This past week I went to Tennessee for my best friend’s wedding. I had never been to Tennessee before, so I figured I would do some sightseeing the day before the wedding. I ventured off to Nashville and stopped at the Opry Mills Mall to do some shopping. The mall was pretty large and had a ton of stores including an awesome place called The Aquarium Restaurant where you dine in and relax in the company of fish. As you walk into the restaurant you can enjoy a 6,000 gallon nursery cylinder aquarium and an 8,000 gallon overhead archway tank housing the juvenile fish which leads to the main dining room where you can enjoy your meal sitting next to the aquarium.
We were seated right away, which was great because I was starving! Ha ha. As we walked into the main dining area, I was overcome with amazement to see this GINORMOUS tank that went from the ceiling to the floor filled with all types, sizes, colors and breeds of fish. We had an awesome waiter, named Marcello. He was so nice, attentive and full of information about the aquarium, the history of the restaurant and the story of each fish. And what made it extra special was he was originally from NY! He told us the tank in the dining area was 200,000 gallons! You’re probably thinking I have a typo and yes, I literally thought I heard wrong but the tank indeed is 200,000 gallons of water.
Keegen, the restaurant’s curator holds a Master’s in Business Education and undergraduate in Marine Science. His job is to keep and maintain the aquariums and the health of the fish. Keegen explained the fish in the tanks are cold blooded and chosen by compatibility. The tanks were made of acrylic plastic 7 inches thick. There are predator fish in the tank, but they are not aggressive because they are used to being fed five days a week so they usually do not feed on the other fish in the tank. 3 pounds of food a day is required to feed all the fish. Presently there are 500 fish on site, but the tanks can house 1,000 when it is at capacity. We were right in time to see the divers enter the tank, feed the fish and clean the tank. It takes two weeks to clean all three tanks and then the divers start over again.
The smallest fish in the tank was 3 inches long. Some of the fish were over 15 years old. There were Stingrays who seemed to smile at you, large black eel and what appeared to be a spotted eel along with various other exotic fish everyone seemed to enjoy watching. There were 3 famous guitar fish named Gibson, Gretchen and Mac. Of course, my mom noticed a fish—she named him “Grandpa”. He kept coming up to the glass, like he knew she was taking his picture and was posing. Previously there were four others just like him, but “Grandpa” wanted to be the dominant one and he devoured the other four. Another story that resonates with me was how a cleaner fish actually swims into the mouth of other fish to clean it out like a dentist, but they risk being swallowed. These fish, if luck is on their side, have a life expectancy of two years.
After enjoying the company of the Keegen and our new friend, Marcello, we sat down to enjoy our meals. I was in heaven with my favorite dish, Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken. What set this apart from your regular Alfredo was the consistency of the sauce and the rich creamy flavor with a subtle hint of garlic. Mom, of course, had to order a “healthy” salad, the Lobster Tower. What struck me most about the chef’s new creation was the presentation. Instead of your traditional salad in a bowl, this salad was a tower of stacked vegetables on a bed of iceberg lettuce, different cheeses and beans, guacamole and topped with crab meat. Mom raved about it all weekend. There is something for everyone on the menu, from appetizers, to soups, chowders and salads, vegan green bowl, wraps, crab cakes, chicken, burgers, seafood dishes, pasta and the menu goes on and on.
Although I felt I could not eat another bite, we shared what is known as the chocolate lava cake. Cake that looked like a volcano with vanilla ice cream and when you pierced the cake with your fork, out poured chocolate syrup. The experience was to die for. For those of you who are interested there is a full bar with a great selection of draft and bottled beer, an extensive wine list and several specialty martinis. What makes this restaurant even better was its price-point. You can anticipate paying between $20-$30 on average for the main course. This is a truly relaxing dining experience. We did not want to leave and cannot wait to go back to this family friendly restaurant. No matter what your age is, you will enjoy yourself.
In case you are not in the Nashville area, there are three other Aquarium Restaurants in the US; one in Denver, CO; Houston, TX and Kemah, TX.
If you are in the Nashville area, please go to the Aquarium Restaurant and say hello to Keegen and Marcello. Tell them Shawna from Shawna and LaLa on the Radio sent you. Enjoy an appetizing meal, great service and a relaxing atmosphere while watching the fish interact with the diners and each other while you savor an under-the-sea dining experience you won’t soon forget.
To learn more about The Aquarium Restaurant visit https://www.aquariumrestaurants.com/