We've all been there: You're so anxious/ nervous/ stoked about that super-wonderful new guy that you can hardly think about anything else. And, now that he's finally wised up and asked you out, it's your turn to pick the perfect date spot — ideally one that guarantees the perfect setting for deep, long, cozy conversations and, well, a touch of flirting. So ... where should you go? Not to worry — you can relax and save the freak-out for your outfit-planning, because we've pounded the pavement to find some of the best local restaurants, bars, and even a cheese shop (!!) that set the mood and serve up some extra-special dishes for you lovebirds to share.
Like chocolate? Then you'll love CoCo. Sala, where they put the sweet stuff in almost everything, from bar bites and entrees to cocktails. Grab a seat at one of the two bars, settle into a low-slung couch, or to really impress your date, score a spacious table in the side dining room. The ambiance is equal parts exotic and swank, and by the time you split some bacon mac 'n' cheese (complete with chocolate-covered bacon) and a warm sticky toffee pudding cake, you'll totally forget about those nervous butterflies.
Where: CoCo. Sala, 929 F Street NW, 202-347-4265.
Photo: Courtesy of CoCo. Sala
Tucked inside the stately Jefferson Hotel, Quill is a must-visit for bookish types who like their drinks strong, with a side of history. All dark wood, presidential portraits, and rich leather armchairs, the spot balances the old-boys-club aesthetic with modern touches, like a bar that glows softly, bathed in amber-hued light. If you're in the let's-snuggle-up phase of dating, this spot is full of secret nooks and private drawing rooms where you can indulge in a little PDA away from prying eyes.
Where: Jefferson Hotel, 1200 16th Street NW; 202-448-2300.
Photo: Courtesy of Quill
A cheese shop as date spot? Sure, when it has a cute wine bar tucked into the back, à la Cheesetique. On a chilly night, warm up with hearty soups, pastas, and "grown-up" grilled cheese sandwiches, such as the black forest ham and gooey Gruyere combo. Or just order a board of artisan cheeses to wash down with a few glasses of Syrah. Perk? You can always grab a to-go bottle of wine on your way out, should things go well.
Where: 2411 Mt. Vernon Avenue (at East Uhler Avenue), Alexandria; 703-706-5300.
Photo: Courtesy of Cheesetique
Don't let the glittering chandeliers, dark walls, and creative cocktail list fool you — you didn't just teleport to an uptown boîte where you'd better order appetizers only if you want to keep paying rent. Instead, Jackie's Sidebar offers the quirky-cool ambiance of a new-age speakeasy with the wallet-friendly menu options of a good old-fashioned dive bar. A short walk from the AFI Silver Theatre, it makes for a perfect pit stop after a movie — order up some sweet corn hush puppies with collard greens and cayenne butter for a Southern twist.
Where: 8081 Georgia Avenue (at Sligo Avenue), Silver Spring; 301-565-9700.
Photo: Courtesy of Jackie's Sidebar
A longtime standard among the 14th Street crowd, Cork Wine Bar recently added a brunch menu (hello, flight of mimosas!), which means your options for daytime dates just got better. At night, come early to snag one of the scarce tables and study the wine menu: There are at least 50 wines by the glass and roughly 160 varieties from producers around the world, here. Order from a selection of hot and cold small plates, (which are meant to be shared) as well as charcuterie, artisanal cheeses and some insanely delish desserts to end the night on a high note.
Where: 1720 14th Street NW; 202-265-2675.
Photo: Courtesy of Cork Wine Bar
A soft glow (ensuring you'll never step into bad lighting) and gleaming wood set the backdrop for modern Vietnamese food at Ba Bay. For a chic lunch date, get out of the office for one of the updated bánh mì sandwiches filled with meatballs or fried catfish. On a dreary night, the glass-front wall transforms run-of-the-mill rain into more of a romantic waterfall effect — we can't think of better ambiance for indulging in steaming bowls of coconut curry tofu stew or pho with rice noodles and ribeye steak.
Where: 633 Pennsylvania Avenue SE; 202-547-1787.
Photo: Courtesy of Ba Bay
Not every date needs to be super-fancy, right? Sometimes you want to minimize stress while maximizing fun, which is where The Passenger excels. While the venue is low on frills — mind your stilettos around the holes in the wood floor — the focus is on conversation-stimulating cocktails. The bartenders here will mix up just about anything, but they'll also guide you toward spirits that will appeal to your inner cocktail connoisseur (May we suggest asking for something with Saint-Germain?).
Where: 1021 7th Street NW; 202-393-0220.
Photo: Jim Webb
Up the exotic ante by taking your date on an imaginary jaunt along the Silk Road — or in this case, to Mie n Yu, a Georgetown fave specializing in American cuisine with Asian flair. Going all in? Reserve the chef's table, which is tucked inside a wrought-iron birdcage, and comes with its own unique menu. Playing it safe? You can't go wrong with a table for two in the main dining rooms, designed to evoke locales ranging from a Moroccan bazaar to an old-school English bar.
Where: 3125 M Street NW, 202-333-6122.
Photo: Courtesy of Mie n Yu
Find two stools at the bar at Room 11, a cozy little Columbia Heights favorite that stocks a smart selection of wine, beer, and cocktails. The Empress of Stockholm, a regular on their menu in recent months, is one of the most unusual cocktails in town — we dig the combo of Thai basil, gin, rice vinegar, and Swedish herbs. The only potential problem with bringing your date here? The staffers tend to be so charming and cute that you might find yourself admiring more than just the food.
Where: 3234 11th Street NW; 202-332-3234.
Photo: Courtesy of Room 11