In the age of the internet, dating apps, and social media, it’s getting more difficult to meet new people IRL. Historically, new relationships have been forged over shared meals, and it turns out that breaking bread is still a viable way to make authentic connections with strangers — with a little help from DMV restaurants.
Several local establishments offer curated dining experiences that encourage mingling with strangers and chatting up the chef throughout the evening. Most of these events are ticketed tasting menus served at a communal table — such as the the Chef’s Table at Via Umbria, and Goat Underground at The Fainting Goat — but one, called Meal Tribes, is a bit more unusual, offering millennials a chance to attend a free potluck.
Here are six communal dining events where one can enjoy great food and connect with other DMV residents.
Cicchetti at Urbana
2121 P Street NW
Urbana’s ticketed tasting menu experience is served Saturday nights at the counter in front of the hearth oven. Cicchetti refers to snacks typically found in traditional osterias in Italy, so the meal consists of eight courses of small plates. Chef Ethan McKee regales the group of eight diners with stories about the meal and the restaurant’s rooftop farm, which in turn sparks conversations between guests.
Demo Kitchen at Society Fair
277 S. Washington Street, Alexandria, Va.
On Friday nights at Society Fair, revelers can book a seat in the Demo Kitchen for an engaging evening with chef Larry Blevins learning about food, cheese, and wine with an intimate group of dining companions. The menu for the four-course dinner changes each month, with optional wine pairings available.
Dinner at the Chef’s Table at Via Umbria’s
1525 Wisconsin Avenue NW
Sitting down for dinner at Via Umbria’s communal table is like showing up at an Italian dinner party. On Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, executive chef Liam LaCivita invites guests to make new friends while indulging in pastas, roasts, seafood, and more, all prepared in the demo kitchen. Prosecco and wine pairings lubricate the evening.
Doi Dua at Shopkeepers
1231 Florida Avenue NW
This Vietnamese pop-up dinner is hosted at a communal table at Shopkeepers, where diners can pass plates and bond over homemade food from chef-owners Anna Vocaturo and Sarah Bui. The dinners are scheduled to take place every Saturday in October and November, with the menu changing weekly.
Goat Underground at The Fainting Goat
1330 U Street NW
In the basement of the Fainting Goat, chef Nathan Beauchamp whips up eclectic dishes for a secret dinner. The Goat Underground is a ticketed event scheduled for select Thursday evenings (next up: November 2 and November 16), and reservations are limited to groups of two, so each party can branch out and meet new people during the meal. For an added air of mystery, the menu isn’t revealed until guests arrive. Tickets can be purchased by calling the restaurant.
Billed as a potluck dinner community for millennials, Meal Tribes’ mission is to connect strangers and facilitate conversation over a shared meal in private homes. Prospective diners can sign up to join the guest list and then RSVP to an event that works for them. The requirements to attend one of the free dinners are: bring a dish to share, arrive ready to chat, and avoid discussing politics at all costs.