Valentine’s Day is the time of the year when personal displays of affection are obligatory — a day to celebrate without any inhibitions. For the gay community this can sometimes be a challenge as restaurants are not as universally tolerant of gay couples’ PDAs. We’ve all heard the horror stories where a gay couple has been asked to leave a restaurant when either the owner isn’t happy or other customers feel uncomfortable. Yes, the gay community has its own restaurants, but there are not enough seats to fill every gay person in the city, especially this city.
Here is my guide to some great restaurants in DC where I would be happy to go on V-Day, to recommend to my friends, or to you, the readers of ES.
As deceptive as it is great. Daniel Giusti is one of the youngest Executive Chefs in one of the oldest and grandest of dining rooms in the District, but you’d never guess by his youthful menu — my personal favourite dish is the Oyster Gratin. Actually, my experience at 1789 was somewhat overwhelming. The food really was exceptional but the surroundings and other clientele were not my usual setting. I think of 1789 as an older, more conservative restaurant, so I’m not sure that a gay couple would be comfortable showing some love. But I would recommend 1789 for a first date — first dates are not for touchy-feely situations but more for getting to know your newfound love, and 1789 can provide that conversational atmosphere. 1789 is offering a five-course tasting in addition to its a la carte menu. 1226 36th Street NW, (202) 965-1789
This classic standby is no stranger to gay clientele. Bordering Dupont and 17th Street, it’s a popular choice amongst my friends for weekend brunch and I suspect it will be no different come Valentine’s Day. The hotel is offering a 3-course prix fixe menu which includes Oysters, Seared Guinea Hen and a selection of desserts to choose, albeit on the pricier side at $65 per person. 1739 N Street NW, (202) 331-8528
With its dimly candle lit tables and white leather chairs, Oya provides no excuses other than your very best, so go ahead and hold hands or play footsie under the table. The cocktail list alone will provide excuse for you to do a little more — no one will be any the wiser as they too will be too busy doing the same. Don’t forget to order some food — the small plates are an ideal way to share your passion and fill your stomach at the same time. Oya is offering a four-course tasting menu on Valentine’s Day ($45); sushi will only be available at the bar. I’d have to say too that Oya has some of the prettiest servers in town, and I can think of a few of my friends who would enjoy looking at those as a V-Day treat — you know who you are! 777 9th St NW, (202) 684-8700
In the interest of full disclosure I have to tell you that I spent Valentine’s here last year — well, in the comfort of a room in the Park Hyatt, but we did order room service from Blue Duck. A relaxed setting with glass, mirrors and plenty of oak to consume yourself in, this is one of those restaurants that is as diverse as its clientele. Perhaps even opt for a double date in one of the glass cubes — very intimate and extremely private. Blue Duck has possibly one of the best dessert menus in the city, and what better way to end your date than with a Flourless Chocolate Cake (emphasis on the flourless, we are talking gays here). Blue Duck is offering an amorous sharing menu consisting of four courses, including Caviar and Dungeness Crab ($65 per person). 24 M Street Northwest, (202) 419-6755
I love José Andrés. He’s perfect. That’s all. OK, maybe not all. In addition to its GQ Chef of the Year, Cafe Atlantico is lauded for its cocktails. Yes, I always bring it back to alcohol but who can resist a Magic Mojito or Caipirinha? I know I can’t. For Atlantico, Valentine’s Day is not just a an excuse for a lovefest but it’s also the start of this year’s Carnaval season. In honor of this event Head Chef Terri Cutrino has prepared a special Carnaval-themed six-course menu ($45) which includes a Carnaval Love Potion and ‘Mocqueca’ of lobster — I have no idea either, but doesn’t sound like it could be bad. With Rio De Janeiro as a top gay destination this will surely translate over to 8th Street. Expect a fun and sensual atmosphere. But please remember, you’re not in Brazil, you’re in DC, so leave the speedos at home — we don’t care what your six-pack looks like. 405 8th Street Northwest, (202) 393-0812
Of course you could forget all of the above and hit up your favourite go-to place. I asked some of my friends where they were going and their responses ranged from The Melting Pot, Lauriol Plaza and Coco Sala to Rosa Mexicana and Tabaq Bistro.
What about the rest of you DC-ers (gays and others)? Where have you had great/horrible Valentine’s Day Dinners?
(Photo: The Futuristics)