Eat This: Canoe’s Smoked Salmon

The appetizer is the only dish that hasn’t changed in the restaurant’s 21 years
Canoe's Smoked Salmon

Photograph by Drew Podo

Since opening in 1995, Canoe has been a staple in Atlanta’s dining scene. Nestled on a scenic stretch of the Chattahoochee in Vinings, the restaurant’s dedication to fresh, seasonal produce garnered city-wide and national acclaim. The menu constantly changes to take advantage of local flavors, but the smoked salmon is a permanent fixture at Canoe. “That’s the one dish that has always been exactly the same,” says executive chef Matthew Basford. “It’s been on the menu the same way for 21 years.”

Creating the salmon is a four-day process. The fish cures in a seven spice mixture for three days, before it is rinsed and left to sit for one more day before being smoked. “The salmon gets a nice film that helps it absorb all the smoke flavors,” Basford says. After it is cold smoked for an hour, the salmon is sliced thin and served with fried potatoes, a goat cheese and cream cheese mixture, and topped with dill and capers. While Basford doesn’t know how the dish’s creator, Gary Mennie, came up with the recipe, he has a few ideas. “I think that it’s very loosely based on Wolfgang Puck’s smoked salmon pizza,” Basford says. “The goat cheese was probably Gary’s touch, but it has that same kind of flavor profile.”

Basford estimates that the kitchen serves more than 120 pounds of salmon every week. He thinks that the dish’s popularity lies with the quality of the salmon, but he also credits the restaurant’s consistency over the course of two decades. “Atlanta and its food scene have changed so much in the eleven years that I’ve been here, but Canoe is a constant factor,” Basford says. “I’ll come and go, but the restaurant will always be synonymous with Atlanta’s dining scene.”