Brian Canlis

Restaurateur

Seattle

Brian Canlis owns and operates Canlis, which has been in his family since his grandfather established the restaurant in 1950. But Canlis wasn’t always there helping run the family business. His education took him everywhere from New York to Austria, and Canlis joined the Air Force and lived in Alaska, Japan, Kyrgyzstan and Korea before landing his final assignment: leading an elite protocol squad that played host to world leaders and international heads of state. While he loved his Air Force One gig, Canlis returned home to Seattle to join his brother and take the reins of the family-owned restaurant. That was in 2005, and he remains a major player in the Seattle culinary scene. Canlis has appeared in everything from saluting the president on CNN to being a guest judge on Bravo TV’s Top Chef.

  • On March 11, 2013
    Brian Canlis answered the question: Brian Canlis

    Who is Brian Canlis’ favorite traveling companion?

    I have been to China with Will Guidara. We’ve been to India together. We like to go to these exotic locations, just the two of us, and rough it, eat great food, discover and explore. Even in college, one of my favorite trips, we went to New York for the day and ate at as many restaurants as we could — I think we hit something like 20. We’re very spontaneous and a little bit crazy in the way that we travel together. We just went to St. Martin together, which is not as adventurous, but lots of relaxing and snorkeling. We just love traveling together. We do really well.
  • On March 11, 2013
    Brian Canlis answered the question: Brian Canlis

    What does Brian Canlis always travel with?

    A great pair of headphones is worth investing in. One of my favorite things to do — especially when I’m traveling alone — is to be out in a city, or even in an airport, put on great music and have it be like your soundtrack. You’re in your own world and you’re just walking and you’re experiencing, and, yet, all you hear is this amazing music. I don’t like the big bulky ones; but like a really nice pair of in-ear headphones that are noise canceling. On the airplane, they’re awesome. To add a soundtrack to any great city is so amazing. It’s the best.
  • On March 11, 2013
    Brian Canlis answered the question: Brian Canlis

    What’s the best trip Brian Canlis has ever taken?

    I did a road trip through Scotland with my two older brothers on a quest to find the greatest whisky. We took an old blue van and traversed the entire country. We had a Frisbee — that’s a theme in my life — and snuck on to famous golf courses, throwing a Frisbee and playing Frisbee golf, then went to great distilleries. We went to all the different regions around the country finding our favorite dram of whisky. Just bonding with my brothers, road tripping and the nostalgia of that, it was a pretty amazing trip.
  • On March 11, 2013
    Brian Canlis answered the question: Brian Canlis

    What does Brian Canlis wear when he travels?

    I always wear lots of layers. I’m either really hot or really cold on an airplane. So instead of fighting someone for a blanket, I just wear lots of layers and I can regulate my own heat. I love wearing things that don’t wrinkle, that are really comfortable and that I can shed. You can still look good doing that; it’s just I’m not wearing a blue blazer anymore.
  • On March 11, 2013
    Brian Canlis answered the question: Brian Canlis

    What is Brian Canlis’ favorite airline?

    I once flew El Al to Israel, which was such an exciting experience because it’s just this crazy thing where you’ve never felt safer and more scared at the same time.

    When I was a kid, our parents made us put on slacks and blazers to go travel on airplanes because it was this formal experience. It was really important. We had to have manners. There was this elegance to air travel that I miss. I recently flew Lufthansa and I got a whiff of that again. So I think if I could fly any airline, it would be Lufthansa because they still have this crispness to the uniforms and this way about them. It evokes the past that’s elegant and classy.
  • On March 11, 2013
    Brian Canlis answered the question: Brian Canlis

    What are Brian Canlis’ favorite restaurants?

    Obviously, I’m partial, especially to Eleven Madison Park. And full disclosure: Will Guidara was my roommate in college and one of my best friends to this day. We constantly spar back and forth to each other, send photos of food, and steal each other’s secrets. There are many things in his dining room that are directly stolen from mine, and I steal things from him all the time. I stole my chef from him; I took Daniel Humm’s sous chef as my executive chef. They just challenge us in an amazing way.

    The most surprising and exciting restaurant experience I’ve had was probably in Shanghai at Din Tai Fung. But it does soup dumplings that elevate you to a different level of consciousness. I’ve never been happier eating food than I was having soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung. You have to wait in line forever and it’s worth every second.

    There’s a restaurant on Lummi Island, which is in Washington State, called The Willow’s Inn. You have to drive a couple hours from Seattle and then take a ferry that holds about 10 cars to get to this restaurant. It’s a young chef named Blaine Wetzel, who trained at Noma for many years. He’s kind of doing Noma, but in his own very Northwest cool way on this little island, where they’re foraging everything from this island. The seafood is mind-blowing. It’s one of the greatest tasting menus, I think, on the West Coast right now. It’s really worth a journey.

    I’m kind of blown away by Meadowood right now down in Napa. Chris Kostow is killing it. I think we’re doing great things, then I go have dinner there and I want to cry and hit my head on the table. They continually are pushing to the next level. I love Meadowood right now.
  • On March 11, 2013
    Brian Canlis answered the question: Brian Canlis

    What are Brian Canlis’ favorite hotels?

    I love The NoMad in New York City. It’s one of those rare hotels where the room service is delicious, like you’re not getting second-rate food by not going downstairs. The breakfast I had delivered to me at The NoMad was one of the greatest breakfasts of my life — that’s not an exaggeration. I was like, “Are you kidding me? Is anyone seeing this? I’m having room service and this food is blowing my mind.” And it’s the rare hotel that does service. I know it’s run by restaurant guys; but they do service from a very hospitality-embracing type of way. It’s less stiff, it’s more friendly; but yet they bend over backward for you. I’ve never seen that combination in a hotel like The NoMad.

    I’m also really partial to a property in Scotland called Dunkeld — I was married there. It’s literally like a several-hundred-year-old chateau. And it’s not fancy, but it’s just a giant embrace of old Scotland. You walk in and an old lady pours you a dram of whisky as a welcome. You take your dram to the front desk, and it’s so classy and elegant. It’s on the River Tay, and you can fish for salmon right there. You can throw a Frisbee on the great lawns. Dunkeld is magical. Next door are the ruins of a cathedral that are some of the most beautiful thousand-year-old church ruins I’ve ever seen. It’s just a special place. It’s magical.
  • On March 11, 2013
    Brian Canlis answered the question: Brian Canlis

    What are Brian Canlis’ favorite cities to visit?

    My first is probably New York. It’s kind of cheesy, but the streets really do make you feel brand new like that [Jay-Z] song. To be in New York is energy, and it’s inspiration, and it’s challenge on a business level, on a professional level. Everything they do in New York is at such a high level. I just love going to New York.

    I love San Sebastian. I was just there last summer with my wife. It has everything — it has history; it has world-class dining; it has beaches. It’s just a great city to explore. San Sebastian is amazing.

    Probably the friendliest city I’ve ever been to in the world is Krakow in Poland. It’s surprisingly welcoming — the hospitality and the people. The food is delicious. The city itself is actually surrounded by a park — a circular park — and these old city walls. So you can actually walk around the entire city in about 30 minutes — it’s really small — in a park the whole time. It’s amazing. I had such a good time in Krakow.

    Anywhere in Japan. There’s something about Japan that is so special. Things make sense in Japan: There’s order and there’s harmony. People wait in line, in like a single-file line — it’s my favorite thing. They find beauty in every detail. The food is so delicious. I just love being in Japan. I’ve been to countries all over the world; it feels the most away from home for me. I really left America when I went to Japan; I just love that.
  • On March 11, 2013
    Brian Canlis answered the question: Brian Canlis

    What are Brian Canlis' favorite Seattle neighborhoods?

    Ballard is like five minutes from Seattle. It’s part of Seattle; but they have these “Free Ballard” bumper stickers, like “Free Tibet” because they want to be their own independent nation. It’s originally like a Nordic fishing village. They’re just independent, fiery and wonderful. Probably my favorite restaurant scene is in Ballard, and the bars, the nightlife. It’s on the water. It’s like brick streets. It’s perfect.

    Capitol Hill is super hip and trendy. It’s a fight between Ballard and Capitol Hill on who has the better restaurant scene. Capitol Hill is a little bigger, a little louder and a little crazier, so I’m a little more on Team Ballard between the two. But you can’t go wrong if you hang out in Ballard or Capitol Hill.

    Another one that is really great is Fremont, which is just below our restaurant. They’re a little bit crazy in Fremont. They’re wonderfully hippy-ish. They have this parade where they all get naked and ride their bicycles through the city. It’s so laidback and fun. Great restaurants in Fremont. They’re fun and crazy.

    Then you have to love Queen Anne, which is probably the calmest of all of them. But in Queen Anne, you get views of the ocean and of the city. You get great little shops and boutiques, and great little restaurants. It’s the most beautiful of the neighborhoods. It’s the most expensive, but it’s wonderful.