There used to be a restaurant in my area that was my favorite place to go out to eat. The food wasn't that great, the place was painted in shades of brown that looked rather dingy most of the time and sometimes I wondered about the attention paid to cleaning the place. However, back in the day when dining out was fun, we'd wander on up to that place for fish fries or for a middle of the week burger and fries.
There were evenings when there was no room in the parking lot and we'd have to park down the road. Sometimes the line of people waiting to get in would be out in the parking lot. It was the one place locally where it was best to make reservations. Even then sometimes there'd be a wait for your reserved table, you had to get into the building in order to tell the hostess that you were there. Wasn't always easy when folks were waiting, they didn't like the idea of letting you in the door ahead of them.
After reading that, you're probably sitting there scratching your head and wondering what the hell was the attraction? Why go somewhere that appears to have nothing to recommend it? Well, you see, there were the fish tanks. I think there were 8 of them set into the walls in the dining areas. Some of them were set in a manner that they created a nook where 2 or 3 small tables were set up. For us, this was amazing. I'm not sure any of us, in this small city, understood that leasing of fish for restaurants was a big business. At least I didn't and no one ever mentioned it to me.
What surprised me about my fascination with those fish tanks was that I have never been interested in owning a home aquarium. I don't ever remember bothering to look at the tanks or the fish my friends spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars on. Up until the tanks in the restaurant, my experience with fish was of the edible kind. Mostly haddock, whiting, pollock, trout, perch, bass and the occasional bullhead. I even know that in Massachusets they don't have bullhead. They have horned pout. Same fish, different name. Confusing? Yeah!
When the place was really busy, you'd have a long wait for your food. A wait that no one ever complained about because we'd wander around and stare at the fish. I was competely enthralled by those tanks. They were filled with lush vegetation and some of the most beautiful and the ugliest fish I'd ever seen. No matter how many times we went there, I honestly don't believe I got to see all the fish that lived there.
One night we were going to have a burger and fries. When we got there the place was closed. It seems that the manager, in an attempt to build the Friday and Saturday night bar crowd up, introduced a game called beer pong. He discovered, hopefully to his dismay, that 21 year old booze filled kids and fish tanks don't mix. Since these weren't his tanks nor his fish, the cost to replace what got damaged was prohibitive. It wiped them out and they were out of business.
A few months later someone else reopened the restaurant with the same not so great food, dingy interior, inattention to cleanliness and no fish tanks. I don't think he was open 6 months. Which makes me wonder about all of us that ignored the possibility of ptomaine poisoning just to watch those fish. To the best of my knowledge, no one got sick. Except maybe the fish who were stuck watching us eat...fish.