Arrrrrgh You Serious

Canlis Stages a Secret, Salty Scavenger Hunt

The restaurant's outdoor crab shack comes with a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a voicemail.

By Allecia Vermillion July 24, 2020

If you squint, this could totally be Mark Canlis.

A decade ago, Mark and Brian Canlis celebrated their restaurant’s 60th anniversary with an elaborate scavenger hunt that took clue-seekers all around the city. Fast forward 10 years, to this weirdest of summers. The Brothers Canlis are the figure skaters of restaurant pivots, staging a burger shack, home delivery, a drive-in theater, and now an outdoor crab shack, which bears zero connection to that frenzied era of hidden menus and brain-bending civic riddles.

Or…does it?

Call the voicemail specially set up for the Canlis Crab Shack and you get a voice reciting a directory of hours, reservation specifics, and sample menus in a piratical accent that exudes eye patches and shoulder parrots. You can press 3 to hear more about the crab shack's Covid-19 safety precautions or 6 for something more cryptic: “A clue to me hidden crab pot.”

I don’t want to go full spoiler, but head over to the website and give that number a dial. Then just try to tell me Canlis isn’t back in the scavenger hunt game.

Mark and Brian didn’t want to say much, but confirmed that yes, the elaborate poem that awaits when you press 6 is indeed a clue that leads to a hidden prize. Mark likens it to the weekly bingo night they throw via livestream. The world needs games right now, he says (especially open-air ones). “I want people writing it down and figuring it out with their kiddos on the computer.” But not too easily—and not courtesy of Professor Google. The brothers tested this poem on “one of our smartest friends” who cracked the location in 45 minutes.

As of this writing, the contents of this mysterious crab pot remain unfound. “When you write a riddle for an unknown number of people in a Googling society,” says Mark, “it is hard to make it the right level of hard.”

It should surprise nobody that the Brothers Canlis did YouTube research to select just the right sea shanty to backdrop the clue reading—“being in the restaurant industry looks a little different these days,” says Mark. A friend of an employee offered up a pirate accent nonpareil.

This year marks Canlis’s 70th anniversary; the brothers indeed had grand plans (and apparently an item already hidden in another country that's unlikely to get unearthed any time soon) but this is merely a fun one-off, says Brian Canlis. Maybe a two-off, so it never hurts to dial that number and press 6 every so often after this gets solved.

Back to that crab shack. Dinner reservations continue to sell out at a frustrating warp speed, but Tock still has a bunch of lunch reservations for parties of four.

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