For: waterfront dining
1 Marina Drive, Alexandria; 703-548-0001; indigolanding.com.
Vacationers know this rule: The prettier the view, the less motivation for the kitchen to create equally compelling food. Crowds will gather for the calming water, the dramatic sunset, and in Indigo Landing’s case, the rumble of planes landing at Reagan National Airport.
Executive Chef Erik Gutierrez has led the kitchen for the past four years, but recently updated the modern American menu, which he calls “more sustainable” and “for the healthy people.”
In a nod to the latter, the menu lists calorie counts for small plates clocked under 400 calories, which includes a stone fruit salad, and if paired with ripe peaches (instead of stubbornly unyielding slices) would have beautifully balanced the tangy arugula with Maryland’s light and creamy Mary Goat Round cheese. (Large plates with 1,200 calories or less are also marked.)
Sitting on Daingerfield Island, with the Potomac River below, a craving for crab cakes develops. Two arrive on the plate ($32 on one occasion), one dry; the other moist, barely clinging together without the dubiously requisite bread crumb filler. A paltry display of corn and lima beans snake through the middle of the plate.
The view wins here.