2799 Jefferson Davis Hwy. (Top of Crystal City Hyatt Regency) 486-1234, ext. 6280 Hours: For dinner: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday; 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For light fare in the lounge: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday; 5 p.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday. Drinks only between midnight and 2 a.m. every night. Prices: Dinner for two costs $30 to $60. Credit cards: American Express, Carte Blanche, Diners Club, MasterCard - Visa., Visa.

We love a good view, so we've been trying to figure out how to eat decently, at a reasonable price, at this generally mediocre and overpriced restaurant. We think we've finally discovered the formula, and if you follow it, an evening at Skylights should be well worth it -- because this rooftop restaurant just happens to have the most dramatic view of National Airport and the surrounding Virginia suburbs short of looking out of a plane in flight. And you get good, soothing, free jazz along with the view.

You have a choice: Should you eat dinner in the main restaurant or light fare in the lounge? Both are pretty and comfortable, but the food in the lounge is cheaper and you're less likely to be disappointed.

In either case, we recommend starting with some dry champagne (you can order it by the glass) or a giant, excellent margarita.

If you stay in the lounge, order the nachos -- quite good here, with a heap of fresh guacamole, big chunks of tomato, slightly spicy beans and real-tasting melted cheese. Next, spicy shrimp, cooked just tender, not too hot -- a surprisingly good deal on a recent night with 13 shrimp for $4.75.

Now, if you're not hungry for more nachos, get some oysters on the half shell, some baked brie, or Buffalo wings -- basically plain, juicy fried chicken with a vaguely blue-cheese sauce.

On the other hand, skip the fried vegetables, which on a recent night were oozing with grease, and don't bother ordering the raw vegetables with dip. The only dinner-type dish in the lounge is a hamburger, which is big and likely to be grilled just as you ordered it -- but chewy.

If you decide to eat in the dining area (another part of the same large room) you should still begin with champagne or a margarita. But after that you'll have to be more careful, because some dishes hover around $15.

We would order the spinach tortellini, an appetizer -- delicious stuffed spinach pasta shaped like inner tubes in a very light cream sauce with smoked salmon, red onions and capers. At a recent dinner we had a huge serving, enough for a meal, for only $5.50. We'd also order spinach salad or caesar salad, good and fresh with fat homemade croutons. Disregard canned-tasting onion soup, mushy oysters Bienvile and dried-out snails in pastry.

The best entree we've tried is the chicken fettuccini, tender pieces tossed in the thinnest cream, with crunchy snow peas and chunks of tomato (you may need to add salt). The only problem is that it's another creamy noodle dish; so, if you're already getting the tortellini, share the prime rib. It's $16.50, but split two ways with an appetizer you'll have plenty to eat for not a bad price.

The dining room does well on desserts, especially coffee ice cream pie, decadent ice cream sundaes (filled with peanut M&Ms or whatever candy you fancy), and the creamy rich cheesecake.

But don't leave yet; take your time; the best part may be just beginning. The jazz trio is playing, maybe its female vocalist is singing, and you could be dancing on the small parquet dance floor as the sunset skies go dark and National's landing lights pop on.