By Katie Chang
Updated February 17, 2016
Credit: © Eric Laignel

Where do the currently unattached leaders of the free world go when they need to impress a date? Likely to one of these restaurants that prove delicious food is the best way to someone’s heart.

Iron Gate

Before shuttering in 2010, this historic and picturesque spot in Dupont Circle was the city’s oldest restaurant. Reopened in 2013, it maintains all the charm of its older days, but with exceptional Mediterranean-leaning food and drink under the care of chef Anthony Chittum and sommelier Brent Kroll. Graze on the sweet and savory feta and roasted pepper dip, as you discover how exciting Greek wines can be. When the weather warms up, chill out on the patio, under the wisteria and grape vines.

Red Hen

Hidden away on a sleepy street in Bloomingdale is chef Michael Friedman’s casual neighborhood joint that specializes in fuss-free, rustic Italian food. The restaurant’s centerpiece, the Grillworks wood-fired grill, lends meats and vegetables a beautiful char, but it’s really the tender, house-made pastas that shouldn’t be missed. Snag a couple of seats at the bar and linger over shared bowls for the ultimate low-key date.

Chez Billy Sud

If you’re in the mood for a slightly more refined affair, look no further than this French bistro. Commence the evening with a sparking Kir Royal or French 77, then tuck into well-executed bistro classics such as onion soup, pork pate, cassoulet and steak frites.

Crane & Turtle

Word of this tiny 25-seater in Petworth grew quickly since opening in 2014, and reservations are still an absolute must. Chef Makoto Hamamura’s style of cooking is best described as having Asian roots and European techniques. Let the conversation flow freely over Hamamura’s poetic and artful plates, like sea trout carpaccio with avocado mousse and wasabi-spiked, shaved octopus and fennel salad.


Shared mezes, primarily from Turkey, Greece and Lebanon, are the focus at José Andres's bright and airy spot. While the menu is extensive, everything (really) is a winner. From the hearty Turkish stuffed eggplant, “Imam Bayildi,” to “Kibbeh”—wheat fritters stuffed with ground beef, pine nuts and currants—there’s little not to love. Just make sure not to overload on the pillowy hot pita bread. It’s crazy-addictive stuff.


This sleek, multi-functional space on H Street is ideal for all types of dates. Swing by the café if you’re in the mood for a casual coffee or baked good—the morning buns are gloriously flaky and sweet—and if you’re seeking something more lively, make reservations and request a seat at the restaurant’s open kitchen. There, you’ll get to watch all the action, as lesser-known Southeast Asian specialties like Cambodian Pork Noodle Soup and Taiwanese Fried Chicken come to life.

Tabard Inn

If you’re not in the mood to talk, the live jazz nights on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights here could be a date-saver. If you can, drop by when the brilliant bassist Victor Dvoskin is playing—he’s been performing at Tabard Inn weekly since the mid-’90s—and sit back with chef Joud Achkar’s colorful, soulful cooking like his muhammara, a Middle Eastern red pepper and walnut spread, and luscious, beet-filed raviolis.


Brunch, especially if you’re with someone new, is an absolute must. For starters, it’s more affordable than dinner. Plus, there’s the draw of daytime drinking sans judgment. And if sparks fly, you’ve got the rest of the day to hang out. Unlike a lot of restaurants that serve up overpriced eggs, this charming Spanish spot on 14th Street features a brunch menu that’s every bit as savory and exciting—think crispy pork belly sandwiches, jamon croquetas and sherry-glazed halibut—as the evening’s.