You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so where you eat on a debut date can be a make-or-break factor. The restaurant you choose should put you both at ease, have selections that span dietary preferences, and, of course, serve memorable food. Ripple’s executive chef, Logan Cox, believes that dining out is a good litmus test for new couples. “You can learn a lot about someone by watching what they order,” he says. “You quickly find just how adventurous” your date may be. These romance-enhancing eateries will help you make a lasting first impression (and maybe score that all-important second date).
The scent of love is in the air at this Cleveland Park wine bar. Or maybe it’s just the aroma of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches (available Sundays through Thursdays from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. until midnight). “They take you back to your childhood,” says executive chef Logan Cox — except this time, you’ll have a better appreciation for the various cheeses and breads available. Customize your own or select specials: the Swiss Bank Account ($12) has rich truffle butter and melt-in-your-mouth prosciutto; the Krusty Krab ($11) offers lump crab meat, bechamel sauce and oozing Hidden Falls cheese.
Bring a go-with-the-flow date to this recently opened eatery in Shaw, because Table’s offerings are always changing. “A restaurant shouldn’t be locked down to a specific menu,” says chef-owner Frederick de Pue. There will always be 10 first courses and 10 entrees to choose from, including vegan and vegetarian options such as the recently available beet carpaccio with peppy mustard dressing ($9). For a special evening, there’s a pair of two-seat chef’s tables situated at the counter alongside the open showcase kitchen (above). Table doesn’t take reservations, but you can request those sweet seats by phone or in person on the night you wish to dine.
When it comes to crafting a memorable date, the Source’s executive chef, Scott Drewno, suggests beginning on a sparkling note. “Start with bubbly,” he says. “Champagne is always a nice touch.” Request a table by the window; Drewno thinks they’re the haute Chinese restaurant’s most romantic seats. For your meal, order the multicourse chef’s tasting menu ($135 per person; $185 per person with wine pairings). The lineup changes regularly, but the current Chinese New Year-themed menu features dishes such as crispy whole quail with satsuma-pepper sauce and wok-fired lobster.
Co Co. Sala
Chocolate is king at this dusky downtown eatery. Every dish in Co Co. Sala’s five-course dessert-tasting experience ($32 per person) features chocolate in some way — rum chocolate cupcakes! chocolate souffle! white chocolate-raspberry mousse! — so you and your date will, theoretically, be loaded with love vibes by the time you leave. Wondering how well these romantic repasts actually work? Try asking one of the 15 couples involved in marriage proposals at the restaurant in the past year. (Hint: They all said yes.) “You’re guaranteed to get lucky,” says executive chef Santosh Tiptur. “Chocolate has that effect.”
Eating local is sexy, and this recent addition to Capitol Hill espouses that philosophy. The chicken, eggs and much of the seasonal produce come from the 170-acre East Oaks Organics Farm in Poolesville, Va., which is owned by partner Brendan McMahon. The menu includes date-friendly, shareable plates featuring just-harvested ingredients, such as Brussels sprouts, which are deep-fried before they’re tossed in mustard cream sauce and a sweet garlic confit ($6). “The idea is to highlight whatever is fresh,” chef Andrew Markert says. “So we’ll be constantly evolving.” Just like your (hopefully) blossoming romance.
Do not go out for a first date on Valentine’s Day. Expectations will be too high, and getting a reservation is often more difficult than scoring the date itself. Make plans for a week later, when there will be plenty of open tables and no pressure from Cupid.Ripple, 3417 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-244-7995. (Cleveland Park) Table, 903 N St. NW; 202-588-5200. (Mt. Vernon Square) The Source, 575 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202-637-6100. (Archives) Co Co. Sala, 929 F St. NW; 202-347-4265. (Metro Center) Beuchert’s Saloon, 623 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; 202-733-1384. (Eastern Market)