Seattle Times food writer Bethany Jean Clement learned a thing or two about the ins and outs of Canlis when she got embedded as a staffer at the bastion of fine dining. She also spoke extensively with owners Brian and Mark Canlis about how the seating chart for any given evening evolves. Canlis does not promise a window table to anyone — not a CEO nor a Seahawk — for the very humane reason that it just wouldn’t be fair. But there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of getting primo seating.
Go on a weekday: Weekends, obviously, are in high demand — weekdays, according to Brian Canlis, are “so much easier and don’t fill months in advance.” (Why not live a little more and take the next day off?) And in general, he says, it’s best to make reservations online — “All of our availability is visible there, and there’s no risk of staying on hold,” which apparently can occur even at vaunted Canlis. (For your last-minute super-posh dining needs, note that they do get cancellations, so it never hurts to call day-of. “A surprising number of people book tables that way,” he notes.)
Show how gracious you are: Adding a short note to your online reservation conveying your anticipation is an excellent idea. And if you’ve very much enjoyed dining at Canlis in the past, thank them for that sincerely, too — looking over the incoming reservations for one night, Mark Canlis saw a note to this effect and said, “Thank you for the thank you, and for not being entitled.” Proper spelling and punctuation will also get noticed here (for once!).
Make the occasion a special one: Coming to Canlis for a birthday, an anniversary or another special occasion (and letting them know, politely, of course, with your reservation) does get considered in the calculus of the tables. (Mark Canlis noted the reservation of a couple on their honeymoon, saying, “Great! Hopefully first and last!” Later, that couple got an extra little treat.)
Look fabulous: Those who walk in looking like they should be seated at one of the best tables in the house… Canlis doesn’t exactly have a dress code, but they do say this: “We are a dressy, fine dining restaurant and we ask that gentlemen wear a suit or sport coat if possible (pro tip: many of our window tables require one). Specifically, we ask that no casual attire be worn.” Putting the room together is, Mark Canlis says, about “creating energy” — and if you and your date are putting off sparks, you’re a key part.