You Don’t Have to be Rich…

But you do have to plan well to go to fancy restaurants.

Ouch. It’s painful when you go into a restaurant, expecting to only spend a certain amount – then, after the meal, walk out feeling quite a bit poorer than when you walked in. That’s what happened last date night. And it was totally my fault. I should have read the fine print on the Entertainment Book webpage for Ivar’s.

Here’s what it said that I didn’t see:

“Enjoy $10 off with a minimum purchase of forty dollars”

Just looking at this lighthouse makes me happy

I was so proud of myself. Mukilteo was the “date night jar” pick, and it was a gorgeous day. Our kids were going to a friends’ house. I was all dressed up in heels, but was well prepared ahead of time with a spare pair of walking shoes in the trunk of the car for our walk after dinner. What could possibly go wrong?

Our budget! It went waaaay wrong. And I feel like I failed you all. The $20 Dollar Date Night police have wanted signs up everywhere with my mug shot on them. I violated the laws of saving money on Date Night. I did not commit to my principles.

Truthfully, that isn’t the full story, though. See, not being a true Washington native, like Hubby – (I lived in California till I was fourteen), I had never been to Ivar’s before last weekend. Oh boy, here it comes. The horror, the gasps. I’m such a phony, aren’t I?

Ivars Fish Bar

Well, it’s true. I had always thought of Ivar’s as a casual, cozy, fish and chips place; which would easily fit into the parameters of $20 Dollar Date Night – especially armed with our Entertainment Card. Here’s where I got a little mixed up: in Mukilteo – they have Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing, which I now know consists of not only the casual walk-up fish bar (a cute little unpretentious place), but also….a few steps further, there’s Ivar’s classy sit-down restaurant, as in $38 dollar entrée classy.

We were seated at a table with a gorgeous water view. Fancy water glasses and stiff napkins…and fear engulfed me as I opened the menu.

What a view!

“Honeyyyyyyyyy…..” Hubby said, his eyes widening as he stared at the menu. He made mock choking sounds, not realizing our waiter was behind him, coming to introduce himself. I did the “married for almost sixteen years, he’s right behind you look” – and Hubby figured it out instantly.

“Can I start you off with some beverages, tonight?” Our waiter asked politely, dreaming of the hoardes of dollars he would gain by serving us well. Or so he thought. Truly, I felt bad to disappoint him. We were strangers in a strange land…of very expensive fish and chips.

I wanted the bottomless lemonade. Hubby wanted to try the non-alcoholic German beer. I gave in, and we ordered the beer. Since we quickly figured out what we could afford on the menu (about three things), we were ready to order.

“I’ll have the prosciutto-wrapped Halibut,” I said feeling snobby just saying it.

“Are you aware that’s an appetizer? Would you like to make that an entrée?” The waiter invited. I was like a fish about to bite, ready to take the bait.

“No, she’ll be fine. We’re going to split some of the fish and chips anyway,” Hubby rushed in, flashing an “I’ll get you later” glance at me.

“Okay,” our waiter said.

“Have you tried our Halibut fish and chips? It’s a little bit crispier than the cod.”

“No thanks, I’ll get the regular fish and chips,” Hubby said.

As the waiter walked away, Hubby pointed to the menu and showed me the difference in price between the cod and the halibut…about three dollars. Also, making my meal and entrée would have added an extra several dollars…and we were already over budget. My order was $16, and Hubby’s was $16. And the beer? $3.50. At this point, we still thought we had a buy-one, get-one free Entertainment offer…but in reality, before what we’d later discover was only $10 off, we were at $35.50, and that was before tip.

The nautical themed hallway

While we waited for our food, we brainstormed ways that we could swing going to a nice place like this and not break the bank. It felt like we were on a cruise ship, with rugged waves, churning against the waterfront deck, right outside the window a few feet away. Outboard boat motors hung all around, and Hubby, who grew up on a lake, identified all of them with the thrill and enthusiasm of a teenager. A wood carved sturgeon leapt in the air a few tables away from us.

The bar was semi-enclosed, and looked like it belonged on a ship, too. Even the restrooms had galley windows.

“We’ve never gone over budget this much,” I said to Hubby. “What will our readers think?”

“Keep clam,” he said, referring to the Ivar’s slogan signs all around us, and smiling.

Just a few minutes later, the waiter arrived with dinner. My halibut was delivered on a slender rectangular plate. It was a nice, chunky slab of seared fish, wrapped delicately, and placed atop a small cut of moist hot bread. Artsy, Picasso-like swirls of balsamic vinegar and a mustard-colored sauce danced around my meal.

Oh boy, this looks like three bites of gourmet food; and I’m going to have to go home and have a bowl of cereal after this, I thought.

The halibut was delicious, and melted in my mouth. The flavor of the feathery-light fish blended well with the bread and sauce. The prosciutto added a nice accent.

Hubby was still chowing down, when I took the last bite of my meal. He felt sorry for me and donated a few pieces of fish and chips. Very sweet.

When we went to pay, the waiter leaned forward and reminded us that we hadn’t reached our limit of $40, which was a requirement to get the $10 discount. He suggested we order dessert. That was when we realized my mistake in not reading the fine print on the Entertainment Card. So, we did order dessert….carefully. I ordered the small serving of apple crisp and Hubby ordered coffee. That tacked enough onto our bill to get us the discount. And, long story short – we were out of there $45 dollars later.

So, life goes on. These things happen. Rather than eat beans and rice for the next two weeks, we’ve decided to cut back on other costs to make up for it.

Honestly, this place was really cool. But next time, we’ll be sure to come for happy hour. And, from what I saw advertised on their website – they’ve got great deals for happy hour. Other options would be coffee and dessert-only; or just visit their casual fish bar and eat at the spectacular Mukilteo Light House park. The view and atmosphere in the restaurant really are worth it, though.

The ferry, the water, the sunset. Who could ask for more on date night?

After our dinner – we walked out onto the dock, and hubby snapped some amazing shots of the ferry coming in from Whidbey Island. We had a nice, relaxing walk on the beach, and I forgot to wear the shoes I brought to walk in. The firepits along the park’s waterfront were all lit and roaring. Groups of people were laughing and talking and celebrating the long awaited arrival of a semi-warm spring day. It made us smile to see lots of couples sitting on driftwood, just leaning next to each other and watching the waves. Mukilteo Lighthouse Park is my happy spot; and I have a feeling Hubby and I will come here many times together this spring and summer.

By the way, in accordance with Date Night Rule # 9, we gave our waiter a generous

Another gorgeous beach view

tip. He did his job well, and was patient and courteous with us; which really helped to make our over-budget experience a lot more comfortable. He was a good salesman, but didn’t reduce himself to being condescending and pushy.


  • Atmosphere (romantic appeal): 5. Classy restaurant and views all around. You can’t beat that.
  • Beach: 5. Beautiful views, open water, firepits, natural driftwood on the shore to sit on, perfect weather, sunset, ferries, a lighthouse….everything you need for a romantic date night.
  • Food: 5. Very tasty. These guys know what they’re doing here.
  • Budget Friendly: 2 (during dinnertime). It would have been a 4 during Happy hour.
  • Fun and Unique: 3. It was a little stressful going over budget, but it was still a very nice experience.
  • Memorable:5. Ivar’s is memorable for it’s nice surroundings and delicious food. I could tell a lot of care was taken by the chef to cook our food properly. Beach walk –  very memorable. We are looking forward to many more of these!

Posted in Budget Fail, Entertainment Book/Card, Mukilteo, Seafood Tagged with: , , , , , ,

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Christy Pessemier, Freelance Writer

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