Wanted to give a quick round-up of some of the recent spots we have been to....
Lupo Verde is topping the list. We loved it. The inside is beautifully done, our service was solid, and our food was fantastic. We would highly recommend it for some good italian, particularly around the 14th Street/Shaw area. (Pizza was solid but you should be at Etto up the street; Striglie very good; cacio e pepe very good.)
Soi 38 was a nice surprise. Ben and I made an impromptu choice to swing by here a couple weeks ago for a dinner date and it was quite good. The location, kind of close to Foggy Bottom and not close enough to Dupont, probably makes it less attractive for your Friday night out - but for a work lunch or if you are in the area, we really enjoyed it and we are pretty tough Thai critics - so this is saying something! (Pad Thai was good - nothing amazing; Panang Goong - very good.)
Tico on 14th is a sweet spot. We went last week and ordered up a good sampling from the menu (yes, another tapas place has come to town). The space is quite big and the food was really good. There are so many places to choose from now on 14th but Tico, in my opinion, now definitely trumps El Centro. (Among other things we tried and liked: Crab Tostada and the Crunchy Fried Chicken taco. Skip the meatballs.)
Smith Public Trust was unfortuantely disappointing. We were really excited to see Smith Commons open a second place, this time in Brookland and went there last week with a group of friends. Alas, the space is a little odd and not yet filled out. The service left something to be desired. And the food was lackluster at best. Brookland has cool stuff going on, but we won't be heading back soon (even though we still love Smith Commons). (Waffles & Chicken weren't worth it; Mussels - our friend had to send hers back; Burger - would rather go to Smith Commons where it is fantastic.)
El Chilango was recommended by a friend when we suggested going to El Rey for tacos and yes please, it hit the spot. Tucked back on V and 12th - it is a little hole in the wall serving up quality tacos. (We can't report on the margaritas because they weren't serving alcohol but by all accounts - they are supposed to be very good). It is cheap and comfortable and homey inside. Though fair warning, no air conditioning! (Chicken taco - good stuff; Pork taco - very good stuff; chips/guac/salsa - will feed the fix - the guac is not going to bowl you over).
here and here.