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Ivar’s Famous Tartar Sauce

June 7, 2015

By Kath Dedon

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People in Seattle have been enjoying Ivar’s Famous Tartar Sauce since 1938. That’s when Ivar Haglund opened a small fish and chips stand on the Seattle waterfront. By 1946 his business was doing well but he realized that people wanted a sit-down restaurant so he opened Ivar’s Acres of Clams. Ivar’s Acres of Clams is still on the waterfront, although it is temporarily closed for the city’s seawall restoration project. Ivar’s website advises to “Keep Clam”; they’re planning to reopen on July 1, 2015.

Fortunately for Ivar’s fans, people have been able to get their Ivar’s fix during this closure at one of the many other venues. There are two other restaurants, seafood bars, and seafood stands at the major sports venues in town.

Throughout his career, Ivar was one of the greatest cheerleaders for the Pacific Northwest. He was famous for his puns, wacky publicity stunts, and later for his television commercials. He was truly a beloved Seattle character. He died in 1985 at the age of 79 but his legacy lives on with his restaurants and seafood company.

In December 2013 I went to a Tom Douglas Cookbook Social with Joan, Laura, and Carrie. Bob Donegan, the current President of Ivar’s, Inc., was there with a newly published cookbook celebrating Ivar’s 75 years, Ivar’s Seafood Cookbook, the O-fish-al Guide to Cooking the Northwest Catch by “The Crew at Ivar’s” and Jess Thompson. He was also serving samples of Chris Garr’s House-Made Bacon-Wrapped Halibut which was delicious. I made a mental note that I wanted to check out the book. Laura secretly bought an autographed copy and surprised me with it for my birthday a few weeks later!

The cookbook is a delightful history of Ivar’s with lots of photos, historical information, cartoons, and trivia. It’s a fun look at the past for anyone who was in Seattle in the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. Jess Thompson is credited for all of the puns that are in the book. They really capture the spirit of Ivar Haglund.

I made Ivar’s Famous Tartar Sauce and it worked really well with my Homemade Dungeness Crab Cakes. Making your own tartar sauce means you get to control the ingredients. I wanted to make an egg-free version so I subbed a vegan mayonnaise for regular mayonnaise. Serious Eats did a taste test of 4 different brands of vegan mayonnaise and Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo came out on top. I have to say that it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between it and regular mayonnaise.

Ivar’s Famous Tartar Sauce is great with seafood, but it would also be a delicious dip for vegetables or French fries. The cookbook even suggests adding some lemon juice and using it as a dip for asparagus. If you like being in charge of the ingredients in your food, I think you’ll enjoy this one. And if you love seafood and would like a glimpse into mid-century Seattle, I highly recommend Ivar’s Seafood Cookbook!

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Ivar's tartar sauce

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Ivar’s Famous Tartar Sauce

(Adapted from the recipe in Ivar’s Seafood Cookbook)

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(print the recipe)

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Makes 2 cups

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¼ cup chopped yellow onions

2 tablespoons chopped green bell pepper

2 tablespoons dill pickle relish

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1½ teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups mayonnaise  (Use a vegan mayonnaise for vegan or egg-free.)

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Unsweetened pickle relish

pickle relish

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1. Put everything except the mayonnaise in a food processor and process for 10 seconds. (A small 3-cup capacity food processor works fine.)

small food processor

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2. Add the mayonnaise and process for an additional 15 seconds.

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Finished tartar sauce made with egg-free (vegan) Just Mayo

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Ivar's Famous Tartar Sauce

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. roberta permalink
    August 28, 2016 4:28 pm

    Closest to Ivars I have had. To try new today adding 1/8 tsp capers

    • August 28, 2016 5:12 pm

      I like the idea of adding capers, Roberta! Thanks for your comment.

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