courtesy of kimberlyfaye
Dates. Those awkward, exciting, beautiful things we all go on at some point. I am by no means an expert in this field- quite far from it- and I don’t have a magical solution for how to make your next date the best you ever had, so unfortunately you won’t be finding the next We Love DC dating service here (sigh). The inspiration for this post really came from a conversation with a friend of mine the other day. He asked me where he should take a girl out, wanting to strike the right balance between serious young professional, trendy and casual. I realized many of us have gone through this mental exercise before. The exhausting over-planning and over- analyzing we do: choosing the right spot for that first interaction (or second or third), focusing on every detail from time, to dress code, to the big goodbye, mulling over tiny logistics as a method of defense to shift our thoughts away from the weirdness that could ensue. But enough of that.
I think a shared meal is the perfect way to break the ice, a way to bond over something simple that brings anyone, no matter what level of culinary expertise you may have, together. We all share stories around a dinner table, have memories of a favorite meal, and can reveal oneself through a dish. So for me, sharing a meal is a perfect way of getting to know someone, whether it be a sit down dinner or a casual picnic. I decided to write some recommendations for where you can break bread and the ice along the way, in case you need to outsource thinking on the next time your big date is lined up. I polled some of the We Love DC crew for their suggestions as well, as not all of us are food focused daters.
First dates are really awkward, much like my writing about them. But there are some basic ingredients needed for a date, in my recipe book, that can ease that tension. Social lubrication (alcohol), a comfortable setting with plenty of room for conversation, good food to focus on in case the former is not as enjoyable, and ultimately, the option for hanging around should the date be going oh so well.
Wine bars are always winners. Vinoteca, Cork and Dickson Wine Bar are great options, with really really good food to match. At Vinoteca you can take it outside and play some Bocce, at Dickson Wine Bar you can find unexpected menu items like a Bahn-Mi, and at Cork you can go for some great wine tastings, cheese plates, and cool and casual setting.
For something very cute and intimate, head to L’Enfant Café. Staying in the Admo area, you can head to Perry‘s rooftop for a drink and some sushi, or if you are more in the mood for a funky setting with good coffee and cocktails to match, try Tryst.
I love all things H street, and there’s a million options to choose from. Toki Underground requires you to sit in very tight corners, challenge your slurping skills, and the laid back funky vibe will challenge the person to relax and have fun. I also love Boundary Road. The restaurant is always buzzing, the food is sophisticated yet approachable, so caters to many tastes. The cocktail list is extensive, and they take reservations (unlike the former).
To add a little spice to the date, and a lot of sharing, there are two standout Thai restaurants with very different vibes. Little Serow is for me one of the best restaurants in DC, with a soundtrack and ambiance to match. Thai X-ing is laid back, home setting, a really unique experience that alone will provide enough to talk about.
Other great bets include Tabard Inn (the hidden gem, take a date here you really want to impress), Leopold’s Kafe in Georgetown (one of the best patios in the city) Room 11 (very tight quarters, small menu, great vibe) Graffiato (prosecco.on.tap, and that agnolotti), Bar Pilar (Hemingway would have wanted to take his date there too you know), Floriana (upscale without the price tag) and Bistro du Coin (you can never go wrong with the French). The list could go on, but those cover many neighborhoods and many cuisines.
wine glass courtesy of needlessspaces
Not all dates were made equal. Not all dates have to be with a romantic interest. Blind friend dates are also common, someone who you haven’t met but have a mutual friend, or an old friend you haven’t seen in a while. I’ve included a list of my favorite places to take a newcomer, an old friend, a person you just want to share a great setting with.
Places you can linger, with comfortable seating and drinks for any time of day: Big Bear Café and Tryst
For a great meal and fantastic bar seating: Estadio, Birch and Barley, Granville Moore’s
For awesome drinks and vibe: Boundary Stone or the Standard
For fun and games: Comet Ping Pong, Blackjack
For neighborhood gems: 2 Amy’s, Palena Cafe, Ripple
To add some culture to your date (and perspective to my post) I asked the WE LOVE DC team about their types of perfect dates. Here’s what they had to say:
Tom: Culture’s a big part of life, and if you’re not at least on the same page when it comes to music or the arts or theater or something along those lines, you’re in trouble. A walk through Longview Gallery, or a trip to a show at DC9 or 9:30 Club, or a production at Woolly Mammoth or Arena Stage can tell you a lot about your prospective partner, and if nothing else you get a bit of culture if things didn’t quite work out.
Joanna: On a really sweltering day, we enjoy cooling off in the art galleries. A particularly thought-provoking or political exhibit is a great conversation starter for later, so we tend to hang around The Fridge quite a bit these days. Opening receptions are usually free, include wine, and sometimes give you a chance to speak with the artist. Sign up for the smaller galleries’ mailing lists to get advance notice. If you don’t know much about art, you can take advantage of the resources larger galleries offer – like NGA, where big exhibits often include a film about the artist’s life. And? It’s free. Save that dough for a nice whiskey drink later.
Brian: It’s been…awhile, since I’ve had a first (romantic) date. But when I have had a first date, I’ve tended to go the culture route too, only focusing more on museums. My first, first date was to the Air and Space Museum; if the person is into it, it’s the right kind of museum for tech, science, and adventure. I’ve also had a date to the Natural History Museum’s butterfly exhibit; always fun to have a shared experience of eyeing and dodging weird flying creatures. I generally like to look for unique areas that can create a lot of subjects to talk about; I think it creates a better chance to learn about the other person (if it’s romantic or platonic). Other museums are National Portrait Gallery (testing your history knowledge is a beloved DC pastime); and Dumbarton Oaks Museum (very unique museum for DC).
What better time than summer, when the nights are warm and instantly romantic, when the sun is up a little later than usual, when the city becomes a greater playground, to be bold and get out the date? Good luck peeps, may the love be with you.