View Photo Gallery: A little candlelight is no substitute for spark, but these heady restaurants, outdoor tableaux and fun date destinations can certainly help bring the heat.

Valentine’s Day isn’t the only time of year that you need a great idea for a date, or a recommendation for the city’s most romantic restaurant.

So, this week, we’re unveiling best-of lists you can use all year, with where to find the city’s best desserts, the bars and restaurants to hit for a fail-proof first date, and because we like a good kiss as much as anyone, the best places to lock lips.

A peek at the lists:

Best desserts

Buzz Bakery

You can now find the nostalgia-inducing oatmeal cream pies and “hostess cupcakes” of pastry chef Tiffany MacIssac at restaurants such as Birch and Barley, but her temples to sugar in Northern Virginia --- the mod, stylish Buzz Bakery cafes in Alexandria and Ballston -- remain destinations for dessert devotees. Make a date for pie and coffee, or just some zany bacon cupcakes and a glass of wine. You’ll want to order two to share, and two more to go. See more of our best desserts list .

Best romantic restaurants

Little Serow

Forgo the menu and, perhaps, the whole idea of white-tablecloth dining, and just give yourselves over to this intimate basement nook where servers don dainty ‘50s house dresses and one of the city’s best chefs ships out course after course of spicy, sour cuisine from the Isaan region of northern Thailand. Bonus: At $45 a person, it’s a relative bargain. See more of our best romantic restaurants .

Fail-proof first dates

Shake Shack

Carbs are cool again, and this trendy, by-way-of-New-York burger joint is proof. The lines for seemingly simple burgers, crinkle-cut fries and shakes were mind-boggling when the restaurant opened last spring, but these days, the wait isn’t quite as long, opening the door for a fun foodie first date, particularly on weeknights. Afterward, slip a couple of doors down to Eighteenth Street Lounge for a drink in one the city’s most sophisticated clubs. See more of our best places for first dates.

Best spots to lock lips

The Gibson

The soot-colored walls, practically nonexistent lighting and heady cocktails all make this by-reservation pseudo-speakeasy one of the best places in town to steal a kiss - or maybe it’s just the easiest. In a bar this dark, who’d notice? See more of our best places to lock lips .

Best places for a memorable proposal

The Lincoln Memorial

After the tourists head back to their hotels -- or at dawn, long before they arrive -- there may be no place more serene or lovely in all of Washington than the majestic memorial. It’s no wonder couples regularly plant themselves along the columns to await the sun (and regularly choose the place for very public proposals). See more of our best places for a memorable proposal.