Best DC “SEAL THE DEAL/ Special Occasion” Date Guide: 2017 Edition
svetlana | Feb 13, 2017 | 9:00AM |

Ok guys, as the hearts-and-chocolate aisle at CVS/RITE-AID/ANYWHERE will not let you forget-Valentine’s day is TOMORROW. So-we’re piling on that particular anxiety wagon and posting something fun and useful and date-centric (well, we’ll aim for 2-out-of-3) all week.

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We did some of these guides before but decided they deserve updates SINCE DC IS A HOTBED OF NEW VENUE/RESTAURANT/BAR activity and there is PLENTY OF NEW OPTIONS TO TALK ABOUT.

  • BEST DC PLACES FOR A BLIND DATE (aka “where to go with people you have never met in person but have temporary semi-high hopes for”)
  • BEST DC PLACES FOR A FIRST DATE (aka “where to go with people you HAVE met in person before, after you two mutually decided that some one-on-one time to explore your potential future of nudity and Sunday afternoon marathons of Stranger Things are in order”)

all of which, as we know, can be as stressful as they are fun.

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But-lets get into a little time machine and providing you’ve made it through the wilderness of of early “dating” and are just about ready to make it really count… WELCOME TO OUR “SEAL THE DEAL/SPECIAL OCCASIONS” Date Guide. You lucky bastards you!

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This date situation is applicable to any number of occasions, so we figured we’d just lay those options out for you, so you don’t decide on a wrong place at the wrong time:

  • On the most casual level, this is the kind of date you take someone to who is refusing to get properly physically intimate with you until they “KNOW YOU TRULY CARE”, and are as such, obviously looking for a romantic gesture to soothe their (temporarily) insecure hearts.
  • On a more committed level, this is the kind of date you want to take someone on when you’re planning to tell them you want to JUST date them and no one but them and/or you love them, and you want them buttered and happy enough to agree to this deal/say it right back. Basic negotiation skills in action here.
  • On an actual relationship level, this works for: birthdays, celebrations of promotions,  making people you love feel better if something bad just happened, getting out of the doghouse, anniversaries, BRINGING ROMANCE BACK INTO A RELATIONSHIP THAT IS ALL TOO COMFORTABLE ALL OF A SUDDEN (hey, we’ve all been there, no judging here), PROPOSALS and such.
  • No matter what, emotions/feelings/whathaveyouS are ALWAYS involved on dates of this sort and they REALLY matter and you can’t fight them. Got all that?

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Some notes before we dive in:

  • KNOW YOUR VICTIM DATE: this is not about you, this is about them. Your job is to look nice, not smell or act like a wet sock and indulge them. What do they want? What do they need? Where have they always wanted to go? How can you make that thing they always wanted to do even better?
  • Listening to them helps with this. To paraphrase “High Fidelity”, it is not about what you are like, it is about stuff you like. Books, movies, etc (they like)-these things matter. They’re all filled with clues just waiting from you to decipher them and turn them into the best date ever.

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  • As such we will not package any single complete evening out for you but offer options in each category (theatre, drinks, food, movies etc) that can be then mixed and matched for maximum impact with your person of choice.
  • Also, yes, some of these options are pricey, but creativity still counts for more than cold, hard cash (though, trust us, cold hard cash always helps) so we will offer some tips to save a few pennies, if this is needed. YOU ARE WELCOME.
  • Ready now?

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DRINKING

  • COLUMBIA ROOM – Columbia room went away for a while, BUT NOW IT IS BACK, and back with a seal-the-deal vengeance. Whether you’re doing the 3 course drinks tasting menu, or just tucking yourself in the library or hiding away in one of the new booths (if you’re lucky) – deals are going to be sealed ALL OVER THIS PLACE.
  • 2 BIRDS 1 STONE – seriously good cocktails, a peaceful enough atmosphere, and those handdrawn menus to instagram the hell out of.
  • Barmini – Jose Andres’ cocktail lab next to the Minibar is a as fancy and special of an experience as it can get while keeping it all still relatively casual.
  • Radiator Read our First Look.
  • DRAM & GRAIN – Jack Rose is a jungle, and Dram & Grain is a quiet, sexy, bourbon and whiskey soaked respite from it all. Some of the best staff in town too.
  • PX – first of all, Old Town Alexandria is like the Godmother of DMV Area’s SEAL THE DEAL DATES. The old school main street, the excellent restaurants that line the streets, the CHRISTMAS LIGHTS over the holidays…this place is working overtime to make you look good. PX just adds to the magic you’re experiencing. Warm, cozy, less crowded than some other “speakeasy” joints, it also features the dizzying array of Todd Thrasher’s cocktails, all of which you need to try, now.
  • Bar a VinCome check out our First Look.
  • POV @ The W – the official power seal the deal spot. Try and get a table reservation for maximum impact. Then, enjoy the views and yourselves over some delicious drinks. For something a little more intimate –  check out the Root Cellar in the basement.
  • THE GIN JOINT  – a wonderful, under-hyped secret weapon of a bar.

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EATING

(please check out the (NORMALLY SPECIAL OCCASION WORTHY) FANCY PLACES WHERE IF YOU SIT AT THE BAR IT IS OK FOR A FIRST DATE” portion of our FIRST DATE GUIDE for more suggestions (including The Source, Bourbon Steak etc-all of which we LOVE TOO) but what we’re really looking to focus on here is the pure romance of the dining rooms/experience)

OK – now, a tasting menu or something that elevates the experience from you usual dining date (see: tasting menus, semi-secrecy etc), and yes, these can get pretty expensive, but you can’t put a price on love, now can you? Still, for options sake, we’re mixing in some truly delightful, flatteringly lit “regular” restaurants as well:

  • Hazel – Rob Rubba’s restaurant is topping our list of newcomers to the game because it is fancy, but not too fancy, adventurous but still with a sense of humor, and (and this is always important), perfectly lit. Their brunch is pretty damn good too.
  • Minibar – Jose Andres’ Michelin guide included, $275 per person (not including drink, tax or tip), multiple hour extravaganza is the kind of place you save for the one you’ll love forever.
  • Komi – I have eaten at KOMI a total of 2 times. First time was for my 29th birthday when it was a surprise meal (I CRIED WHEN I FOUND OUT, AND THEY WERE TEARS OF PURE JOY, you guys) and the next time was on a very special occasion the next year (which, blessedly, coincided with my tax refund check arriving the week before). I am literally counting the days till I have a $135+wine pairing worthy excuse to go again. The food is perfect, the service is immaculate, the pairings and the intimacy of the dining room go a long way to set the tone, and while yes, the 3 hour tasting menu experience is being poo-pooed on by some food critics as an example of culinary tyranny, when it is done this well, it legitimately feels like a vacation. Pro tip tho: don’t go here with someone you may not like for really real, you will want to remember the experience forever and you don’t want to have it tainted by a memory of unfortunate dating decisions. Not that we’re speaking from personal experience or anything.
  • Little Serow – KOMI’s little sister downstairs offers the more casual, and even warmer version of the dining experience upstairs. The Northern Thai menu changes regularly, the price is right ($45, not including drinks), the lighting is the most flattering we’ve encountered of late and the noise levels are just where they need to be. The only issue is: they don’t accept reservations and you will probably have to wait unless you show up at 5:30pm on the dot (and even then-cross your fingers). So – the pro move is to show up early, put your name down, then let your date know when dinner is. Cool? Cool.
  • Tail Up Goat – Tail Up Goat opens today so it may seem we’re jumping the gun here a little but our RADAR for seal-the-dealness is high on this one. 2017 is a year of local talent striking out on their own and Tail Up Goat is leading the way. The team behind it honed their skills at Komi and Little Serow and promises a Mediterannean inspired neighborhood restaurant that Adams Morgan (and DC) has long deserved. We can’t wait. Read our full preview with the Tail Up Goat team here.

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  • ConosciWe haven’t been able to stop looking at these photos since we took them.
  • Rose’s Luxury – Again, no reservations (for more of those, click here) and Rose’s the most enchanting place of all places to eat in DC right now 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.
  • Pineapple and Pearls –  A cafe (by day) AND a more formal prix fixe dining room (by night), and Washingtonian’s #1 restaurant in D.C. this year, Pineapple and Pearls is the perfect date if your looking to seal that deal harder than you’ve ever sealed a deal before. Everyone in D.C. loves it and everyone is dying to afford that $250 per person tasting menu. Think hard and be flexible when you’re making these reservations, not every person you’re going to date in D.C. deserves a two Michelin star experience. It might be best to save this for the very serious, engagement worthy situations. Basically, enough to make us want to move to Barracks Row once and for all. Added bonus: yes, it WILL take reservations.
  • Bad Saint – because standing in line for people means love. Hopefully.
  • The Dabney – Jeremiah Langhorne cooks simple, delicious Mid-Atlantic food in a romantic, tucked in Blagden Alley setting. With Columbia room now opening next door, this may be the biggest seal-the-deal evening guarantee destination of all.
  • HoneysuckleRead our Taste Test right here.
  • JoselitoRead our First Look here.
  • Sfoglina – The latest addition to the Fabio Trabbochi super date appropriate empire. doesn’t dissappoint. Check our our First Look.
  • Dirty Habit Don’t forget to look at our Taste Test before you head over.
  • Masseria – Nick Stefanelli’s first solo venture after Bibiana is a gorgeous, super sexy spot, in maybe the least sexy part of town (a sort-of-alley off of Union Market) – but once you’re there, you really have no idea of anything else around it. And his fresh-and-shophisticated-but-still-warm Italian food is a seal-the-deal cincher.
  • Iron Gate – Before Iron Gate closed its doors in 2010, it was the longest continuously running restaurant in DC food history. Now, under NRG’s tutelage, its bar is a great resource for ANY DATE but to really splurge, book a tasting menu at the carriage house. SO SPECIAL.

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  • Sally’s Middle Name – A darling, darling gem on H Street. This is the restaurant equivalent of your girlfriend’s favorite lifestyle blog (it is ok if you don’t know what that means, just trust us)
  • Bad Saint – A mostly only counter seating, Philippino-spicy location that DOESN’T take reservations? But, with the Room 11 proximity, the sort of immersive experience where you spend a whole evening together trying something completely new and different can be a relationship time-changer.
  • Bombay Club – After spicy Thai, spicy Indian? We know that spicy does not spell romance in most of your dictionaries but everything else about Bombay Club does. You walk in-and you are transported to another time (1920s) and another place (some British West Indies private club). There is a piano, there are white tablecloths and cozy booths, and the service is the kind of operation that you don’t really see that often in 2013.

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  • The Source – Share the duck. Share the dumplings. Share everything. The Wolfgang Puck mainstay just underwent a renovation which brought a new energy to the already delicious surroundings and Scott Drewno is as fun and hard-working of a Chef as you’re likely to find in DC and beyond. BONUS: not too loud. Too many places are too loud.
  • Kinship  & Metier – Eric Ziebold is the man. He’s from the Midwest; he worked at Spago; he worked at the French Laundry and at Per Se. And he helmed the kitchen of one of D.C.’s best fine dining spots, CityZen, until it closed down in late 2014. Now, he’s ready with a new fine dining concept, set to open right beside the old Passenger location in Mt. Vernon/Shaw (Of course it’s in Shaw. SO HOT RIGHT NOW.). Kinship is the upstairs spot, an a la carte menu “celebrating the rich diversity of influences that have come to shape American cuisine”; Metier, the fine dining seven-course tasting menu influenced by seasons, travel, culture and history. Fast casual is great, but if D.C. wants to ascend to the culinary heights to which it aspires, it needs more luxe fine dining (Komi, Marcel’s, and Rasika are all wonderful, but this will be on another level). A day after I moved to DC, I celebrated by doing the tasting menu at CityZen; if this is anything close (spoiler alert: it will be), I’m 100% on board. -Logan Hollers

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  • Chez Billy Sud just look at this place – don’t you want to be sealing ALL your deals here?
  • Red Hen – one of the more casual choices on this list but you guys, when someone knows how to cook, they know how to cook. And Sebastian Zutant’s wine menu adds a touch of adventure and sophistication to the proceedings.
  • Fiola & Fiola Mare – both of these Fabio Trabbochi’s restaurants serve up class, deliciousness and romance left right and center. You just need to decide: is it going to be an Italian or a Seafood kind of night?
  • Brabo –  Delicious food, some of DC’s best plating and fanciest desserts and then… wait for it… a stroll down Old Town Alexandria’s main streets (bonus if the Christmas lights are still on)
  • Tabard Inn – who doesn’t want to pretend they’re in an enchanted castle on their seal the deal date? BONUS: in the summer, sit outside in the garden, under that giant parachute they use as a screen.
  • Aperto Just look at these delightful pictures.
  • Sakerum Share a 151 sushi platter nightmare combo! It’ll bring you closer together.
  • Whaley’s Go back for brunch the next day.
  • KyirisanIf these photos wont convince you to go there then nothing will.
  • AshlarCheck out our First Look.
  • Mintwood Place – the whole place is just a class act. BUT IT IS ALSO a class act with floor padding which means it is actually doable to have normal sane conversations there, while enjoying some of the (seriously!) best food this city has to offer.
  • Convivial – the second venture by the team behind the Mintwood is just as lovely (and a little more casual, but we do think there should be MORE casual sealing of deals around here). Order the fried chicken coq au vin and some vin on top. Check out our full first look here.
  • Trummer’s on Main read this.
  • Le Diplomate – possibly the ONLY seal-the-deal brunch in this whole city. Also works well for the brunch after you’ve sealed whatever deal you’ve been sealing. Go with a pamplemoosse presse or a nice rose to drink, and order the mushroom tart, the seafood platter, and the breadbasket. SOMETHING EVERYONE CAN AGREE ON BEING FOOLPROOF.

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  • Cork – Cork is one of my favorite places in DC mainly because it balances the special and the casual so well. The lighting is amazing, the front room is a bustling mix of girl dates, bro dates and casual dates, but in the back things get quieter and a little darker and the tables are pretty perfectly sized for ease of reaching over them and touching hands, ALL THE TIME.
  • Plume – the downstairs restaurant at the Jefferson is like one of those hidden, magical gems (now with a Michelin approval) where you feel like you stumbled into a treasure cave that was meant only for you and no one else but you (well, your date too).
  • Buck’s Fishing and Camping – an underrated player in the SEAL THE DEAL date game, BUCK’s offers great but simple food (so as not to alienate nor insult anyone’s palate), amazing lighting, and a cozy vibe. Also-never too too packed, so lingering is probably ok. And trust us-you’ll want to linger.
  • Bourbon Steak – the food, yes, is delicious, but the edge here is given by the cocktail program which is fancy, charming, smart and in general, as good of a wingman as you’ll ever get from a cocktail program.
  • Blue Duck Tavern  –  Blue Duck is one of those places that does everything well. What puts it slightly over the top in this category, in our eyes, is the dessert menu-which is probably one of the best, if not THE best in town. And amazing desserts are hella romantic, in case you didn’t get the memo.

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THEATRE

With theatre it is not about what you’re seeing, it is more about what going to the theatre means in 2013 to the person you’re going to the theatre with: it shows effort, good taste, investment, planning, and a desire to make this evening a little more special. While it can get definitely pricey, here are some of our favorite places to see things on stage in DC and how to get around the high price ticket, if that’s what’s stopping you.

  • Kennedy Center – join their MY TIX program NOW.
  • Woolly Mammoth – are always very good with their pay-what-you-can nights. Keep an eye on their website.
  • Shakespeare Theatre Company – If You Are Under 35 and have a valid ID to prove it, tickets to Shakespeare Theatre Company are only $15 for you. Start using and abusing that fact NOW.
  • Arena Stage – launched their UNDER 30 SUBSCRIPTION plan, which allows you to get 4- or 8- play package for just $20 a ticket.
  • Studio Theatre – offers all sorts of useful discounts: Student Rush: $15 tickets day of show, must present Student ID when picking up.  or just plain Rush Tickets: $30 tickets on sale 30 minutes before curtain time as available. or Nov 2, Dec 1, Feb 29, May 23, Jun 13. Ticket Price: $20 for patrons who live or work in the Studio District, with proof of address. Tickets only available day of event. What is the Studio District? The area between 11th and 17th Streets NW, and from N ST NW to Florida Ave NW.
  • Signature Theatre – are always very good with their pay-what-you-can nights. Keep an eye on their website.
  • Check out the League of Washington Theatres website for updates on specials.

No matter how much money you’re spending or not spending – taking someone to the theatre says:

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MOVIES

  • AFI – classic movies, classy setting. Nothing in this town can really beat AFI for a power movie daTE
  • when the nice weather hits, a home packed picnic and one of those outdoor movies will go a long way (for extra adorableness points, check out our URBAN PICNIC GUIDE).

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OTHER SMART IDEAS:

  • Getting them tickets to a sold out show of their favorite band EVER
  • Recreating your first real date.
  • Staycations – EVERYONE loves checking into a hotel, even if they’re going nowhere, especially if the hotels come with nice robes. We recommend pairing these with spa treatments. Keep an eye out for special deals that make things a little easier on the wallet.
  • Wine trips to Virginia.
  • Classes, especially the ones involving food or tours of places they love (breweries, distilleries, gelato or chocolate factories etc)

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Obviously-more than the spot itself, the success of the date depends on well, the two of you and how much sealing that deal is actually meant to be.. We just hope this listicle takes out a portion of the stress out and you can focus on the important stuff (like: not saying something stupid or overly dramatic) instead.

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Now-tell us some of your recommendations in the comments. PLEASE. Also, keep an eye out for our NO DATE guide coming up any day now. NOT DATING IS WONDERFUL TOO.