On the Green Line: Me and “U”

(originally posted on February 14, 2007 by The American Observer with additional reporting by Erin Donahugh)

* Only brokenhearted
** Just a little crush
*** Crazy About U
**** I’m going to love U forever

Love Cafe
1501 U St. NW
Metro Proximity: 3 blocks
Heartbeats: ***

Observer photo by Erin Donaghue
These cupcakes at Love Cafe are all you need to sweeten your Valentine’s Day.

Whether you’re treating your sweetheart or looking for a new treat, this intimate coffee and cake shop has just what you need to satisfy even the most discriminating sweet tooth. Dim lighting and old-school love songs set the mood for a romantic date while the cozy, informal seating and fun decor make it easy to strike up a conversation with someone new.

Crowd: Love Cafe sits on historic U Street, attracting hip district natives and curious tourists ranging in age from early 20s to late 50s.

Pick: Close your eyes and sink your teeth into the strawberry-frosted vanilla cupcake. The bits of fresh strawberries mixed with the thick, sugary icing give a surprisingly refreshing twist to this indulgence.

Ups: The Love Cafe offers free WIFI. So if you don’t have a Valentine, don’t fret — make a wireless love connection.

Downs: Because it’s so popular, it can get a little too cozy when sugar-craving customers pack the cafe.

Observer photo by Erin Donaghue
Whether or not you have someone to keep you warm this Valentine’s Day, a classic bowl of chili from Ben’s is all you need to heat things up.

Ben’s Chili Bowl
1213 U St. NW
Metro Proximity: 1 block
Heartbeats: ****

You don’t need a Valentine to turn up the heat this Feb. 14. A classic steamy bowl of chili at Ben’s is hot enough to warm any heart. Couples will enjoy the 1950s-style booth seating and singles will appreciate the retro bar. The old-fashioned restaurant turns into a historic hotspot after local club-goers have danced the night away and bartenders at the nearby lounges have given their last call for alcohol.

Crowd: Since Ben’s opened in the late 1950s, it has served top performers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Bill Cosby. Everyday celebrities like yourself now grace the U Street corridor’s authentic institution.

Pick: Have fun choosing between chili cheese fries, a jumbo chili dog, or the tried-and-true bowl of chili topped with onions — or just forget your New Year’s resolution and have them all. Wash down the spicy indulgence with a tall glass of ice-cold fruit punch.

Ups: You’re bound to strike up an unexpected conversation with someone interesting at Ben’s. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find someone to spend next year’s Valentine’s Day with. But don’t forget to pop a breath mint if the conversation gets really interesting.

Downs: Possible heartburn with a capital B. Be sure to buy a pack of Tums from the Rite-Aid down the block before you dive into the fiery chili.

Cafe Saint-Ex
1847 14th Street, NW
Metro Proximity: 2 blocks
Heartbeats: ***

Decked out in art deco, Cafe Saint-Ex is all about atmosphere. The retro travel- and aviation-themed prints that adorn the walls make for a dining and dancing experience with a little more character than a typical downtown nightclub. If you’re attached this Valentine’s Day, you’ll love the chic and cozy dining area on the upper level, where twinkling Christmas lights and candles will put you in the right mood for love. Single? Head downstairs to Gate 54, which morphs from a down-tempo lounge into a hopping club later on in the evening. DJs start spinning at 10.

Crowd: Saint-Ex is a trendy hangout for 20-and 30-something Washingtonians, although the crowd at gate 54 tends to be younger.

Pick: You’ll find some unique beers on tap, including Peroni, the classic Italian brew. If you’re in the mood for a mixed drink, we loved the Midori Sour.

Ups: Cafe Saint-Ex caters to couples and singles alike with its winning mix of restaurant, lounge and club. If you meet someone downstairs, why not invite them upstairs to grab a bite?

Downs: Warning: Cafe Saint-Ex doesn’t take reservations and you might find yourself staring down a very un-romantic line if you arrive later in the evening. Get there early!

Busboys and Poets
2021 14th Street, NW
Metro Proximity: 2 blocks
Heartbeats: ****

Part restaurant, part bookstore and part performance space, Busboys and Poets is a unique Washington fixture. The unusual name was inspired by the renowned poet Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy in Washington in the early 1920s. Not for those seeking a quiet, secluded dinner, your soundtrack will be live music or poetry, clinking silverware from the restaurant and enthusiastic conversations from the bar or bookstore. The bustling atmosphere smacks of a busy downtown street. If you’re still getting to know your Valentine, Busboys is an instant conversation starter and a great place for a first date.

Crowd: The stylish food and unique performances draw a diverse, hip crowd.

Pick: Yes, Busboys does have a Valentine’s Day event – a gourmet dinner set to live jazz, complete with champagne and chocolate. Make reservations for 7:30.

Ups: With its range of food and entertainment offerings, you’ll never be bored at Busboys.

Downs: You may find yourself shoving your way through large groups of barflies in order to reach the smallish performance area. Events are known to draw large crowds and the place fills up fast.

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