Originally published May 10, 2011 at 7:00 PM | Page modified May 11, 2011 at 11:52 AM

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Dress up for classy happy hour at Canlis

Canlis may be known for its fine dining menu, but don't miss the quality drinks, memorable nibbles and sweeping views in the bar.

Seattle Times staff reporter


Happy hour |

Our happy hour this week doesn't feature discount chicken wings or discount anything. But there's a piano lounge to unwind by and a sunset view worthy of discussion over some smoked-salmon bites. Their motto is "you can never be overdressed at Canlis."

So recently, decked in my best Hugo Boss suit and Canali shirt, I rolled into Canlis, one of the city's longest-running fine-dining restaurants.

It may also have the only bar in Seattle that doesn't serve any India Pale Ale. No big, hoppy beers. Canlis instead features a large and rare collection of Belgian beers. (A bottle can cost up to $150 here).

But I came for a different Canlis experience — to partake in drinks and nibbles that wouldn't cost you more than say, an after-work catch up with old friends.

There are nibbles and appetizers in the $6-$10 range, and $7 well drinks and $6 Trumer Pils and Sapporo beer. It comes with a sweeping view of Gas Works Park and Lake Union, and a piano player whose taste skews toward Regina Spektor and Coldplay. On a clear night, Canlis has one of the most romantic bars in the city.

That food. Skip the dry Teriyaki tenderloin. Go for the melt-in-your mouth smoked-sockeye bites, the shrimp bathed in vermouth and butter and more butter, or the juicy venison sausage that has more fat than any gamy meat should have.

The city's best truffle fries are served here, golden and herbaceous, and 20 minutes later, still crispy as if the server in the bespoke suit had just laid them on your table.

Must be fun to work behind the bar at Canlis. They don't seem to work within the same parameters as others. A $24 bubbly cocktail leads its drink menu. It's topped with a quail egg preserved in white truffle vinaigrette. An aperitif or appetizer? You decide.

There are drinks in the $12 to $14 range. Those were as good as any served in any top cocktail bar around town, drinks that were well thought out and executed by head barman James MacWilliams.

Canlis has the best dessert cocktail I've tasted this year — The Resolute Privateer, a Pyrat XO rum-based drink, with hints of cherry, walnut and vanilla, juicy but not sweet, as elegant and sophisticated dessert drink as you will find anywhere in Seattle.

Canlis, 2576 Aurora Ave. N. The lounge is open Mondays-Fridays 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m., Saturdays 5 p.m. until around midnight. Dress code for men is suit or sport coat, though not required (206-283-3313 or

Tan Vinh: or

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