I’m not referring to their quality necessarily but their size. Ivar’s Seafood Bar at Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park is offering Super Clams, apparently for a limited time or perhaps as a promotion for Ivar’s 75th anniversary. Bigger than its regular fried clams, these are king-sized strips, some pieces almost 3 inches long, none of them smaller than two.
A local institution in the Seattle area, the Ivar chain of restaurants is known primarily for fish and chips and, arguably more famously for its New England-style clam chowder. Its motto is ‘Keep Clam.’ Even if I do like their fish, I find myself ordering the clams more often. Regular-sized ones do have a problem. It is that the smaller pieces are mostly batter. While appealingly crunchy, they lack much clam flavor for obvious reasons. So, when my wife and I stopped here after a walk along the park’s beautifully maintained trail along Lake Washington, we had to ask what the Super Clam special was. The cheerful employee explained that the clams consisted of much bigger pieces. Okay, then, good enough for us. I also noticed that two other specials were fried green beans and smoked salmon chowder.
True to their potential, the clams were meaty and full of clam flavor, if a tad rubbery (☆☆☆½). Clam strips seem notoriously susceptible to vulcanization, except that those I had many years ago at Howard Johnson’s in Culver City, California (now closed), were surprisingly light. Ivar’s batter, likely a combination of cornmeal and flour, was crispy and nicely seasoned. These clams were the equal of those we had at the Minute Cafe in Bandon, Oregon, for size and taste.
The fries were crispy and fluffy but under-seasoned (☆☆☆), while the green beans lacked much flavor (☆☆), suggesting they might be frozen beans.
A combination of cream and tomatoes gave the smoked salmon chowder an appealing broth. There weren’t very large pieces of fish in an otherwise tasty, salty soup (☆☆½).
Coulon Beach is a nice location for Ivar’s. At certain times of the year, it might be the most popular in the chain, as lines of hungry customers can snake out the door. During the summer, the park is heavily used. You can eat inside the restaurant, which has a canoe and kayak suspended from the ceiling, or at one of many tables in the large, public covered pavilion next door. If the weather is nice, you have the entire park at your disposal, including picnic tables and bench seats.
I’m hoping that the super clams become a regular part of the menu and available at other Ivar outlets, if it hasn’t already.
Ivar’s Seafood Bar (Coulon Beach location)
1201 Lake Washington Blvd. Ste B
Renton, WA 98055