a solid choice for a V-Day meal.

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For Impressing Your One Night Stand

Hank’s Oyster Bar 

  • 633 Pennsylvania Avenue SE
  • 1624 Q Street NW
  • 1026 King Street, Alexandria VA

A more airy, relaxed seafood alternative, you and your “date” can suggestively slurp oysters at each other before going back to your place. (Plus they serve Goldfish before your meal. No one you’d want to spend more than one night with would say no to that.)

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For Breaking Up with Someone (Crowded and With Easy Access to Escape)

Pizzeria Paradiso 

  • 2003 P Street NW

Only a few strategic steps from Farragut Metro, this Dupont favorite has quick service and delicious food. You’ll have just enough time to secure the unlucky party a table and order them a farewell pizza before melting out the door faster than the mozzarella on their margherita.

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For the Couple Who Is 100% Comfortable With Themselves (But Still Want Quality Food)

Red Derby

  • 3718 14th St NW

If you’ve reached the point in your relationship where you still love each other but no longer want to put on heels, make-up, dress pants, or a shirt without a stain on it to go to dinner together, Red Derby could be the Valentine’s venue for you. This 14th street dive bar has fantastic burgers, cheap beer, and absolutely no pretention. There’s a reason it made our Least Douchey Bars In DC piece.

Shake Shack in Dupont Circle

  • 1216 18th St NW

If you’re in the Dupont area and want to avoid the expensive, commercially bloated trappings of Valentine’s Day but still want to get out of the house with your honey, Shake Shack could be your one-stop shop for cheap wine, quality milkshakes, and a dining establishment that will not judge you for the sweatpants you couldn’t be bothered to remove before leaving the house.

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Super Taco

  • 1762 Columbia Rd NW

Tucked away in a tiny hole in the wall in Adams Morgan, there’s barely any room to sit down and you may have to communicate your Valentine’s Day order in a mix of English, Spanish, and expressive gestures. Still, if you want to celebrate your romantic happiness with cheap, fresh, authentic Mexican food without having to make yourself presentable, Super Taco is perfect for you.

Fast Gourmet

  • 1400 W St NW

A delicious sandwich shop in a gas station is probably not where you would have taken your significant other on your first, second, third, or even fourth date, but now that you can point out when they have something in their teeth without embarrassing them, this is one of the best places to show your special someone that you care about their taste buds and want them to be happy.

 

For the Couple Who Wants Take Out So They Can Binge-Watch House of Cards

2Amys

  • 3715 Macomb St NW

Frequently mentioned in best pizza guides around the city because of their quality ingredients, 2Amys is the ideal DC staple for bringing your favorite District-centric Netflix original series to life without having to leave your couch.

DCity Smokehouse

  • 8 Florida Ave NW

This new kid on the block may just be the best barbecue in the city. Juicy, meaty ribs, melt-in-your-mouth hush puppies, and savory, flavorful chicken and waffles is probably the closest you’ll get to enjoying Freddy’s, Frank Underwood’s favorite barbecue restaurant from the show. There’s no room to sit down, so grab yourself some delicious take-out and hurry home to see who Frank verbally eviscerates this season.

For Vegetarian Couples

Dama

  • 1505 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA

In our Best Vegetarian Dishes In DC feature Jessica Garson said Dama has “the best Ethiopian food I’ve ever had.” An endorsement like that has to be good for the non-meat lover in your life.

Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats

  • 1370 Park Rd NW

If you screw up your dinner, take your sweetheart to get a sweet. It’ll fix everything. If you didn’t screw up dinner, take your sweetheart to get a brownie. You’ll get brownie points (sorry). The vegan-friendly shop is one of our favorites, and it doesn’t hurt that they have an extensive gluten-free menu.

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SUNdeVICH

  • 1314 9th St NW

We’re recommending this for a quick, cute lunch. If your partner works in or near Shaw, this cozy (read: small) sandwich shop is an excellent option for vegetarians and carnivores alike. If you work at BYT, you’re too familiar with the menu. If you don’t work on 9th and N, you may be missing out on its deliciousness.

For the Couple Who Likes Eating Off Each Other’s Plates

Union Market

  • 1309 5th St NE

Whether you love trying new places (Bidwell), want a quality sandwich (Red Apron), are craving tacos (TaKorean), or are foregoing dinner and going straight for dessert (Curbside Cupcakes), Union Market will ensure that this is the one day out of the year where you don’t have to compromise between what you want and what your significant other is craving.

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Estadio

  • 1520 14th St NW

Mark Kuller’s small Spanish plates mecca on 14th street is still one of the most delicious places to share food with anyone in the city. Add to that an adventurous wine menu by Max Kuller and those white wine sangrias (with tequila) courtesy of Adam Bernbach and you’re in heaven. Things can get a little competitive on the weekends but showing up early goes a long way here.

Barcelona

  • 1622 14th St NW

The OTHER small Spanish plates mecca on 14th street has the extra romantic advantage of those fire pits and blankets in the courtyard and the additional romantic disadvantage of just being ass-to-cheek packed constantly these days. Having said that -we’ve shown up on the early side a few times and were seated no sweat. On a weekend, however, an 8pm dinner may require a 6pm drop by.

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For The Couple Who Wants to Have A Quality Liquid Meal/Needs Some Lubrication For Later

The Queen Vic

  • 1206 H St NE

When a husband couldn’t please his British-born wife, he opened a British pub for her. That’s the kind of place you should drink at on Valentine’s Day. Make sure to order a drink from Noel, a staff favorite.

Cork Wine Bar

  • 1720 14th St NW

One of the hardest places to get a seat on the patio in the summer, you may have better luck on a holiday in the middle of February. If you don’t, at least you’re already on 14th?

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Bar Pilar

  • 1833 14th St NW

A fantastic place to hide out with your boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband, mistress, dominatrix, whoever. Not too intimate, not too loud, not too quiet, it’s a great place to set your own mood. If you’re unsure of your relationship with your guest, grab a seat at the bar. Ignore them while you drink craft beer. Shower them with praise while you sip cocktails. The bar is whatever you want it to be.

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2 Birds 1 Stone

  • 1800 14th St NW

Here’s where to take the person you want to impress. It’s new (opened in September), slightly hidden (not being on U helps), and right now they have hot cider. Who isn’t going to love that? Hell, go alone and love yourself.

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  • 2800 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Class it up with a visit to Bourbon, located in the Four Seasons. Take advantage of the steak house’s location and suggest a room. Just suggest. Suggest and order a cocktail and be happy with the outcome.

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For the Couple Who Wants to Wait (For A Table)

Toki Underground

  • 1234 H St NE

Even a few years after opening, this tiny ramen outpost on H Street NE is still a hot ticket. The good news is that they’ll text you when your table is ready instead of making you stand around in the tiny 23-seat restaurant, so instead of awkwardly sipping your delicious cocktail and being in everyone’s way, you can spend that 1.5 hours sipping beers at The Pug. Said beers can later be absorbed by all those delicious noodles you will ingest upon sitting down. Pro tip – DEFINITELY order the dumplings (deep fried because it’s a holiday and this is America). Also, make sure you savor at least one of their original cocktails.

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Rose’s Luxury

  • 717 8th St SE

Rose’s is the most enchanting place of all places to eat in DC right now and we’re sure it will be a veritable battlefield on Valentine’s Day. But it will also be worth it. Barrack’s Row is blessedly packed with other great places to grab a drink while you wait. (May we recommend the Sarajevo Old-Fashioned at Ambar, just to loosen up those nerves a little extra?) Aaron Silverman’s food is VERY MUCH worth the wait. Not since Johnny Monis has DC seen a chef who is so at ease simply cooking the food he wants to cook. With that food being so special/personal to him, he HAD TO open a restaurant in order to be able to do exactly what he wants to do. Just typing this makes me want to eat it all over again.

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For Guaranteeing You Never See Your One Night Stand Again

McDonalds

  • Just go outside and look around

Nothing says “Oh God, I’ve made a mistake” like the smell of old grease, the over-salted taste of shame, and a price point lower than the distance your stomach dropped when you rolled over and saw the choices drunk-you made the night before.

Bojangles

  • 50 Massachusetts Ave NE

For those who prefer the Southern version of the aforementioned shame-taste, the “food” at Bojangles will be more than enough to send your date running, even if it’s only for the bathroom.

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Recent Comments:
  • Anonymous says:

    DCity Smokehouse is in Truxton Circle, not Shaw.

  • otberbur says:

    Some problems with your list: Matchbox and at least the Ted’s Bulletin on 14th St. are on Open Table, although reservation availability may be limited. (I have reserved tables at Matchbox at least three times.) Cork Wine Bar and Bar Pilar take reservations on City Eats. (Both have tables available tonight, as of the time I am writing this comment.) Estadio, and for that matter Doi Moi, take reservations prior to 6 pm.