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12 Valentine’s Day Gimmicks Actually Worth Scoping Out

Options that live up to the hyped-up holiday

Heart-shaped sushi at Sticky Rice.
Sticky Rice/official photo
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

An endless stream of restaurants and bars across town are capitalizing on Valentine’s Day this Thursday, February 14, but some are more worthy of the designated date night out than others.

The Salt Line is shucking mood-setting oysters all weekend, while H Street’s Sticky Rice is encouraging singles to come out and sing. Meanwhile, luxury hotels like the Watergate and Ritz-Carlton are going all out with pricey prix fixe dinners. Simpler options for celebrating include taking advantage of free java at Arlington’s new Philz Coffee.

Here are a dozen Eater DC picks for the big day:

For a first taste of a new chef

The Watergate Hotel’s retro-styled Kingbird is serving a five-course menu ($129 per person) inspired by Edith Piaf, set to tunes from a live violinist. It’s the first big holiday meal manned by the historic property’s newly named executive chef, Sébastien Giannini. The experience kicks off with rose petals floating in Kir Royal, with a choice of lobster tail, foie gras, wagyu beef confit, and more. Cozy up on a festive red chair at the lobby’s Next Whisky Bar, where mixologist Rachel Sergi will be making a “City of Love” cocktail — a flute filled with Aviation Gin, Framboise Liqueur, and cranberry juice. 2650 Virginia Avenue NW

For an aphrodisiac

To get the intimate night off right, The Salt Line is shucking half-priced oysters at the bar with the purchase of a bottle of bubbly or wine. Chef Kyle Bailey is setting the mood all weekend with a special tasting menu for two ($45), complete with spiked oyster shooters, a half-dozen raw oysters with gastro garnishes, and fried, baked, and grilled bivalves. 79 Potomac Avenue SE

For a trip to the Swiss Alps

Stable is bucking the holiday’s prix fixe trend by offering an a la carte lineup of Swiss classics from chef David Fritsche. Think Swiss cheese fondue, chicken liver pate, venison loin with spätzli, and landjäger – a cured and smoked salami served with mustard and pickles. Diners are encouraged to drink like the Swedes and go for the absinthe service. 1324 H Street NE

For a weekend celebration

Late Michel Richard’s French-themed restaurant Central remains good hands these days under his understudy David Deshaies’ watch. An elegant surf-and-turf Valentine’s Day menu stretches into the weekend (through Saturday, February 16) with three courses at $65 per person. The meal commences with Richard’s famed gougeres bites and ahi tuna carpaccio, followed by filet mignon and seared halibut with winter vegetables and black truffle jus and a chocolate finale designed for two. Wine pairings ($36) include a 2017 pinot noir from Teutonic Wine Company in Oregon. The full dinner menu and Champagne specials are also available. 1001 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

For a canine companion

The Fairmont’s lobby bar transformed into a romantic rose-filled “love lounge” for the week (now through Sunday, February 17), with the hotel’s resident yellow lab, Georgie, as the furry star. From 5 p.m. to midnight, guests who order Thiénot rosé Champagne for $10 a glass (or $50 per bottle) will receive complimentary chocolate truffles and chocolate-covered strawberries from pastry chef Charles Froke. 2401 M Street NW

With love from José Andrés

ThinkFoodGroup’s Oyamel is running a five-course Valentine’s Day menu for $75 per person. Dishes at the butterfly-adorned Mexican restaurant include a hibiscus-cured Gulf Coast red snapper ceviche in a pomegranate leche de tigre with golden beets, red onion and cilantro. There’s also a Oaxacan-style braised lamb tamal with pasilla chile-tomatillo salsa, avocado mousse, radish, and pickled cabbage. 401 7th Street NW

For sushi speed dating

Atlas District’s longstanding sushi bar Sticky Rice invites singles and “swingles” to nab a seat (or two) at its speed dating table set up for the evening (7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.), complete with ice breaker cards and activities to ease National Single’s Day nerves as they load up on izakaya offerings showcasing a plant-based menu (think vegan tuna). After loosening up with sake, guests can belt out tunes at its adjoining SingSing Karaoke Palace (karaoke is free every Thursday). Those who don a red-colored shirt, pants, or dress will get a $20 gift card when they sign up for the new Sticky Rice rewards program (minimum purchase of $20 is required). Diners are encouraged to start the party early and slurp Champagne from a (biodegradable) straw starting at noon. 1224 H Street NE

For a food-free fete

Ivy City’s Republic Restoratives, D.C.’s first women/LGBTQ-owned distillery, is offering a boozy prix fixe cocktail tasting at its Ivy Room bar on Valentine’s Day. In addition to the flight ($25 per person), drinkers can take advantage of a free hands-on bottling experience. 1369 New York Avenue NE

For a cocktail that’s good for the heart

Now through Sunday, February 17, at Pisco y Nazca, every order of the “Casanova” cocktail — pisco shaken with rosemary and raspberry — will get the Peruvian restaurant to donate $1 to the American Heart Association. And starting Wednesday, February 13, a Galentine’s Day promotion means free Champagne flutes for groups of four or more girls. 1823 L Street NW

For a free Valentine’s Day buzz

San Francisco-based coffee shop Philz Coffee will sling complimentary drinks and treats at its week-old storefront at Ballston Exchange in Arlington, Virginia. Its new-ish Bethesda, Maryland, location is also participating. Available while supplies last, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. 4121 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia

For a DIY dinner

Sweetgreen’s grocery shop, The Tavern, wants to help customers do date night at home with its lineup of local produce, cheeses, and local caramels. Gift wrapping is available on-site for $2.

For a sexy staycation

The West End’s Ritz-Carlton’s neighboring Westend Bistro is offering a decadent four-course Valentine’s Day dinner, complete with poached Maine Lobster, oysters and hibiscus foam, braised short ribs, a cocktail, and dessert for $110 per person, or $125 per person with a bottomless sparkling wine bar. A “Ritz-Carlton Romance” package, available all month through Sunday, February 24, includes a deluxe room or one-bedroom suite, chocolate, a $50 food and beverage credit, and overnight valet parking (starting at $299/night). 1150 22nd Street NW