There is one really good place, under the radar, called Skewers (it's on the top floor of a 2 restaurant space, i think Luna is the one on the bottom). It's on P between 16th and 17th i believe. Right near where you are talking about. It's Lebanese and extremely tasty, reasonable w/ good service and a cute little terrace you can sit on in good weather. They even have smaller plates so you can eat healthier if you want. Dupont Italian Kitchen (DIK) is ok, nothing special, and there is a gay bar on the top floor so there aren't many women in there (not sure of your gender). Heck, one of the best places in that whole area is the Whole Foods on P -- go get some carry out from the great food bar there and eat at home is what i'd do if i lived right near there!! :)
This is my 'hood so I can say confidently, and regrettably, there's not much good food on 17th Street. The major exception is Komi, but it's not exactly the kind of place you can just drop in and get steak frites. We had to make reservations about 3 weeks out last time we ate there, and it was fabulous, expensive and worth it.
I would disagree with the person who said avoid Luna Cafe, though. We eat here probably every other week and if you're looking for an inexpensive salad or sandwich it's fine. The service is slow but if you're not in a hurry it's a fine place to relax and they've renovated the place in the last year or so. I would avoid it for brunch on weekends though as it's usually packed.
Bua is a thai place that is above Cafe Luna and it's, like most places on 17th, fine but nothing special. There's a greek joint right there called Skewers that falls into the same category.
We've been to Sushi Taro a few times and while the sushi has been very good, the prices are a little high and the service can be very spotty. Moving up the street I would definitely avoid Trio and Annie's, even though they're neighborhood staples we've always found the food to be very bland, especially at Trio.
Hank's is fine for the occasional lobster roll, although it's a little overpriced and they try to get you in and out of there pretty quickly.
We usually end up walking over to the circle proper - there's so much good stuff just north and west of the circle.
I used to live on 16th between K & L and agree - Sushi Taro was one of our favorites though and we do go back on DC visits. I think they get very busy, but since we went every Friday night, they were v. friendly. On Ascot - all I can say is that it was a nasty shock to discover that it, and other places on 17th turn into "underground" nightclubs at night!
Am I right you're talking about the Dupont stretch between P and Quish?
If so, this area has some restaurants but none are that great. Some people rave about Sushi Taro but I've had some bad experiences there and it's overpriced. I've never been there but Dupont Italian Grill some people I know really like. Stay away from Cafe Luna (not Luna Grill). This place is horrible. Jack's is nice for happy hour and Trio's has a good breakfast. Hank's is decent but too pricey for what you get and spotty service. Floridia Mercury has a cute atmosphere and a hidden (gay) bar downstairs. Annie's is a classic 17th St restaurant that has been around for years. Java Hut has some nice desserts. This stretch is really lacking. I had high hopes for the new place, 17th Street Cafe, but their food is just so-so. Plus, I can't get over seeing the owners not giving some homeless guy a slice of day-old bread when he asked for it. I recommend going towards the Circle!
Dupont Italian Kitchen is fine if you want non-challenging Italian/American food (not that there's anything wrong with that!) in large portions. I like to go there when I'm very tired or stressed out - it's comfort food. It's a very casual, come-as-you-are place. The prices are quite reasonable for the portion sizes, and everything I've had was tasty, if not inventive or memorable.
Trio is good for a standard breakfast, especially in nice weather when you can sit on the patio. Nothing special.
Of course, Komi is on that stretch, too. So some of the city's best food is on the same strip!
There isn't a ton along 17th St because it runs up by the Old Executive Building, White House and Corcoran, there is some stuff right off of it though.
Off of Pennsylvania by a block or two is Breadline which has excellent soup and sandwiches if you search there are threads just on it.
Off of Eye (i) St. is Cafe Asia for Sushi and asian, Dicky's Custard for carryout panini (they have a good cuban).
Off I think H St. right there is Heidi's Deli which I have liked some of their sandwiches they are huge like their meatball sub, and some other cold cuts although Breadline is better.
At 18th and Pennsylvannia (about two blocks away) is Taberna Del Aberdero which has authenitc spanish food and is a nicer sit down place or you can get tapas at the bar.
One block East at eye(i) and Connecticut is Equinox which has great upscale fresh to the season food you can search for it on here, Bombay Club for upscale very good indian food, and the Oval Room which is also upscale too if you wanted something nicer.
I have never been to Cafe Soleil but it is on 17th.
Also at 17th and K is Restaurant K by Alison Swopes which I am sure there are threads on I have never been.
On 17th itself there is also a firehook bakery if you just want a sandwich.
I think that's about it, except for places I wouldn't eat (Wasabisito (blech to go sushi and expensive go to Cafe Asia, McDs and Potbelly)
Eye (i) St. has a lot of stuff on it in that area if you go west a couple blocks, Kaz Sushi Bistro, Baja Fresh, Aroma Indian Cusine (I go to the Shirlington branch of it and really like it) etc etc.
At 17th and L, there is actually a great lunch place called the Ascot, where they serve an amazing Indian buffet. Not a fine dining atmosphere, but the food is consistently excellent and varied.
For a classy buffet in a clubby setting, with the best chili and clam chowder in the neighborhood, go to the Town and Country bar in the Mayflower Hotel at Conn & DeSales.
On 18th St in the EaDu area, you will fine a great Latin place called Lauriol Plaza.
On N St. between 17th and 18th is Tabard Inn. Great place. Across the street, a charming place called Iron Gate Inn is, regrettably, not worth trying.
For quick eats, go to Julia's Empanadas just South of N St. on Conn.