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Valentine’s Day delicacies

D.C.’s finest restaurants have lavish specials planned for Cupid’s big night



Valentine's Day, romantic, dining, gay news, Washington Blade
Valentine's Day, romantic, dining, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Valentine’s Day is almost here and a good table at your favorite restaurant may be hard to find. But don’t worry, on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14), dozens of restaurants will be offering special prix fix menus full of romantic courses for lovebirds of all kinds. Below is a list of what some of these restaurants will be offering:

701 Restaurant
701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

701 Restaurant is offering a three-course tasting menu for $85 for Valentine’s Day including Tuna Tartare with coconut lime broth and avacado and Kumomoto Oyster Crudo with passion fruit brown butter vinaigrette. For dessert, lovebirds can choose from a Chocolate Cherry Dome, Passion Fruit Vacherin or the Champagne Cassis Terrine. The Valentine’s Day specials will be available until Feb. 16.

523 8th Street SE

This new restaurant is serving diners a three-course prix fix menu at $35 per person this Valentine’s Day showcasing dishes from the Balkan Peninsula with a modern twist. Dishes include the Roasted Squash Salad and Slow Cooked Veal Stew.

Ardeo + Bardeo Restaurant
3311 Connecticut Ave NW

Executive Chef Nate Garyantes is offering diners the opportunity to try his spin on modern American cuisine from 5-10:30 p.m. This Valentine’s Day guests can enjoy a delicious four-course prix fixe menu for $65 per person including dishes such as the Rock Shrimp Risotto and the Pan Roast Duck Breast with rye spaetzle and cider braised cabbage.

Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca
1100 New York Ave NW

Dubbed one of the Best New Restaurants in America by Esquire magazine in 2010, this establishment is serving up some tempting Italian fare for lovers this Valentine’s Day. Executive Chef Stefanelli has prepared a four-course, prix fixe “San Valentini” menu for $85 per person; the feast will be available on Feb. 14 from 5:30 to 11:00 p.m.

Blue Duck Tavern
24th & M Streets NW (Inside the Park Hyatt Washington)

Blue Duck Tavern is considered by many one of the best restaurants in D.C. so why not spend a special night out with your partner at this exquisite restaurant?
Executive Chef Sebastien Archambault and Chef de Cuisine John Melfi are preparing a four-course prix fixe menu available on top of the regular a la carte options. At $75 per person dining begins with Seared Foie Gras served with warm carrot cake. Next the Poached Lobster Open Ravioli with black trumpet mushrooms and the main course is a Fired Dry-Aged Ribeye with crispy potatoes and glazed cippolini onions. For dessert, lovers can share the decadent Chocolate Ganache Hazelnut Cake, a perfect ending to a romantic evening.

Co Co. Sala
929 F Street NW

Co Co Sala is D.C.’s chocolate lounge and boutique and for Valentines Day they are offering a special prix fixe menu at $80 per person or $120 with drink pairings. The recipes of romance being served up on Valentine’s Day include ingredients known throughout history to be aphrodisiacs such as cheese, almonds, chilies strawberries, goji berries and, of course, chocolate.

1310 New Hampshire Ave NW

Lovers can enjoy a five-course prix fixe menu prepared by Chef Daniel Bortnick for a Valentine’s Day Dinner priced at $79 per person. The menu featuring grilled red-wine poached octopus, butter poached Maine lobster, and pork cheek stroganoff also includes a glass of sparkling wine with the first course.

707 6th Street NW

Mike Isabella, and his team at Graffiato are dishing up a special five-course chef tasting menu for lovebirds on Valentine’s Day. For $65 per person, guests will be able to enjoy these five distinctive courses and will also receive a glass of Prosecco for toasting.

Jaleo DC
480 7th Street NW

The staff at Jaleo DC will be offering a variety of specials perfect for sharing with your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day. Spanish tapas like the Diver Scallop Carpaccio, Crab Cannelones and Lobster Rice will all be available from $12-$18 each. All three Jaleo’s will also be serving romantically themed cocktails like Love at First Sip, La Rosita and Charlie my Darling.

Mari Vanna DC
1141 Connecticut Ave NW

This Tolstoy-meets-tea-house eatery is the perfect atmosphere for romantic couples. Couples can choose from a trio of romantic packages available at Mari Vanna this Valentine’s Day. The romantic package is $125 a couple and includes an appetizer, an entrée per person and a bottle or Perrier-Jouet Campagne and a strawberry tart to share. The Russian Romance Package is $195 a couple, adds a serving of blinis and caviar and Veuve Clicquot Rose. The Imperial Romance Package includes everything the Russian Romance package contains plus a bottle of Cristal.

Masa 14
125 14th Street NW

For just $60 per person lovers will be able to dine on a menu prepared by Executive Chef Adam Goldman. From 5-11 p.m. guests will receive edamame, a choice of three dinner plates and a glass of champagne for toasting, as well as a choice of desserts. The salted Caramel Chocolate Flan with house mande s’mores or the Buttermilk Pana Cotta with raspberry confit.

Rasika Penn Quarter
633 D Street NW

Guests will enjoy specially crafted Valentine’s Day fare from Executive Chef Vikram Sunderam and Chef de Cusine Niraj Govil. The four-course prix fixe menu is $85 per person or $130 with wine pairings is available from 5:30-10:30. Lovers will begin with an amuse bouch of Badam Ka Shorba and then will be able to choose from a First Course, Second Course, Entrée and dessert.

3417 Connecticut Ave NW

Lovebirds can enjoy a special Valentine’s Day tasting menu at this Cleveland Park restaurant for $75 per person. Carmelized pork belly, roasted scallops and a frozen chocolate parfait with roasted white chocolate and hazelnut streusel highlight the menu.

Tel’Veh Café & Wine Bar
401 Massachusetts Ave NW

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a three course, prix fixe menu priced at $55 ($80 with wine pairings). Each diner will start with three complimentary oysters from the raw bar, and then diners can choose any appetizer and entrée of the menu including the Diver Scallops, the Goat Cheese Stuffed Dates, the Chilean Sea Bass or the Herb Crusted Lamb Chop.

781 7th Street NW

Owner Richard Sandoval and Chef de Cuisine Graham Bartlett are blending together the Latin-Asian styles into perfectly balanced dishes to share with that special someone. On Valentine’s Day, sweethearts can select three plates off the pre-selected menu for $65 per person. Some highlights include the Angry Zengo Roll with Spicy Yellowfin tuna, the Seared Hudson Valley Foie Grai with honey plaintain bread or the Kobe Beef New York Strip Carpaccio. Valentine’s Day dinner service will be available thru Feb. 16.



Annie’s celebrates 75th anniversary

Local institution a place of community and acceptance for LGBTQ patrons



The local community celebrated Annie’s last weekend. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

George Katinas, a child of immigrants, opened Paramount Steakhouse in 1948 on the corner of 17th and Church streets, N.W. (where JR.’s is currently located). Three-quarters of a century later, the restaurant has changed its name and location, received accolades from the city and James Beard, and was deservedly feted last weekend. His son Paul now owns the restaurant, and runs Annie’s today with his daughter Georgia Katinas.

George ran the restaurant with his sisters, but it was a singular sister Annie who coaxed the restaurant into its status as a place of community and acceptance for the growing LGBTQ population in Dupont Circle. Katinas renamed the restaurant for her. When there were desperately few areas of safety, Annie’s stood out, and does still today.

Last Saturday, Annie’s pulled out all the stops for an all-day party under a brilliantly sunny sky. The clouds parted for the celebration, bringing together government officials, longtime customers, and families with new fans. A rainbow balloon arch perched across the 17th Street sidewalk.

Drag artists Kimberly Di’Nitta, Victoria Di’Nitta, Jayzeer Shantey, Genocide Abrasax and Candi H. Fuentes performed, Miss Gay Arlington greeted fans, and the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington sang several renditions a capela for the crowd – including “Happy Birthday” over an enormous cake with sparkler candles (Annie’s has been a longtime supporter of the Gay Men’s Chorus).

“Taking a moment to sing happy birthday with Potomac Fever Group of Gay Men’s Chorus, this moment was so emotional,” said Georgia.

Anne’s set up a swag tent, selling collectible pint glasses featuring caricatures of the Annie’s family, like George and Annie herself. There was also a raffle, carnival snacks, and sidewalk games like a pie walk and martini race.

Vincent Slatt of Rainbow History Project was there to take it all in. Armed with a microphone, he interviewed partygoers to talk about why Annie’s was meaningful to them on the occasion of the anniversary.

In 2019, the James Beard Foundation announced that Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse, won the America’s Classic award for the Mid-Atlantic region (Ben’s Chili Bowl has also won this award). These awards are given “to locally owned restaurants that have timeless appeal and are beloved regionally for quality food that reflects the character of its community,” according to the James Beard website.

“Annie’s became home, and was there when there weren’t too many other opportunities or places to go,” says owner Paul Katinas (George’s son) in a previous interview. Annie’s also developed a strong relationship with the Washington Blade after the newspaper was founded in 1969.

After the outdoor festivities closed at 6 p.m., the party moved inside to Annie’s upper level for an appropriately festive afterparty.

Georgia notes that the anniversary “gave us a moment to reflect and think about how much has changed in 75 years, yet how much we’ve kept Annie’s the same. It’s a reason to celebrate and reflect. We’re so grateful for the support of our regulars.”

As for the next 25 years? Georgia says that the restaurant industry will be affected by the new tipped-wage law, but is adamant that Annie’s will remain.

“We will preserve what we have, honor our past, while making new memories.”

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Delectable debuts on the D.C. dining scene

Jose Andres triumphs, Mi Vida expands, and more



The Square (1850 K St.) is D.C.’s newest food market.

This year is already turning out to be a dynamic one for dining and nightlife. The effects of the pandemic, inflation, and the supply chain are still being felt, but there is a sense of optimism with a host of new openings for the first half of the year. And this season, of course, is often defined by cherry blossoms. Peak bloom is predicted for March 22-25, and festival activities begin on March 18. Enjoy all the pink, and read on for some dining highlights for the first few months of 2023.


Jose Andres triumphantly returned to the Old Post Office building in a coup for the celebrity restaurateur. The building, which is now a Waldorf Astoria hotel, most recently housed a hotel run by the organization of a disgraced former president. Andres had his eyes on the space for two decades and was set to open a restaurant there, but refused because of the new owner. Bazaar, which opened in February, serves sophisticated Spanish cuisine. It has locations in Los Angeles and Miami, plating specialty dishes like Iberico ham with caviar.

Uncaged Mimosas

It’s all flowers and bubbles at Uncaged Mimosas in Truxton Circle, which opened in February. Here, brunch is served every day of the week. Chef Damian Brown pours 20-plus kinds of mimosas, with flights available, plus frozen daiquiris. Neon signs, fake flowers and vines, and lots of color gives it a permanent party vibe. Brunch dishes include chicken and waffles, salmon and grits, and red velvet pancakes.


Ambar, one of the only all-you-can-eat dinner restaurants in the region, is opening its second spot in D.C. proper and third in the area. The new two-story restaurant, which opened March 6, sits in Shaw across from Dacha. Owner Ivan Iricanin brings in dishes from across the Balkans, like hearty country slow-cooked dishes from the interior, to seafood specialties from the Mediterranean. There are more than 60 bottles of wine from the Balkans, plus fruit-infused rakia, the popular Balkan spirit. Ambar offers unlimited prix-fixe brunch, lunch, and dinner menus, with optional drink pairings at brunch and dinner.

Owl Room

The U Street Corridor welcomes this new nightlife destination in the former Marvin space on March 10. Run by Marvin owner Eric Hilton and others, Owl Room has transformed the spot into more of a music and concert venue, with a dance floor and stage that will feature live music and DJ sets. The upstairs has a more relaxed patio for cocktails.

Mi Vida

Gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design continues to expand its Mexican hit restaurant, Mi Vida, with a new outpost set to open in April in Penn Quarter. This will be the largest Mi Vida to date, boasting a huge 10,000-square-foot space. Design flourishes include the iconic tree of life that has been showcased at all three locations, as well as a new custom rope art installation by Mexican artisans.


On the southern end of Adams Morgan, Alfresco is a new “American tap and grill” restaurant from the owners of Lauriol Plaza, located just down 18th Street. The 300-plus seat restaurant is set to open in April. Its menu is a distinct departure from Lauriol’s Mexican food; this one serves sandwiches, pizza, pasta, salads, and steaks. True to its name, there is a central courtyard with a retractable pergola roof, as well as two other outdoor patio seating spaces.

Van Leeuwen

New York import Van Leeuwen Ice Cream and its super premium brand of dessert is opening three shops in the next few months: Union Market (418 Morse St. NE), Adams Morgan (2421 18th St. NW), and Georgetown (3245 Prospect St. NW). Founded in 2008 as a New York City ice cream truck, Van Leeuwen is known for both traditional and vegan ice creams. Unique flavors include mac ’n cheese and honeycomb. These are its first shops in D.C., though there are more than 20 across the country.

The Square

The Square (1850 K St.) will be D.C.’s newest food market, opening later this year. The Square is slated to open in 2023 within International Square, and will feature a collection of more than 15 artisanal food vendors, a full-service restaurant and bar, an expansive bar in the central atrium, and outdoor dining seating, plus retail. Richie Brandenburg and Rubén García co-founded The Square, both well-established chefs, bring globally inspired food to the expansive food hall.


While not falling into the food sphere, the opening of Bunker has upended nightlife destinations for the LGBTQ community in D.C. Kinetic Productions owners Zach Renovatés and Jesus Quispe debuted the subterranean spot in late February, bringing in local and national DJs, dancers, drag queens, and entertainment. The bar/club is open Thursday-Sunday, playing different music genres each night.

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D.C. restaurants offer something for everyone this Valentine’s Day

From romantic prix-fixe options to a ‘single AF mixer’



Try the 40-layer lasagne at L’Ardente. (Photo by Mike Fuentes Photography)

Whatever Valentine’s Day means to you, there are plenty of places around D.C. for an excellent prix-fixe dinner or raging party with pals/gals/side pieces. Below are just a few options for what’s available:

Couple Options

Hot new French restaurant L’Ardente and its infamous 40-layer lasagne is offering an extended Valentine’s Day dinner, from Friday, Feb. 10, through Tuesday, Feb. 14. Couples can choose from the regular menu or a five-course tasting menu ($250 for two), which includes passion fruit caviar martinis.

Sababa Cleveland Park will serve a four-course, prix-fixe menu for two on Feb. 14. The menu ($120 for two) includes beet hummus, heart of palm salad, and a date tahini tart (and lots of romance-themed puns).

Cafe Riggs, in the Riggs Hotel, is serving not just a dessert special, but also a hotel package. Hotel guests can enjoy a Valentine’s Brunch in Bed enhancement with the option to a build-your-own mimosa flight or coffee while enjoying a Petit Déjeuner (French continental breakfast) in your room. Reservations are available through OpenTable

Lyle’s, in the Lyle Hotel, will offer a prix-fixe dinner menu at $85 per person that will be available the weekend before and after Valentine’s Day as well as on the holiday. Reservations are available through OpenTable.

Ellington Park Bistro, in the St. Gregory Hotel, is offering a Valentine’s Day menu as well as the regular a la carte menu. The menu will highlight sweet flavors, and includes dishes such as Butternut Squash Soup, Sweet Shrimp Wontons, and Raspberry and White Chocolate. Reservations available through OpenTable.

The Fairmont Georgetown is offering a decadent Valentine’s Afternoon Tea on Feb. 11, 12, and 14 inside overlooking the courtyard, with petit fours, scones, and savory sandwiches like an oak-smoked cheddar and spiced pear chutney. Tea is served from 1-4 p.m. ($75 per person), with the option to add a glass of G.H. Mumm Champagne.

Nicoletta Italian Kitchen will host a Valentine’s Day Pizza Class on Feb. 11, teaching everyone to make their own heart-shaped pie, while enjoying arancini and wine. And for those looking for something a little less hands-on, Nicoletta will offer a special Valentine’s Day menu on Feb. 14, complete with heart-shaped pizzas (made by the chef this time), as well as three special dishes – a clam appetizer, calzone, and lobster raviolo.

Waldorf Astoria Washington DC in the storied and renamed Old Post Office has an old-school option to “pen letters of love over dinner to share with a special someone.” Valentine’s Day guests will all receive a custom piece of stationary at their time of seating in addition to a menu of inventive dishes with a selection of elevated ingredients. Reservations can be made on SevenRooms.

Immigrant Food+ is serving a three-course menu for two, with options for vegetarian and pescatarian guests. There’s also a featured wine list from all female growers/winemakers including a special Galentine’s Day Flight of a Brut, white, and red.

Non-Couple Options

Brookland’s Finest Bar & Kitchen will offer a special “Salty & Bitter” bar menu over Valentine’s Day weekend, complete with salty snacks and bitter beverages. Snacks include chicken fingers and pretzel bites with truffle oil; drinks include espresso martinis and black Manhattans.

El Techo is throwing a Broken Hearts Club this Valentine’s Day (2/14). The tropical oasis rooftop is “helping single guests nurse their wounds” with a free shot of tequila for everyone who goes by on Feb. 14. It’s also offering a Taco Tuesday deal, which features three tacos and choice of a margarita or beer for $22.

Washingtonians that find themselves ready to mingle this year can head to Fight Club’s Anti-Commitment Ball on Saturday, Feb. 11. The party, from 8 p.m.-1 a.m., will feature DJ Daniel Biltmore spinning live tunes, food/drink specials, and Jell-O shots. Tickets not required. Food and drink items available a la carte.

The National Union Building at 918 F St. is bringing out its “certified fun sommelier” for a wine tasting event. Two sessions (Feb. 12 and Feb 13, both 6:30 p.m.) offer six wines, from fizzy to deep, dark red. Bottles will be available for purchase to take home. Tickets are $35-$45 through Eventbrite.

NoMa’s WunderGarten is hosting a “Nice Try Cupid Anti-Valentine’s Day Single AF Mixer” on Feb. 14, 7-11 p.m. Tickets are free but reservations recommended via Eventbrite.

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