Village People

Canlis Channels Summer Camp (and Barbecue) for One Final Pivot

Coming soon: Treehouse tasting menus, outdoor brisket, and care packages from camp. And a remade yurt village.

By Allecia Vermillion March 12, 2021

Bring me your finest bourbon cocktail.

The sun is shining, the cherry blossoms are on the verge, and restaurants all over town are reopening after monthslong winter closures. Meanwhile, Canlis is offering another harbinger of better days to come—a final pivot that leapfrogs from spring straight into summer camp.

“We’re not quite ready to reopen,” says Mark Canlis. Even this week’s big news about 50 percent occupancy doesn’t pencil for a fine dining establishment. This morning the third-generation restaurant released details about how they plan to spend the months before the restaurant reopens—most likely in “early summer.”

So the (presumably very tired) Canlis team came up with a camp-themed interim plan, a mix of high-end dining and relaxed barbecue—even some care packages. It's the final pivot (ugh, hate that word, sorry) from a restaurant that’s reinvented itself as a crab shack, a delivery service, and even a community college over the past year. “It was actually kind of fun to turn the engine back on,” says Mark. “…A little bit.”

Here’s the rundown: The yurt village, a tented outdoor dining situation American Express has put on with a few restaurants around the country, will continue, with a décor change. “That alpine ski feel is not the same when it’s 65 degrees outside and you want to drink a margarita,” says Mark.

Meanwhile, Rainier Industries is erecting a treehouse on the roof of the restaurant’s midcentury Roland Terry building. It will house a single covered table, hanging on the edge of the roofline, and offer “a little bit of old-school Canlis,” says Mark, for people who miss the institution’s traditional fine dining. Rest assured Team Canlis is already punning on the whole “elevated” menu situation. In summary: a single table and a setup sponsored by Dom Perignon—so fitting for a major occasion.

The Canlis Canteen happening in the lower parking lot skews decidedly more casual. Chef de cuisine Celeste Peralez has been running the show since chef Brady William’s departure. She’s a Lubbock native, and the inspiration for a barbecue menu rounded out with beer and bourbon cocktails in the proximity of a campfire.

Finally, Canlis will send camp-inspired care packages to the recipient of your choice, a box filled with goodies from the restaurant and local companies they work with—like coffee from newcomer Pilgrim, or a bud vase made by the potter who makes the restaurant’s (non-outdoor) plates. Mark Canlis likens it to getting a box of homemade cookies and a note from mom right around the time sleepaway homesickness sets in. “This whole experience has been surreal,” he says of the past year, “and everyone’s ready to go home, but it’s not time yet.”

Reservations have begun for the treehouse and the next round of yurt dining. Care packages and the canteen kick off May 3.

Brothers Mark and Brian Canlis have also been busy interviewing chefs. “We have met so many cool people, and it’s definitely in the narrowed-down phase,” says Mark. As Canlis considers what it will be when it reopens to a changed world—not to mention a dramatically different landscape for fine dining, “It brings us a lot of hope and optimism to hear talented people’s enthusiasm for what Canlis could be.”

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