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Valentine's Day

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Looking for recommendations from anyone who's had a great Valentine's Day experience at any restaurant within the District. I'm trying to avoid anything steakhouse, and I'd like to go somewhere where sharing plates is encouraged with a nice but cozy atmosphere. My inclination is to go to Proof if I can't think of anything else. I was thinking Blue Duck Tavern, but I see that they're now charging $25/person for any reservation made for a holiday, which seems...unsual. Also, I noticed that a lot of places are already booked for times from 6pm to 8pm for both Saturday 2/13 and Sunday 2/14. I had no idea that I should be reserving a table over a month in advance! Looking forward to hear all of your thoughts.

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  1. Proof sounds like a good choice. Most small plated places I can think of don't have much ambiance, although Cava on Capitol Hill isn't too bad, I think their inside space is nice looking and slightly more romantic than many of the others.

    Just don't go to Firefly. I went to Valentine's once and they packed so many people into such a small space, you felt intimate with at least two other tables.

    4 Replies
    1. re: ktmoomau

      Thanks for the advice. And, yeah, I've been to Firefly a few other times, and while I really like their brunch, the table spacing does seem kind of weird when it's in the evening and the lights are dimmed. After reading a review, I tried Plume at the Jefferson Hotel, which seems really perfect for that kind of thing, but they are also already completely booked.

      To everyone else, thanks for your thoughts. I know the pitfalls of Valentine's Day and still, nevertheless, would like to get dressed up to go out somewhere. If anyone else is looking for suggestions, I was considering trying the bar at Masa 14 or trying to stake out a table at Churchkey, which also has a great ambiance and great booths.

      1. re: Raids

        Too bad Le Paradou closed they were perfect for special occasions like that. I would also put a pretty safe bet on Oya to be good that night.

      2. re: ktmoomau

        """"they packed so many people into such a small space, you felt intimate with at least two other tables."""

        aaaah, something to tuck away in the little gray cells for when the romance has waned......

        1. re: alkapal

          Not sure why anyone over 30 tries V-Day dinners out anymore. Enough gray matter to know the difference (or should be).

      3. Hate to be Debbie Downer, but stay home and eat fondue in front of the fire place. Eat out another weekend free from the madness of pumped up prices and crowded venues. Or be creative and tailgate by the monuments at night. And check out Open Table to see who has rezzies still available.

        10 Replies
        1. re: MrsWheatie

          I went to make reservations, they required my credit card info on Open Table.
          Screw that.
          My boyfriend has duty that weekend, anyway. Whatever romance that might exist in the world, the Marine Corps can screw up very, very easily!

          FWIW, I had the same issue with New Years - credit card and the right to charge me if I do not order enough. It turns me off of those restaurants for regular nights.

          1. re: Jeserf

            Yes - make your day even more special by moving it up or back a week. No rushed service to turn tables, no fixed price with a special surcharge for rushed food. But do something special on your own day.

            1. re: Dennis S

              Agreed! Heat and Chinese takeout :)

            2. re: Jeserf

              You know a lot of times if you call the restaurant instead of opentable.com they won't request a credit card.

              1. re: ktmoomau

                Was going to do that, but the issue is moot now for me.

              2. re: Jeserf

                Wait....seriously!? I've heard of restaurants charging you if you don't show up for your reservation but I've NEVER heard of them charging you if you don't order enough. That's pretty ballsy. What restaurant was that?

                1. re: Elyssa

                  For New Years, it was Firefly (which had a few reservations at different times) and for Valentines, it was Rasika. It COULD be Open Table's generic "give us your credit card info" statement that the restaurant reserves the right to charge you if you don't meet the minimum, but I'd never seen it before and was totally turned off.

                  For New Years, we went to DC Noodles on U St - cheap, awesome, no minimum!

                  1. re: Jeserf

                    Ya that would be a turn off for me as well. I have no problem if they charge your card for a missed reservation, especially if this is stated beforehand and a particularly busy night (New Years, Valentine's Day etc). But to charge because you don't spent xxx amount of dollars seems crazy.

                    1. re: Elyssa

                      I definitely agree.
                      We keep having to give up our Rasika reservations due to stupid work stuff (or a blizzard!). We have a reservation the last weekend in January, but that's also Marine Corps stuff. They're trying hard not to have us have our favorite food, that's for sure!

              3. re: MrsWheatie

                I totally agree. We have given up going out Valentine's Day weekend. I usually make a special (but easy) meal at home.

                This site has a lot of great ideas. http://www.seductionmeals.com/recipes...

              4. I agree with everyone else. Don't allow yourself, your budget, or your taste for romance to be held hostage by this trumped up Hallmark holiday. Cook together at home, and save the romantic night out for a date you can relax and enjoy.

                Valentine's Day and Mother's Day...two dates universally referred to in the business as Amateur Night.

                1 Reply
                1. In case you are interested in Wine and Chocolate this new place is having a special on Valentine's Day http://screwtopwinebar.blogspot.com/2...

                  On my side I would rather buy the fancy ingredients I usually don't buy for weekdays cooking and feel free to indulge.

                  For example I buy Burratta, and some other cheeses, fancy bread, wine or champagne... all of that will be less than $60-$80 and you get to stay home and have leftovers, you don't pay tip and avoid crowds and the cold.

                  I hope it all works well for you on Valentine's Day.

                  1. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/169652 is the link to one of the more infamous memories I have of dining out on Valentine's Day. I totally agree about getting dressed up-it just feels "special" on a day like this. Unfortunately, I think you are going to have to temper your expectations of wherever you go.

                    I still haven't been back to the Prime Rib...

                    By the way, Valentine's Day this year is on a Sunday. I wonder if what I wrote about above will happen on Saturday?

                    1. Marcel's is our go-to special occasion restaurant in DC. It's not "small plates", per se, but they do multi-course tasting meals, the individual courses aren't large, and my wife and I have always ordered different things for each course and shared.

                      Absolutely romantic room, stunning service. And they only book 30 days out on OpenTable, so if you call the restaurant, they might still have tables available.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: DanielK

                        Completely agree about Marcel's. It's the most romantic, elegant and classiest restaurant in DC. We've celebrated a number of special occasions there.

                        That said, we never ever go out on Valentine's Day. Not worth the hassle.

                        1. re: DanielK

                          Marcel's is a wonderful restaurant, Daniel. But after the experience I wrote about at the Prime Rib above I don't really trust any restaurant on Valentine's Day.

                          Well...maybe El Pollo Rico or Ravi Kabob but it's not quite the same...

                          1. re: Joe H

                            Hmm...I wasn't planning on ever going to Prime Rib anyway. While I agree that food and service generally suffers on Valentine's Day, I also think you're just as likely to have that same experience at Prime Rib any time of the year, from what I've heard. If I want a steak, I'll just go to Ray's, or Capitol Grille is someone else is paying. And J&G just got a really great review.

                            Thanks for the Marcel's recommendation - I've actually never even heard of Marcel's before and will look into it.

                            1. re: Joe H

                              Joe, I agree, I would never personally go out on the 14th itself, but since the OP is committed to doing so, I was suggesting a place that I like for special occasions.

                              1. re: DanielK

                                Marcel's is really good. It's an example of an excellent restaurant that does not receive the attention that it deserves on boards.

                                I must qualify my comments about Valentine's Day with one extremely positive memory: Taberna Del Alabardero. We went about seven or eight years ago and really, really enjoyed it. Elegant, sophisticated and we spent over two hours in a restaurant that long ago, we should have returned to.

                                Similar to Marcel's it should receive more attention.

                                1. re: Joe H

                                  Marcel's was still taking reservations for Saturday night, so that's where I'll be going. Thanks for the tip!

                                  1. re: Raids

                                    Make sure you report back; I'm curious to how they handle V-day.

                                    As JoeH says, this is a very special restaurant that deserves more attention.

                                    Even though Brasserie Beck (Downtown), Brabo (Alexandria), and soon Mussels by RW (Bethesda) are also from Wiedmaier, Marcel's is where he spends his days.

                                    1. re: DanielK

                                      Will do! And again, thanks a million for the recommendation - I never would have come up with it on my own.

                                2. re: DanielK

                                  Apparently Sundays near "special dinner" days are now dangerous. We were around Tyson's Corner last night (Sunday) and thought maybe I could use the free dessert coupon at Maggiano's. Nope, 45 minute wait at about 7 PM. Second choice was Lebanese Taverna, which had tables, but busier than usual, and the service was quite slow. The waitress apologized, saying so many people were there for Valentin's Day dinners.

                                  1. re: MikeR

                                    Valentine's Day started last Friday. The pressure is on.

                            2. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/473826 is the link to a post of mine about one of my favorite restaurants anywhere: Chef Vola's. My wife and I had an incredible experience there several years ago and returned on Valentine's Day in 2008. It was not the same. Just as the Prime Rib was not the same neither was Chef Vola's.

                              I thought about this tonight when I spent almost an hour on the phone trying to make a reservation for it. We're going the weekend before and Saturday, Valentine's Day, will sit home with neighbors and not concern ourselves with being shovelled in and out.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Joe H

                                I'll be in DC for business with my husband, so staying home in not an option. We're at the Mayflower- any suggestions? I'm not looking for anything really expensive or drawn out.