I'm not sure why aquarium bars are so popular in Las Vegas. Perhaps because, after the spinning roulette wheel and blinking slot machines and shrieking around the blackjack table, people want the soothing experience of aquatic life gliding by, smooth, silent and unconcerned.
So, Caesars Palace has its Seahorse Lounge and Mandalay Bay has its Coral Reef Lounge, but the Silverton has the most impressive 117,000 gallons of water of all in its Mermaid Restaurant and Lounge. It contains thousands of fish and tons of coral, maintained by on-staff marine biologists.
Cocktails, food and fish: not a bad reason to get away from the Strip for an hour or two.
The Mermaid Lounge is open to the casino itself, but its aquatic theme sets it apart: the Silverton's trademark lodge-y stone walls are built to undulate like waves, and iridescent blue-green fixtures give an underwater feeling to the light.
The omnipresent flat-screen TVs blaring ESPN and Fox News are here, hung between mini-aquariums and presided over by a life-sized, silver mermaid statue. It also features the most comfortable seats in the Silverton -- an array of high-backed, deep-seated velveteen chairs and couches, as well as lamé chairs with fishtail-shaped backs and the names of prominent sea creatures such as Nemo, Ariel, Flipper, Moby Dick and, uh, Craig embroidered on the back.
The liquid motif carries over to the cocktails, as well: the King Neptune is a modified Long Island iced tea; the Blue Mermaid is a mix of vodka, rum and something blue. But if you're not feeling like a girl-drink drunk, there are 10 beers on tap.
Since the Silverton is off the Strip, the Mermaid Lounge has a local feel to it. The cheerful and chatty bartenders, knows their regulars, who in turn, know the staff by name and schedule. But it's still a Las Vegas casino bar, with hair-sprayed wives waiting for their husbands to finish at the tables; women in tank tops sipping lemon-drop martinis and picking at their mini-pizzas; and dudes with their beards, Bears sweatshirts and Bud Lights. Mixed in are little kids enthralled by the fish and the fish-people, pressing sticky fingers against the glass, their faces rapt with wonder.
The aquarium is fascinating. Hundreds of tiny, electric-blue fish with crayon-yellow tails. Neon-tinted jellyfish swirling in narcotized circles. Stingrays floating backwards, white fins flapping and unfurling, their stomach markings strangely like smiling faces, giving the impression of a submerged Casper the Friendly Ghost.
-- Review by Lissa Townsend Rodgers
More info: No one under 21 allowed in the lounge. Kitchen is open from 11 a.m. - 2 a.m.