museums&MORE Summer 2016
Sea Life & Shopping at Aquarium Restaurant By Zeke Jennings

Treasure Chest Gift Shop part of unusual aquarium dining experience.

There you are, about to dig into a plate of sautéed gulf snapper, jumbo lump crab and avocado Pico de Gallo, and just a few feet away on the other side of a piece of glass is a Blacktip reef shark begging for a bite.

This unique scene isn’t in a seaport; it’s at the Aquarium Restaurant in Nashville, where the nearest major body of water is more than 400 miles away. The Aquarium Restaurant is a dining experience and attraction with enough space to seed hundreds of guests, all with a great view of a 200,000-gallon saltwater tank at the center of the restaurant. It’s located at Opry Mills Mall, adjacent to the historic Grand Ole Opry and massive Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. (Photo Gallery)

Described as An Underwater Dining Adventure,” the Nashville location is one of four Aquarium Restaurants in the United States, with others in Denver, Houston and the original location in Kemah, Texas, which is just southeast of Houston on Galveston Bay. They’re owned by the Houston-based Landry’s Inc., which owns and operates more than 500 restaurants, hotels, casinos and entertainment destinations around the U.S.

Near the entrance of the Nashville Aquarium Restaurant is a 1,000-square-foot Treasure Chest Gift Shop that offers hundreds of sea- and aquatic-themed products, ranging from plush and toys to apparel and jewelry. Ingrid Diaz, who trained in the Landry’s Growth Supervisor Program, has been in charge of the gift shop for four years.

“I always keep my eye out for new ideas and share those with my retail area manager and home office,” she said. “Our home office buyers do attend trade shows all across the U.S.,” Landry’s Visual Team in integral in the buying process, Diaz added.

Treasure Chest Gift Shop has three full-time and two part-time employees. With the mall being in such a high-traffic tourist area, winter holidays, spring break and the summer months are naturally peak times for business.

Part of Diaz and her staff’s responsibilities are to participate and support special restaurant functions, such as the Valentine’s Day-themed Romance Under the Sea, Santa’s Breakfast, Marine Biologist for a Day and special mermaid events. The Aquarium Restaurant also hosts birthday bashes and the staff participates in off-site events around the Nashville area.

Diaz’s goal is to approach every visitor with attentiveness and enthusiasm. “There are no spare guests,” she said. “Every guest. Every time!”

At a Glance

  • Where: Treasure Chest Gift Shop at Aquarium Restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Gift shop: 1,000 square feet and five employees, including three full-time
  • Best-selling categories: Plush, toys and jewelry
  • Restaurant and bar: A seating capacity of 373; the menu is seafood-driven but also includes some chicken and steaks
  • Aquarium: 200,000-gallon saltwater tanks that houses 75 species, including the unusual shovelnose guitarfish
  • Online: and

Zeke Jennings

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