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Baffled By the Canlis Hunt? We've Got Answers (Sorta)

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<a href=";set=a.163432983681113.37361.155109321180146&amp;type=1&amp;theater">Monday's clue</a> (click on image to enlarge)
Monday's clue (click on image to enlarge)

If you're one of the many people currently canvassing street signs and stalking Canlis's Twitter feed for clues, take heed. The Brothers Canlis shared with Eater a few clarifying details to help those of you on the hunt for a mysterious Canlis key.

For those of you who were out of the country or on medical quarantine late last week, Canlis embarked Friday on a new game/hunt/puzzle. It's the third one since last fall, when Mark and Brian Canlis celebrated the restaurant's 60th year with 50 days of tweeted clues and scavenger hunts that earned winners a Canlis dinner at 1950 prices.

That first scavenger hunt "pitted the city against each other," says Mark Canlis. "We thought, what if the next one brought the city together?"

This time it seems the brothers have hidden keys, each tied with a Canlis ribbon, throughout the city. Every day brings a new photo of a sign somewhere in Seattle that has one of these keys taped to it. The hash tag for this adventure also gives away the prize: #canlis4free.

This cryptically free meal will take place October 30. Some people have guessed (or hoped) that this means a giant free party open to the entire city. The reality: About 100 guests will enjoy a full-on tasting menu, wine pairings and the whole valet-piano-cocktails-service Canlis experience, completely on the house.

"But there's a big link that people are missing," says Brian Canlis. "Once the community figures out how to solve the global puzzle, the key is essentially a reservation" for that free dinner. However it's not yet clear whether an individual key will signify a table for two or a larger party; some keys will even unlock a table for eight. That part, say the brothers, comes later.

The other point the brothers want to make: every single key is already taped to its hiding place. Practically speaking, you could happen upon one by accident on your way home from work and secure a spot at this dinner without ever having to decipher one of the clues.

"There are free dinners hanging on signs right now, all over town,"
says Mark Canlis. "There's one in my neighborhood." Another is at a bus stop. And still another key is apparently in a location that's so busy that the elder Canlis was practically giddy at the idea that it hasn't yet been found.

The brothers say they are completely OK with people finding keys at random. "It will actually need to happen that way," says Mark. "The clues will only get harder." This game, he says, allows random members of the public to get involved, while still being more interactive than simply hiding a bunch of stuff around town and hoping people find it.

In fact, an older man found a key and called the restaurant last night to ask what it was about. The man said he didn't have a Facebook account and was told "You're going to have to figure out a way to engage with the community on this," says Brian. "It's up to the community to reach out." Most, if not all of the key-holders will need to work together for the final part of the puzzle. "You could do it without all 30, but you'll need a significant number," says Brian.

One final hint: sign up for the Canlis newsletter. The next issue may be of some assistance.

Meanwhile, you're not in this alone. The Facebook group Menu Hunters Anonymous has been assiduously tracking the signs, the clues and what it all means. And don't miss the group's FAQ, which is actually more of a wiki detailing how this works and where clues have been found thus far. Get ready for a lot of gloriously obscure knowledge about street signs. Game on indeed.

· All Canlis Coverage on Eater Seattle [-ESEA-]


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