Best first-date spots in D.C.
If you're gay and going out with someone new, follow this advice from a native Washingtonian.
No one can guarantee a fabulous first date unfortunately--much depends on chemistry and fate. That said, you can certainly stack the deck in your favor by choosing just the right venue for a first rendezvous.
Washington, D.C. is my hometown, and while it may be the center of politics and government, it's also a great place to date if you're part of its large and diverse gay and lesbian population. In fact, with so many options, deciding where to go can be a challenge. Let me help you decide. My two key make-or-break considerations: First, whether indoors for drinks or outdoors for ice skating, your first date spot should have an intimate, romantic ambience. Second, you want to feel comfortable, so look for a gay-friendly atmosphere to set the stage for a great first connection.
With those two guidelines in mind, here's where I think you'll have a terrific first date:
1. Café society Coffee dates can sometimes seem impersonal and rushed, but not at these two popular, gay-friendly places that give coffee and tea shops a very good name:
* Love Café, on U Street, the warm home of the Cakelove cupcakes that turned Oprah into a fan.
* Teaism, in Dupont Circle, a Japanese teahouse that offers the most Zen first-date environment in D.C.
2. Cocktails for you two These three bars have steady gay clientele, but offer very different (but always intimate) moods. For a fun drinks date, try:
* Floriana Mercury Grill Bar, a small, popular lounge nestled in the English basement of a restored townhouse on 17th Street.
* The Tabard Inn, on N Street, which brings a little country to the city, and helps you warm to your date over cocktails by the Inn's fireplace.
* Helix Bar, on Rhode Island Avenue, which boasts great martinis, lighting that changes colors every few hours, and a cabana-filled outdoor patio that’s perfect for summertime.
3. Dinner done right Dining options in D.C. are rapidly expanding, so choose a neighborhood and consider one of these:
* District: For a first date dinner in a casual yet comfortably gay setting, look no further than new hotspot Busboys and Poets, tried-and-true Lauriol Plaza, the small and romantic Little Fountain Café, or the candlelit and charming Coppis, which features the best Italian food in town. Other options: gay-owned Duplex Diner, a popular meeting spot for its mostly gay clientele. It’s known for generous martinis, affordable, home-style cuisine (think meatloaf and amazing mac and cheese) and a cool, colorful setting. All are located in the very gay-friendly Adams Morgan and U. Street neighborhoods.
* The New Gayborhood. Try Logan Tavern for a sophisticated yet relaxed setting in Logan Circle, which has replaced Dupont Circle as the new official D.C. gayborhood. Did your dinner go well? Extend the evening and head next door to Halo, a terrific gay lounge , for a nightcap.
* Northern Virginia: I know what you’re thinking: While Virginia is not known for excessive southern hospitality toward gays and lesbians, we like Arlington, Virginia’s Evening Star, probably for its stylish, inclusive atmosphere as much as it’s great wine list and two relaxing lounges, Majestic and No. 9.
4. An Activity Date for Every Season . Sometimes, date spots are like fruits—bear with me on this metaphor! Choose them by what’s in season. Washington is a town with beautifully diverse seasons. Our snowy winters lead to cherry blossom-filled springs. Hot and humid summers give way to spectacular fall leaves. Try these activities that allow you time to learn about each other, while taking advantage of the season:
* Winter : For a totally romantic winter setting, rivaled perhaps only by New York’s Rockefeller Center rink, try ice skating on the National Mall, next to the National Gallery of Art.
* Spring : Get to know your date (and his/her interest in athletics) by hiking the Billy Goat Trail in Great Falls, Virginia, twenty minutes outside of D.C.
* Summer : Share wine and cheese during the Jazz in the Garden Series, held every Friday during the summer at The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, also located on the National Mall. The music never overpowers your conversation.
* Fall : Visit a vineyard in nearby Middleburg, especially Chrysalis Vineyards , owned and operated by Jennifer McCloud, who once poured me and my date her own wine while we sat on the veranda and watched the sun set behind the mountains .
5. A First Date at a Museum . How about a casual exploration of art and each other’s tastes? Having something to look at can certainly nip first-date awkwardness in the bud. Try:
* The Phillips Collection art gallery in Dupont Circle, housed in a beautiful Victorian setting, with an elegant café on premises and lots of nightlife nearby (just in case you’d like to grab a drink and discuss what you’ve seen).
* The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia, where you and your date can explore eighty-four working studios and five galleries, then walk outside onto the romantic Potomac Riverfront, which really shines at night.
* The International Spy Museum in Penn Quarter, where you and your date can access your inner James Bond or Mata Hari, and uncover each other’s secrets.
Armed with these ideas and locations, you’re bound to find the perfect spot for your next first date…and, if you two hit it off, hopefully these tips will provide inspiration for dates number two, three, and beyond. ###
“ These venues are tried and tested by me, and I love them all ,” says native Washingtonian Dave Singleton . “ I hope they give you the best shot at a successful first date and, hopefully, many more after that. ” His books, The MANdates: 25 Rules for Successful Gay Dating and Behind Every Great Woman is a Fabulous Gay Man (Advice from a Guy Who Gives it to You Straight ), are available now.