No story of Seattle seafood restaurants can be told without mention of two fish house giants that wrote history and left their salty fingerprints all over the model. Seventy-five years ago Ivar Haglund, an aquarium operator with a taste for clams and a gift for self-promotion, began peddling fish-and-chips and clam chowder out of his dockside business at Pier 54. In 1946 he traded up and launched Ivar’s Acres of Clams (ivars.com), a white-tablecloth destination all about the oysters Rockefeller and the lobster thermidor. But Ivar—a hustler who loved nothing better than a prank as a publicity stunt—was a populist at heart, and the enduring soul of his operation remains the fast-food fish-and-chips and chowder bars his operation planted across the state, ballparks to airports. From his punning ad campaigns to his Fourth of Jul-Ivars fireworks display; his middlebrow fried seafood to his not-so-subtle hint that clam nectar was, er…invigorating for men—Ivar Haglund brought seafood to the people.
Budd Gould saw that and raised it when he opened his Anthony’s HomePort (anthonys.com) on a pretty piece of Kirkland waterfront in 1976. The ’70s saw big doings in seafood chains—the Portland-based McCormick and Schmick’s (mccormickandschmicks.com) opened here, particularly serious about its oysters; Duke Moscrip opened Duke’s (dukeschowderhouse.com), and still travels to Alaska himself to select some of the seafood his team prepares for the masses in six locations. But the seminal endeavor was Anthony’s, which over three and a half decades would spawn 19 dinner houses, six variously named cafes and grills (including the atmospherically irresistible Chinook’s at Fishermen’s Terminal), and three takeout fish bars. Sure, Anthony’s aims its pitch squarely at the guy who prefers his fish with a thick sauce, a double scotch, and a view of the sea—but Gould values his product, and in 1984 Anthony’s opened its own wholesale seafood company at Pier 91 to ensure quality and freshness of fish. Good seafood for the people.