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Canlis, Seattle, WA (restaurant)

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Street:2576 Aurora Avenue

The Canlis Restaurant in Seattle is one of four restaurants that were owned and operated by Peter Canlis.

The Seattle Canlis opened in 1950 and is still operating today.

The most famous, and most Tiki, of the Canlis restaurants was located in Honolulu. The other two were in Portland and San Francisco.

I have picked up several different postcards from the Canlis restaurant located in Seattle.

Here are two exterior shots, one with a Tiki by the sign.

Here is an interior shot.

A Tiki and some Hawaiian artifacts can be seen.

Here is a Canlis matchbook I have, I love the Tiki art.

Another matchbook advertisting the Honolulu and Seattle locations.


DC, that is a great discovery and very nice report. Love the pictures, you sure do have a lot of cool tiki stuff!


Not really a discovery, there have been posts on this place before. I just got a thread started here on Locating Tiki.

Here is nice write up on the Canlis that Puamana posted some years back from the book "You Can't Eat Mt. Rainier".


Yeah, Canlis is too coooool! Tres Tiki Modern. There is a great rendering of it out there, from the same artist who did the Mai Kai rendering....can someone post that here, please? Don't let DC do ALL the work! :D

So WHO has actually dined in the Seattle one, being that its meal ticket is out of the range of the average mortal?

On 2009-11-06 08:51, bigbrotiki wrote:
There is a great rendering of it out there, from the same artist who did the Mai Kai rendering....can someone post that here, please?

I have never seen that one before, I hope someone out there (Sabu?) can post it.



Damn DC you have the mother lode. Thanks for posting those night shots w/ the '59 and later Caddy's, along all your other postings....well appreciated.

Chub posted on Fri, Nov 6, 2009 3:05 PM

Here's an artist rendering from a book called "Great Restaurants Of The United States and Their Recipes". Book has a copyright date of 1966.

[ Edited by: Chub 2009-11-06 17:15 ]


On 2009-11-06 08:51, bigbrotiki wrote:
So WHO has actually dined in the Seattle one, being that its meal ticket is out of the range of the average mortal?

we've been a few times. you're treated wonderfully, royally almost! ~ the steaks are amazing. the view of lake union is unbeatable. it feels luxurious just to walk inside! and when you depart, magically, your valet-parked car is under the portico for you!


Thanks for posting the rendering, what a great look with the Tiki Torches, the Tiki lurking in the bushes and the Canlis sign. Was that from the Ford cookbook?


Chub posted on Fri, Nov 6, 2009 5:17 PM

I just did a rescan of the image to see if I could get it any clearer. Take a look above. Also added the book info Dusty asked for. Here are a few more of the details...

[ Edited by: Chub 2009-11-06 17:37 ]

Beautiful artwork, Chub! Thanks for the close-up scans.

The Canlis was built at the height of the "Age of The Expense Account" in the 1950s. A LIFE magazine article from 1953 states:

Peter Canlis, who's expensive Canlis Restaurant features the most luscious of Japanese waitresses bearing the most luscious of viands, says frankly, "I came to Seattle, saw that a lot of good expense account money wasn't being spent because there was no place fancy enough to gobble it up - and I was happy to fill the gap."

[ Edited by: Sabu The Coconut Boy 2009-11-06 18:16 ]

Yup, that's it, thanks Chub! Ain't it a beaute. If I ever come up North again, I gotta go.

From Better Homes and Gardens Famous Foods from Famous Places (1964)

"Patrons of Canlis Charcoal Broiler Restaurant can be sure of excellent food prepared from the finest ingredients. The head chef, Joe Ching, coordinates menus and recipes among all three Canlis' restaurants, located in Seattle, Portland, and Honolulu. The Seattle restaurant, opened in 1950, is a contemporary-style building of gray stone and dark stained wood. Its location high above Lake Union allows one of the most dramatic views of city lights and water to be found in Seattle. Diners may look through windows to see tier upon tier of sparkling lights that climb the hills surrounding the dark water of the lake. Each table is softly lighted by a copper-shaded candle; room lights are held to a minimum so the drama of the setting becomes a part of the enjoyment of the dinner. Guests are deftly served by pretty Japanese girls wearing bright colored kimonos. A high point of any Canlis dinner is the pleasure of watching them prepare a Canlis Special Salad from a cart next to the table. With no apologies to Caesar the salad contains mixed greens tossed with croutons, minced bacon and grated cheese. All is blended with a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, a coddled egg, and freshly ground pepper. Other specialties at Canlis are charcoal broiled steaks and chops prepared at the huge, copper-hooded broiler that's a dining room focal point. And a Canlis baked potato is a production in itself. It's freshly baked and topped with butter, sour cream, chopped green onions, Romano cheese, and bacon crumbles. Just as delicious are the poached shrimp and king crab legs served with mock hollandaise sauce. With coffee at the end of a delectable dinner, a cleverly folded napkin containing bright foil-wrapped candies is placed in front of each guest, a pleasant ending to a wonderful dinner."

A nice ad on ebay now...the Hawaii location.

One of the ironies of the changing urban landscape in Waikiki was that this place was turned into a Police station (if memory serves me correctly) before it went the way of all other mid-century Tiki temples in that town.


I've never been here, and I'm 30 and have lived my whole life in Seattle. Always meant to go. Well into the early 90s it held a lingering reputation for being Seattle's most expensive/exclusive restaurant. And, until the Space Needle's restaurant was rebuilt a few years ago into SkyCity and the food improved dramatically, it was the only spot with a great view and (I'm told) great food.

I've walked around the place after closing just to look around the outside, but I'll have to go again and look for tikis. They still have doors decorated (or was it door handles? I saw them on my night visit) by late, great Japanese artist/sculptor George Tsutakawa, who graced Seattle with many wonderful fountains.

I just picked up a nice dinner/dessert menu set from the Seattle Canlis with that great redeging on the cover.


Now that deserves to be "bookmarked"! The Beachbum used the black on white version in one of his tomes already, but this is better!

I hadn't been to Canlis in several years, and I knew from my friend Russell and other sources that they'd done some serious revamping of their cocktail menu. So that plus the fact that I'd never been to the bar itself, and hence hadn't added it to my personal "K-bar" project, inspired me to visit with a few friends last evening.

I knew I could count on Tiki Central for fleshing out some of the background info (and that Puamana's collection would probably be a part of that), and I had a nice chat with Mark Canlis over how Peter Canlis had brought various items and ideas from Hawaii to the restaurant. And I'd just like to point out to anyone visiting the Seattle area that you don't have to drop a small fortune on dinner to check out the place -- they're happy to have you just drop into the lounge for a cocktail or two.

My full review is here.

[ Edited by: monkeyskull 2010-04-22 18:34 ]


Thanks for the bar review, sounds like fun.

Here is another rendering of the Canlis exterior from a Ford Times cookbook.


Just in case you're curious, here are two pics of the Portland Canlis. It was at at the top of the Hilton. And not a tiki in sight.

when I lived in Fremont we used to walk across the Aurora bridge to go have cocktails at Canlis for special occasions. The view across Lake Union, Spectacular! Love the upstairs private party room area. Diggin' these lates postings of artist renderings.

A new postcard, nothing too exciting, just confirmation that the Tiki shown in the illustration was in fact located out front of the restaurant.

What a great looking scene for a moonlight stroll after dinner.


Found a few more old photos of the Canlis online.

Some interiors. The kimono clad waitresses.

The bar with that great rock wall.

Looks like the Tiki was converted into some sort of candelabra.

The exterior with the Tiki

A later picture with some Tiki devolution

The tiki is still there, but the plants are taking over!


Swanky posted on Tue, Aug 2, 2011 6:58 AM

On 2009-11-06 15:05, Chub wrote:
Here's an artist rendering from a book called "Great Restaurants Of The United States and Their Recipes". Book has a copyright date of 1966.

[ Edited by: Chub 2009-11-06 17:15 ]

That illustration is by Al Kocab who did the various illustrations for the Mai-Kai. You have seen his work on postcards and in the calendars. He also designed the table lamps and furniture in the Mai-Kai.

The book you have was written by Leonce and Kay Picot, illustrated by Kocab. Leonce was the marketing person/assistant manager at the Mai-Kai for 10 years from 1957 to 1967. He went on to open many high end restaurants around the country and wrote and edited many books on food.

Come see my symposium at Oasis for more on Leonce and how he left his mark on Tiki culture!

Mai-Kai Memories Series Custom ceramic mugs coming Spring 2011!

[ Edited by: Swanky 2011-08-03 09:48 ]

A nice ad from a 1959 Restaurant industry magazine I have....I do not think I see the tiki, but given
this shot (see early car) was most likely taken after the "new" Canlis' was finished. OGR


Thanks for all of this great detail, everyone! I've lived in Seattle almost three years now, and keep thinking this place looks really intriguing every time I go over the Aurora bridge on my daily commute. This might just have to be the location for our anniversary dinner this year. Thanks for giving me a reason to check it out! I wonder if any of the tikis are still there.

Canlis 1953... I'm wondering could this tiki be the same one that ended up in the bushes by the door or could it have been the one turned into the chandelier behind the bar?

(photo from the Lenggenhager collection)


In a visit to Seattle this month, we stopped by to see Canlis earlier in the day before business hours. Here's a couple of our photos, plus some images from the Interiors Book of Restaurants (which also has images of the Honolulu Canlis, posted over on that thread).

:up: Door handle by George Tsutakawa (see more on him here)!

:up: Looking across the Aurora Bridge, this view is much more overgrown now with trees

:up: Fireplace inside the entrance

:up: The Orchid Bar on the bottom floor, with the bar itself lined with hopu bark from Hawaii

:up: Lounge area in the Orchid Bar

:up: Dining room, also you can see the operational Gas Works across Lake Union, which is now transformed into Gas Works Park

:up: Charcoal broiler in the dining room


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