If you’ve gone out to a nice dinner on New Year’s Eve, previous iterations at Canlis should be pretty familiar—two seatings, a tasting menu, impeccable wine pairings. Maybe a tastefully upbeat jazz band. “It’s probably the most profitable night of the year,” says Brian Canlis.
Eleven months ago, as he and his brother Mark passed out hats and prepared the restaurant to ring in 2017, they looked around the dining room. Even at the height of its balloon-clad festivity, Canlis’s New Year’s Eve seemed rather sedate compared to the after-hours parties the sibling co-proprietors and their staff throw for their friends every December. Like the year they brought in Skee-Ball machines and a disco dance floor, or the "Shucho Mouth Nacho Hair" bash, a dual salute to nachos and wigs, complete with a fountain of cascading nacho cheese in lieu of chocolate. The 2015 apres ski–themed affair boasted real snow, real Saint Bernards, polar bear costumes, and a hot tub bubbling out front at the valet.
In Seattle, laments Brian Canlis, “We don’t have galas that are epic." This year the Brothers Canlis threw out the typical New Year’s Eve playbook and transferred the ample creative powers that drive those unofficial fetes over to the main event, this year dubbed Midnight. In lieu of a sit-down dinner, they’ve planned a dance party awash in what Brian terms "discoveries," a bash outfitted in 1950s-era sequins and black tie, a nod to the decade when Canlis was founded. Bonus points for costumes.
And, yep—the guys who once put on a civic-scale scavenger hunt are going big on the element of surprise. Each $350 ticket gets you unlimited food and drinks, plus a host of other things kept mostly under wraps until doors open at 9pm on December 31. Attendees will receive a map as they walk in the door, to ensure nobody misses any of these grand plans, which include transforming the private dining kitchen upstairs into a Dick’s Drive-In. The Brothers Canlis even enlisted the Spady family, owners of the iconic local burger chain, to make sure it's the real deal. "There's going to be a lot of that," says Brian.
The night is loosely inspired by the masquerade ball that New York’s NoMad Hotel throws each Halloween (the site of Brian Canlis’s first date with his now-wife) and the result of nine months of biweekly planning sessions. As for the actual dancing, the restaurant is flying in an eight-piece brass band from New York. Proceeds benefit Big Table, which supports area restaurant and hospitality employees in times of need. “It’s kind of dumb that we’re going to take our most profitable night and not make any money," says Brian. "But it sounds like so much fun.”
Details on the ticketing site are (intentionally) scant, but Canlis.com/midnight is the place to go to get in on this. Tickets won't go quite as fast as that Momofuku Ko dinner, but anyone who's interested best get to stepping.