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Best spots for Valentine’s Day dining options in D.C.

Del Mar, Fiola Mare among hot spots offering prix fixe menus



Valentine's Day dinner, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. has no shortage of intimate spots for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.

Those looking for love using a fork and knife in D.C. this year have plenty to celebrate. At restaurants across Washington on Valentine’s Day, everything’s coming up roses. And since many restaurants are stretching celebrations all week, you may have more than just Feb. 14 to get your V-Day deal in.

Refinement comes alive at the St. Regis (923 16th St., N.W.), a downtown hotel. It’s offering an air of the Mediterranean this year with a three-course prix-fixe deal, along with an optional bubbly pairing. Beyond dinner Feb. 14, the exec chef is hosting a soufflé cooking class and champagne tasting on Saturday, Feb. 10, which also includes passed hors d’oeuvres and a parting gift. Plus, every Saturday in February, following the daily 6 p.m. champagne sabering, guests can take part in the St. Regis Chocolate Indulgence experience, which features themed Valentine’s Day cocktails and a chocolate buffet. Yes, a buffet entirely of chocolate. 

Down by the water, sustainable-forward Fiola Mare (3050 K St., N.W.) brings home the seafood-as-aphrodisiac philosophy, along with an Italian twist. The three-course prix fixe ($95) includes antipasti, main and dessert. The creamy Buffalo mozzarella burrata is a good start, followed by options including red king prawns, creamy lobster ravioli and risotto al tartufo (black truffle shavings optional). Dessert brings panna cotta, among other treats. 

Fabio Trabocchi’s celebrated new entrant Del Mar (791 Wharf St., S.W.), also by the river on the Southwest Waterfront, is going all out for its Valentine’s Day options. There are two menu options: the five-course Menu de Los Enamorados ($135) and the four-course, more prosaically named Valentine’s Day Menu ($95). In the former, you’ll enjoy tuna ceviche, a braised veal cheek dish called “Beso en el Cachete” (literally, kiss on the cheek) and more. The latter provides more choices, including one tapa starter, an appetizer, main and dessert. There are also specialty cocktails, like the tequila-based Lunas Rotas (broken moons) as well as optional wine pairings. 

Valentine’s Day is meant to be hot. City Tap Dupont (1250 Connecticut Ave., N.W., suite 105)) warms it up with smoky cocktails and dinner specials. Guests can dig into hop-smoked mussels with bacon jam and burnt lemon, smoked-beef tenderloin with grilled orange cauliflower and a “Bourbon Biggie” s’mores dessert with burnt marshmallow fluff. 

From smoky to sour, sister restaurant City Tap Penn Quarter (901 9th St., N.W.) puckers up with a “mini tap takeover” by sour beers. Dishes tend toward the rich side to stand up to the beers, with options like lobster pappardelle, a charcuterie board and four-layer chocolate cake with red-velvet sauce. 

A Washington institution, Bombay Club (815 Connecticut Ave., N.W.) is elegance suffused with saffron. The restaurant has come back into the news with the opening of its flashy new little brother, Bindaas in Cleveland Park. For Valentine’s Day, there will be a four-course menu for ($85). Start with the popular crispy kale chat, enjoy delicately spiced curries and stay for sweet finishes. Live jazz will be performed throughout the night. 

Decadence is also on the menu at the Source (575 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.), available all week long (Feb. 9-17). To provide a taste of what the five-course tasting menu entails, the extravaganza begins with oysters and royal Osetra caviar, paired with Lanson “Black Label” Champagne. Other courses include lobster and black truffle soup, a 28-day dry-aged steak and a Marjolaine pastry. You might want to break out the cocktail dresses for this one. 

Befitting an establishment dedicated to vino, Cork (1805 14th St., N.W.) is hosting its eighth annual champagne dinner ($100), featuring six champagnes from diverse wine traditions. The dinner will take place in the restaurant’s brand-spanking-new private dining room, which seats 24. Wine experts Ed and Barbara from Wine Traditions will be featured to speak about the hand-selected producers.

The day before Valentine’s Day, Town Hall’s (2340 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.) hosting a Galentine’s Day celebration, with half-price bottles of wine and a delightful Nutella brownie. No word if Leslie Knope will make an appearance. 

Galentine’s Day is also on the menu at Pennsylvania 6 (1350 I St., N.W.), but instead, for brunch. Gather those gal pals on Feb. 10 or 11 from 11a.m.-3 p.m., and you’ll be treated to a complimentary glass of sparkling and shareable dessert for the table with mention of “Galentine’s Brunch” when making reservations. On the big day itself, the resto goes retro with its Valentine’s Day dance-themed dinner. There’ll be a three-course prix-fixe “sweetheart menu” complete with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine ($50). Straight from the middle-school gym, get ready for photo ops in front of the balloon arch and sing aloud to blast-from-the-past-tunes. Optional but encouraged? Corsages, of course. 

A fresh entrant to the dining scene, Supra (1205 11th St., N.W.) is bringing high-end Georgian cuisine to Shaw. For Valentine’s Day, it’s writing a love letter to Georgian painter Niko Pirosmani. The legend has it that the artist sold all his belongings to buy the object of his adoration, a French actress, a million red roses to fill the square in front of her hotel. While going that far might not be recommended, a meal here may get you close. Start off with rose-themed cocktails, like Ring Around the Rose-y, with gin, rosewater and a rose-powder rim. V-Day-only specials include seared duck with black walnuts and baked trout over herbed asparagus salad. 

RareSweets (963 Palmer Alley, N.W.) will have several treats available in store and for pre-order Feb. 9-14. Look for the Love Song Lyric cookies featuring iconic romantic hits, along with heart-shaped cookies. Kick it up with  the spicy chocolate cake covered in chocolate icing with cayenne pepper and topped with toasted marshmallow. 

While juicy chicken might not be an aphrodisiac, balls of fried dough just might do the trick. Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken (1308 G St., N.W.) is offering a Valentine’s Day Mini Box ($22), with orange blossom, raspberry rose, Crème Brulee, and other flavors. A sweet finish to the holiday. 



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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