Downtown Aquarium: Dining Under the Sea by Stephanie Tate

410 Bagby St. @ Memorial
Houston, TX 77002

April 2004–I love seafood. My family moved from Louisiana, where everyone eats Cajon and seafood. It is almost a tradition to go to a seafood restaurant for when we want to eat out. We sometimes tend to argue about where to go out, since every place seems so much like the next. Our family had been to Pappadeaux Seafood, Red Lobster, and Joe’s Crab Shack. Although all served very good food and we really enjoyed ourselves, the family agreed that we should go to somewhere more special. That’s when the idea to go to the Downtown Aquarium was introduced. I remember my parents talking about it with my aunts and uncles. “I’ve never been there before and I’m not ready to waste my hard earned money on something I will not like,” said my mom. In defense, my Aunt Dentra told about her experience at the “beautiful and very expensive Aquarium” (Thomas). She hadn’t been to the Downtown Aquarium before, but that she been to the one on Kemah Boardwalk. Even with Aunt Dentra’s experience, the family still remained skeptical of the new Aquarium Restaurant. So my aunt decided to look into the new restaurant for us.

The Downtown Aquarium opened in February 2003. It is owned by Landry’s Restaurant Inc. which is also the owner of many other well known restaurants such as: Joe’s Crab Shack, Rainforest Café, Muer Seafood Restaurant and many more. The very spot where the new and improved Aquarium lies is the same spot that use to be the Downtown Fire Department. Now when people drive by they will see, bold and blue, Landry’s new Downtown Aquarium glowing as chronicle writer Louis Parks put it, “like the first TV in a 1960s department store” (Parks). Before there was only one on the Kemah Boardwalk in Houston . Now they have built one closer and even more extravagant than the other. According to the Houston Chronicle it is the “city’s newest big fish to shock tourism pond” (Meyer). This restaurant takes up six acres and cost 38 million dollars to build it. Inside there is a top of the line bar, a ballroom, gift shops, amusements exhibits, and two restaurants. Not to mention the huge 200, 000 gallon fresh and salt water tanks filled with over 200 different kinds of underwater species that people can look at when they enter the building and eat in the restaurants. To top off the water displays, there are many romantic dancing fountains that light up at night. The Aquarium was designed in a way to give the allusion that you are eating underwater. This is the reason for so much water and underwater species. Recently, the owner of the restaurant, Tilman Fertitta, has expressed an interest in bringing two white tigers to the Aquarium. She states in the Houston Chronicle that “It’s a tradition as old as show business: Offer the unusual, and the world will beat a path to your door” (Parks). However, there has been some controversy over the two very rare tigers kept at a restaurant. Hopefully sometime in the near future these two amazing tigers will be seen I their new 150, 000-square-foot fishbowl exhibit at the Downtown Aquarium.

I could tell when we were almost there, because the restaurant shot up out of the earth like a castle. It glowed and seems to overshadow everything around it. It was almost 10: 00 pm and already pitch black outside, which contrasted with the brilliant color from the restaurant, making it stand out even more. The huge Ferris wheel next to it reflected in my little brother’s eyes as he stared in a trance like stage at the turning wheel. I smiled to myself, thinking of what I will see when we actually arrive. Right when we pulled up and paid the 6 dollar parking fee, a “Wave of Fire” erupted from the roof of the Aquarium. For a moment I didn’t know if the building had caught on fire or what. Then my aunt told everyone that it does that on Saturdays at 10: 00 pm . I felt a wave of relief come over me. The fire glowed red, yellow, and orange with the faint blue sparks jumping out of it occasionally. The dancing fountains captured my attention from the moment I walked in. They performed their sparkling routines in such a way that it draws every onlooker like a moth to a flame. The crystal clear liquid moves and sways as if on Broadway, never missing a jump or twirl. When the alluring dance is done, the room fills with the thunder of people applauding. As I walked on, I noticed the bright colorful walls seemed to be moving and shifting all around me. When I took a closer examine, I saw that it wasn’t the wall moving, but rather the deeply condensed fish inside it. There were what looked like thousands of sea life in the walls. Schools of bright gold and black striped fish swam together to give the appearance of one huge fish. To the right of the school stuck, on the glass wall, was a star fish. I walked up to the glass and touched the shockingly cool glass with the palm of my hand. The starfish seemed to know I was there because it shifted to the right, out of the reach from my hand. It was so amazing. I could see all the tiny little teeth on its bottom side swaying as it moves like seaweed in the ocean. Caught up in the elegance of the tiny fishes swimming around, I didn’t notice a medium size tiger shark lurking near the bottom of the wall. A little girl came up to me and pointed at my feet. I looked down and saw nothing until I followed her finger to the wall where the shark was hiding, Stumbling back, I gasp and let out a surprising whimper. I didn’t even see it there. The dark colors of its skin blended in so well with the sand and the dark plant life growing from the bottom. My family saw what happened and was giggling behind me. When I turned around, they suddenly stopped and tried to act as if they weren’t just “cracking: up (laughing).

A woman waiter came, dressed in neatly creased black slacks and a crisp white shirt accented with a colorful tie (that also goes with the theme of the restaurant). She led the way to our table, through walls and walls of fish and up through a spiraling stairway. It was breathtaking, not because of the shape of the stairway, but because the sides or walls of it were like the tanks downstairs. My mouth gaped open as I stared fixated on the fish swimming around me. My mother took one look at me and said, “Close your mouth. You look like a fish.” We both started laughing and continued up the stairs. At the top it opens up into a beautiful circular room filled with wall to wall tables for people with reservations. I could smell the food as I sat down at the table. The waiter brought us our waters while we looked at our menus. It must have taken us a good thirty minutes just to decide on what to order. Everything sounded so good. There was a range of exotic foods such as: Broiled Stuffer Tails, Lemon Shark, Shrimp Scampi, and Oysters Rockefeller. I finally decided in the Shrimp Scampi with a virgin Seaworthy (non-alcoholic beverage). My family and I talked about what we thought about the place so far. It was a mutual agreement that everyone like the place. In about twenty more minutes, our food was ready and on its way out. Three waiters came with huge trays of foods in each hand. My eyes got big as I saw my plate being placed in front of me. My manners were the only thing keeping me from diving right in. I slowly inhaled the delicious smells rising from our table. This was definitely a moment to remember. We bowed our heads and my dad said grace. As soon as we said Amen, we all were ready to eat. The first bite of my Shrimp Scampi was heaven to my mouth. It was perfect and tasted so good. Everyone has so much food leftover that we had to ask for to-go-boxes. I smiled to myself as I watched my elders moving about slowly because they had stuffed themselves to the max. It was nice to go to an up scale restaurant and be satisfied. The waiter came back with our check and my dad’s eyes bugged out when he saw the price he had to pay for the lovely evening. I didn’t think it would be so bad, so I asked to see it and I too was left with my eyes and mouth wide open. My family’s total price was $248. “Well we wanted good food and we got it,” said my dad as he got his wallet out to give the money to the waiter. When the check was paid, we left the restaurant, or should I say we rolled out of the restaurant.

Once safely back at my grandmother’s house ad everyone asleep in their beds, I thought about the wonderful night I just had. I was totally amazed at the quality of the Aquarium. The place was magnificent with the sea life and water displays. Te service was good and most importantly the food taste great. I really enjoyed myself and knew this would be a moment I would never forget. The Downtown Aquarium is an excellent place to go and dine with the ones you love. It is truly an “underwater adventure.”



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