It's been nearly a decade since brothers Mark and Brian Canlis led puzzle fans on a scavenger hunt across the city, a level of hijinx that seems utterly foreign in this moment of coronavirus-driven shutdowns. Now, three weeks into its new persona as a dinner delivery service, the 70-year-old fine dining landmark wants to, in the words of Mark Canlis, "bring the city together for one night to play a game."
With so many restrictions binding our lives right now, he says, "let's talk about what we can do." What Canlis can do, apparently, is bust out its bingo set—an after-hours favorite among the staff—and put on a weekly game. Starting this past week, everyone who orders a Canlis meal delivery, cocktail kit, or CSA box receives a pair of the bulk bingo cards previously socked away in Canlis storage. Each Friday night at 8:30, Mark Canlis and his cohorts will take over the livestream feed, call those numbers, and award the winner a Canlis CSA box, gift card, and two rolls (fancy!) of "double ply premium Canlis toilet paper." The website has more specifics, plus some fine print for folks who want to play without purchase. Brian Canlis estimates the restaurants dispatches around 350 food and cocktail deliveries each evening, which means 700 cards in circulation each night.
Even if you don't plan to play, watching the livestream promises entertainment of a very different sort than the nightly Canlis piano feed. Team Canlis turned wood left over from this summer's pool party deck into a backdrop, and pressed a salad bowl into service to hold the numbered balls. "It's not a TV show," Mark warns about the production value. The silliness is the point, says Brian, in hopes viewers feel permission to experience a little joy in an era otherwise marked with uncertainty and struggle.
The restaurant made national headlines when it rapidly shed its fine dining persona to serve burgers and bagels in the early days of the coronavirus onslaught. Then it shifted to its current no-contact family meal and CSA model. The bingo game, says Mark, is part of the brothers' ongoing attempt to "Canlisize" the program. "We're really good at reinventing our own stuff."