D.C.: Have a Date Night in Chinatown

Chinatown (also known as Penn Quarter)  is easily one of my favorite neighborhoods in DC.  It has everything: a wide array of international dining, multiple cupcake and cronut bakeries, two-story installments of your favorite shopping spots (H&M, Urban Outfitters and Forever 21 to name a few) not  to mention  a slew of  great museums ( The National Portrait Gallery, Madame Tussaudes Wax Museum, the Spy  Museum, The Museum of Crime and Punishment… ) and so much more!

On this particular night, a rescheduled Valentines day double date was the perfect excuse to get all dressed up and finally visit the much anticipated Oya restaurant, followed by dancing at Cuba Libre resturant and rum bar, conveniently located right across the street.

My friend Paris and I in the lounge at Oya. Photo creds to our boyfriends
My friend Paris and I in the lounge at Oya. Photo creds to our boyfriends

Oya… I don’t say this often, but Oya is breathtaking. The interior is gorgeous,  gilded in what appears to be ice and gold. There’s  a translucent waterfall in the far back that cascades down to the booth seating and an elongated fire place that illuminates the table seats in the center. Chandeliers offer romantic lighting from above and the lounge area is collection of textured wall space: hanging chains, acrylic stucco, and Baroque style wallpaper.

The setting is beautiful and upscale and so are the patrons. Most people there were dressed up and very chic (some even in gowns) all adding to the ambiance.  You’ll definitely find that the crowd is of all ethnicities, but majorly made up of young professionals  looking  for both networking and subdued revelry (as is typical in DC)

Lastly the food was quite tasty. Sometimes at trendy places you have to wonder if the price tag is for the decor or the food quality. Here you pay a little for both, but the choices from the Asian fusion menu are enjoyable and come in medium sized portions. {see some of our dishes in the top gallery}

After getting thoroughly stuffed and dazzled at Oya, head across the street to spice up you night, let you hair down and have a good time.  Cuba Libre is a latin dance club/restaurant that plays a variety of salsa and salsa infused top 40 music. The setting is a complete 180 from Oya with its warm and inviting decor that feels as if you’ve been transported to a summer block party in the courtyard  of an authentic Cuban town. It’s picturesque with stained glass windows and ivy intertwined with florals, traveling up the walls and around the

My friends Steph and Nate who are natural born salsa dancers
My friends Steph and Nate who are natural born salsa dancers

glowing lanterns. With all the tables and seats removed to make room to dance, the crowd is lively to say the least.  Don’t let the mix of  both(seemingly) professional and enthusiastic  natural dancers out on the floor intimidate you.

I’m no accomplished dancer by any means, but my advice is to get out on the dance floor , keep your feet moving, and just fake it til you make it! No one is really paying attention anyways, they’re too busy being spun around and dipped by their own partners.

So there you go, a classic night of dinner and dancing. Rise & Revel!

A few tips if you go:

  • Make sure you call or email Cuba Libre to get on the guest list to get in free before 12 am, there is a $10-12 cover charge if you don’t.
  • Be sure to make reservations at Oya more than a few days before you plan to go, they get booked quickly and they don’t take day of reservations.
  • Also plan to get to Oya early (at least by 30 mins), parking in Penn Quarter (as in most of DC) is atrocious, and unless you plan to get valet you can easily miss you 15 min reservation grace period searching hopelessly for a decent spot.

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