Relais & Chateaux Restaurant Spotlight: Canlis

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Charles McDiarmid
By Charles McDiarmid, Managing Director
Newsletters6 November 2020


“We fundamentally need one another, and we were made for relationship,” reads an excerpt from Our Story on Canlis’ website. It’s a sentiment that resonates even louder in a time when we are individually feeling separated or isolated, and the public places we’d normally gather, like restaurants, are closed due to COVID-19.

Canlis—a landmark fine-dining destination in Seattle—is backed by over six decades of stories, and in each generation the Canlis family (both the owners and their team), have exceeded “restaurant” expectations. It’s no different in these extraordinary times. Amid the pandemic brothers Brian and Mark Canlis have continued to adapt to what they see their community needs.

Normally any evening (except Sundays) at Canlis is bustling with activity; full with sought-after reservations, exceptional cuisine and live piano music. Named “Seattle’s fanciest, finest restaurant for over 60 years” by The New York Times, Canlis is ranked one of the top 20 restaurants in America by Gourmet Magazine and has a wine list which has won the James Beard Award and Wine Spectator’s “Grand Award Winner” several years running. However, as the Canlis brothers understand it, “fine dining is not what Seattle needs right now.

In the past few months Canlis has offered itself up as a burger drive-thru, a bagel shed, a CSA box and Family Meal home delivery service, Bottle Service, a crab shack and a drive-in movie theatre. It’s held livestream bingo nights and piano playing, and has now embarked upon Canlis Community College, a six-week “semester” of programming with optional food and wine components, but mostly just about exploring Seattle and its history. For the whole family, for their community.

“Instead of thinking of what we couldn’t do, we thought about what we could do,” says Brian in the introductory video to their new pursuit on the Canlis Instagram feed.

And in a time when we are unable to tightly gather at the bar at our favourite restaurant or easily enjoy the convivial atmosphere of collectively dining together, Canlis has continued to surprise us with ways to connect with one another. In their incredible expansion of what we expect, in all their undertakings Canlis reminds us what hospitality is all about: “a friendly and generous reception of visitors, strangers and guests.”

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