A friend of mine is new to Washington, D.C. and asked if I had any good first date suggestions. She wanted casual meet-ups that allowed the date to continue if it went well, or end if it wasn’t. Since guys often ask us where we’d like to go, I wanted to put together a list of my favorites so all the single ladies are armed with a good list of options. While I’m not currently single in the city, I did spend time dating in the District and along with my fair share of awkward stories, I found some true gems.
When I was dating, I’d opt for after-work drinks or a casual food spot to grab a snack and a drink. But where, exactly, should you go? You can stick to the standby neighborhood bar, but if you want something a little more elevated or different, I’ve got you covered…
Wine and a Snack: For a casual twist on a classy wine bar, try Ripple‘s grilled cheese bar for happy hour. From 5:00 to 6:30 each weekday, all glasses of wine are half off at the bar. Bonus, they serve fancy grilled cheese sandwiches. The atmosphere is trendy, but the whole adult-grilled-cheese and sitting at a bar keeps it from feeling too fancy. (It’s located in Cleveland Park near the National Zoo, if you decide to catch the last hour of Panda-gawking after).
Pizza with a Twist: If you’re going to commit to a dinner for a first date, it’s best to go with something safe and relatively casual, but with a twist that enforces that “foodie” line in your Tinder profile. And who doesn’t like pizza? (Actually, if your date doesn’t like pizza, why are you going out with them?) 2 Amys in Friendship Heights serves up Neapolitan style pizzas that are perfect for splitting with a glass of wine.
Romantic Drinks with a Deadline: In the world of online and app dating, it’s not unusual to talk and text someone for a while before you actually meet up with them. Maybe you’re really feeling them, and want to impress them with your knowledge of hidden city gems and upscale cocktail tastes. Harold Black in Eastern Market is just the place to set a mood. This hidden upstairs speakeasy serves specialty cocktails in a prohibition-style bar. You need to make a reservation online ahead of time (use the link above) and you only get your spot for 90 minutes. They discourage patrons from using cell phones in the bar so it’s perfect for some romantic conversation. (The entrance is located right next to Acqua al 2. I hate myself a little for sharing this personal favorite secret.)
Coffee and Dessert: Maybe you don’t want drinks, but the idea of meeting at Starbucks at 7pm seems too business-casual for you. Max Brenner in Bethesda offers a decadent chocolate bar with pastries, fondue, hot chocolate, coffee, and milkshakes. It’s the perfect cozy fall evening date that beats a decaf latte at Starbs any day.
Morning Meet-up: Young professionals in DC tend to be busy and always on the go, and syncing up date schedules can be difficult. If all you have time for is a quick morning or day-time meet-up, try Baked and Wired in Georgetown. Super casual, sort of hipstery, this coffee shop and cafe is a great place to grab an iced chai tea latte and a cupcake. It’s relatively inexpensive and you can invite your date to walk around the Georgetown waterfront or shops on a nice day.
Movies for Grown Ups: Going to the movies on a first date is rarely my pick, because it’s difficult to get to know someone and it feels a little high-school. If it’s your thing, though, the Bethesda Row Cinema is a great option for a little more upscale experience. The theater offers appetizer concessions, a full-service bar in the lobby, and when you buy your tickets you’ll reserve your (comfy) seats. Perfect for showing a film fanatic that you are totally artistic and cultured, too.
Not-Bottomless Brunch: Bottomless brunch is practically an institution in DC, but it’s not always a great choice for a first date. The awkwardness can encourage you to chug your mimosas and before you know it, you’re wasted at 2pm on a Sunday crying to your Uber driver about how there are no good guys left on the planet. (I’m not saying this has happened to me… I’m also not saying it hasn’t happened…) Instead, try Montmarte in Eastern Market for a French twist on your breakfast. They serve the brunch staples alongside more interesting offers (like a braised lamb omlette) and offer single mimosas and Bloody Mary’s so you can still have a cocktail or two. Unlike dinner, brunch is a lighter and relatively faster meal if you want to get outta there… or, if you decide you like them, you can walk around the Eastern Market farmer’s market instead. (This was actually one of my first dates with my ManFriend, and one we’ve repeated since because it’s still a relaxing way to enjoy great Sunday weather… of course I don’t bail immediately after brunch because I sorta like him.)
There ya go. My very expert opinion on where to take your Tinder match to ensure maximum fun and minimal awkwardness. Add your sparkling personality on top of the cool destination and you’re sure to get a text for Date #2… and lucky for you, I have even more awesome ideas for those. Basically all you have to do is shave your legs and show up.