Canlis, Seattle, Washington

One of the most beautiful modernist restaurants in the country, Canlis still retains many features from its original late 40s design by architectural firms Wimberly & Cook and
Tucker, Shields & Terry for restaurateur Peter Canlis (who had previously opened the Canlis’ Charcoal Broiler in Waikiki, Hawaii, in 1947). Opened in 1950, Canlis’ Charcoal Broiler (now just Canlis) in Seattle was the ultimate in swank, with a soaring roofline, rock walls, and a porte-cochère, de rigueur in the 1950s for arriving in style in your Cadillac.


Canlis' Restaurant Seattle WA

postcard by hmdavid on


At one time there was even a small illuminated tiki to greet you as you drove up, and other tikis in the restaurant and on the grounds.


image by Dustycajun on Tiki Central (


In the 1950s Canlis featured an open kitchen, charcoal broiled steaks, mahi-mahi flown in from Hawaii, and fresh local oysters served by Kimono-wearing Japanese waitresses in a dining room filled with rock walls, an open beamed ceiling and massive plate-glass windows overlooking Lake Union.



image by Dustycajun on Tiki Central (


In the late 1990s I visited Canlis. Although I was impressed by the building, the contemporary decor from a 1996 remodel didn’t go well with the modern design of the building. We were on a budget which didn’t allow for dining there (it was perhaps the most expensive restaurant in Seattle), so we just had a cocktail in the lounge and vowed to return another time for dinner. Alas, it was before digital cameras so I don’t have pictures. The good news is that a few years later they remodeled again and the redesign is much more appropriate for the space. The decor is simple, highlighting the incredible rock walls, wooden beams, and expansive windows. They honor the amazing building by showcasing a vintage photo and a recent one on the restaurant’s web site. It’s still owned by the Canlis family, who seem to really care about their history, food, service, and customers. Reports are that the food (Pacific Northwest cuisine) is better than ever, though still very expensive, so save your money for a special night out “old style” when you are visiting Seattle. Oh, be warned: there is a dress code. Gents, wear a jacket (but why not wear a suit and tie?); ladies, wear a dress. Personally, I love that they still have a dress code.


Entrance, image by


2576 Aurora Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 283-3313
Open for dinner only, Mon – Fri, 5:30pm – close, Sat 5:00pm – close, closed Sundays

8 thoughts on “Canlis, Seattle, Washington

  1. Great timing Deano! I’m in the midst of planning a trip to Seattle (Canlis is of course at the top of the list, along with Ray’s, Ivar’s, etc!) followed by a 2-week rail excursion through the Western Rockies via the old Empire Builder to the many historic lodges of Glacier Nat’l Park! I can’t wait!!

    • Sounds great! Do not miss 13 Coins near Sea-Tac airport and Randy’s Coffee Shop near the must-see Aviation Museum.
      I took the train to Glacier a few years ago and loved it. You should stay at least part of the trip at Many Glacier lodge because it’s in the most spectacular setting of the lodges.

  2. Oh for sure, we’re doing all the historic lodges, first by train from East Glacier to West, incl. Belton Chalet, Izaak Walton Inn and Glacier Park Lodge. Then renting a car to drive up to the Two Medicine Hat area of the Park. Then up to Many Glacier Hotel for a few nights, then further North to the Canadian side of the border for a couple of nights at the Prince of Wales Hotel, and then cutting back to the Western end of the Park with overnight stops at the Rising Sun Motor Inn, Lake McDonald Lodge and another night at Village Inn at Apgar. Then one final stop at the Historic Tamarack Lodge in Hungry Horse before flying out of Kalispell. We’re also doing the overnight hike from Lake McDonald to the historic Sperry Chalet for 1-2 nights. I can’t wait!!

    13 Coins looks like it’s been SERIOUSLY remodeled recently and the interior is BAD from what I’ve seen online! I had that on my itinerary for the longest time but struck it from the list for that reason. This is why I don’t like to put off these kind of trips for too long – you never know how long these places will be around!

  3. It’s a full year away (Aug. ’14) but I’ve already ordered this book – “View with a Room: Glacier’s Historic Hotels & Chalets”

    Can’t seem to find anything about Randy’s Coffee Shop, are you sure it’s still around?

    We’re also looking forward to Needle & Thread / Tavern Law, Oliver’s Lounge at the Mayflower Park Hotel, Sun Liquor and sunset cocktails in the Space Needle, of course! Seattle has a lot of newer speakeasies but most of them look like crap compared to what we’ve got in CA.

    Should I definitely add the Aviation Museum as well?

    It’s my first time in Seattle and these are the sites/sights I was bent on visiting:

    • The Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass
    • Pike Place Public Market
    • Ballard Avenue Historic District
    • Hiram M. Chittenden / Ballard Locks
    • Fisherman’s Terminal
    • Pioneer Square and Skid Road Historic District
    • Klondike Goldrush National Historical Park
    • Pioneer and Hoge Buildings
    • Northern Life Tower and Cobb Buildings
    • Smith Tower Observation Deck
    • Kerry Park
    • Times Building
    • Paramount Theatre
    • Coliseum Theater
    • ACT Theatre/Eagles Auditorium
    • Capitol Hill District
    • Harvard Belmont Landmark District
    • University of Washington
    • Burke Museum
    • EMP Museum
    • Seattle Art Museum
    • Volunteer Park and Conservatory
    • Kubota Gardens
    • Washington Park Arboretum
    • Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall
    • Seattle Public Library
    • Museum of History and Industry
    • Architectural Driving Tour of Mid Century Modern Homes in the Bellevue Hilltop Community
    • Egan House Tour

    We’re only staying 2/3 nights before boarding the Empire Builder at King Street Station and heading West into the Rockies. We’re staying at the historic Sorrento Hotel on Capitol Hill while in Seattle btw.

  4. Re. 13 Coins:

    Change of ownership and 1mil dollar remodel done in 2006. TVs in dining room/bar.

    Have you been since?


    I still can’t ID any Randy’s Coffee Shop online. Sounds like it bit the dust too.

  5. I grew up in Hawaii and Canlis Waikiki was one of the best restaurants in the state. It was also extraordinarily beautiful and an architectural wonder. The melding of modernism with tropical materials and landscaping was magical. I’ve yet to dine at Canlis Seattle. I’m sure it will remind me of its long departed sibling in Waikiki.

    • Lucky you, Peter! I never got to visit it before it closed. From the pictures I’ve seen it was really amazing.

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