Ivar’s turns 70
by Sue Frause
Ivar's Mukilteo Landing Credit: Sue Frause
No doubt Ivar Haglund would be whoopin’ it up over Ivar’s 70th anniversary celebration this year. Unfortunately, the colorful Seattle restaurateur died in 1985 at the salty old age of 89. Now the longest-standing seafood restaurant chain in Puget Sound, Ivar’s got its start in 1938 as Ivar’s Fish Bar on Seattle’s Pier 54. Back then, the menu featured fish and potatoes (now called fish ‘n chips), along with shrimp and oyster cocktails. Today, that simple fish ‘n chip stand has morphed into full service restaurants, seafood bars, and Ivar’s Seafood, Soup & Sauce Company.
Whidbey Islanders have a love-hate relationship with Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing. In its previous life, it was Taylor’s, a family-owned resto located at the ferry landing from the 1940s to the 1980s. My husband and I spent many a night in Taylor’s lounge awaiting our late night boat back to the island. Things got pretty exciting one evening in the 1970s when somebody phoned in a bomb threat. We all high-tailed it out of there and onto the next boat, expecting to see the whole place go up in flames. Fortunately, it was a hoax.
No, the reason we sometimes don’t like Ivar’s is what I call the Whidbey 15. It’s not a group of radical islanders, but my unscientific guestimate of the number of pounds that commuters gain over the course of a few years. I mean, where else do you have an almost complete meal before driving home for dinner with the family? Granted, it might just be a small cup of Ivar’s clam chowder, with plenty ‘o crackers on the side. Plus, we all know that food consumed in a ferry line doesn’t count toward one’s daily caloric intake. It’s the same as eating while standing or watching TV; those calories don’t count. But ferry riders consume more than chowder. The real pros return to their cars loaded down with fish ‘n chips, ice cream cones, and bottles of beer buried in brown paper bags.
Thanks to Mother Nature, we were all chowder-free for a few years as a result of the big windstorm of 2003 that damaged and closed down Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing. I happened to be out of town that day and called my husband to see what was going on. He was at the ferry dock in Mukilteo just as the winds unleashed their power and shouted, “She’s goin’ down! She’s goin’ down!” Although Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing was hit really hard, nobody was injured, and it didn’t sink to the bottom of the sea. It reopened in 2005.
We’ve been slurping chowder ever since.