Maker Story: Tom Douglas, Tom Douglas Restaurants

Tom Douglas of Tom Douglas Restaurants


Tom Douglas’s influence is so strong in Washington, it can’t be contained on land. His popularity extends to the skies above our state and beyond, with his flavorful and seasonally-sourced meals now served on Alaska Airlines flights around the country. 

It all started with Dahlia Lounge in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood nearly forty years ago. This first restaurant married casual fine dining with seasonality, deliciousness, and graciousness. To many, it represented the heartbeat of Seattle: Innovative, elevated menus presented with warmth and humility.

And, if you’d known Tom way back when you may not have expected his roots to grow so deeply in the West. A native of Delaware, Douglas weathered plenty of jokes from his classmates about his preference for Home Economics over Shop. They jokingly called him “Cream Puff,” not knowing the joke would soon be on them: One of Tom’s most famous dishes, a dessert requested by name every time former President Barack Obama swings through town, is a Coconut Cream Pie. It’s been said that up to 125 slices of the custardy delight are sold around Seattle every day. 

Tom got his foot in the door at restaurants near home and in 1977, when his father gifted him the family station wagon, Tom headed west. The station wagon broke down in Seattle, and he’s been in Washington ever since.  

His first big culinary hit on our coast? Crab cakes, naturally. 

A Talented Chef In Seattle Extends His Footprint

As the popularity of Dahlia Lounge and its Coconut Cream Pie grew, so did the Tom Douglas Restaurants' footprint. Multiple eateries featuring various types of cuisines and influences (Greek, Italian, a bakery, elevated pub fare, all kinds of pizza), a catering arm, best-selling cookbooks, James Beard awards, movie cameos (Dahlia Lounge was in Sleepless in Seattle!), a farm, and one of our favorite Tom Douglas contributions—a product line—followed. 

Rub With Love

Tom Douglas' Rub with Love Spice Mix


Rub With Love is Tom & Co’s versatile, small-batch collection of spice rub blends, sauces, and mustards. The most popular (and searched-for) of the line is the Rub With Love Salmon Rub. The team donates a percentage of Salmon Rub sales to organizations including The Mid Sound Fisheries Enhancement Group and the Alaska Wild Salmon Fund to protect the clean water and habitats that wild salmon depend on, both locally and afar. 

The Douglas team recommends using their rubs creatively and generously on many dishes. They even offer recipe ideas on their website. 

Our recommendation? Start with the Rub With Love Spice Rub Gift Set—for yourself or someone you care about—and play in your kitchen.

Tom Douglas + Made In Washington = Love

Just like Tom’s Seattle origin story, our relationship with the man whose company would grow to become inextricably linked with the city as a whole started with a meet-cute. When we asked Tom about the beginning of our relationship, he said, “We catered the opening of the original Made In Washington store in Pike Place Market many moons ago. I have been a fan ever since.” For the record, the first Made In Washington store opened in 1984!

We wanted to know more about our enduring relationship with Tom and his team, so we asked what he appreciates most about Made In Washington. “It’s the perfect spot for locals and visitors alike to celebrate Pacific NW products with their friends and families,” he told us. 

Our mission? Accomplished. 

Tom Douglas’s Favorite Thing About Washington State

If you’ve been reading our Maker Stories, you’ve probably picked up on a few common themes: The scenery, surroundings, access to all kinds of landscapes, and wildlife. Tom’s appreciation for all things Washington affirms all of these things—and one in particular. 

In response to our asking what he loves most about the state he made his home in 1977, Tom said: “Wild salmon, salmon, salmon, Dungeness Crab, clams, etc. Taking a ferry to one of the many local islands and watching for whales, dolphins, seals, and sea lions. And did I mention salmon?” 

If we read that correctly, Tom’s a bit of a seafood fan. 


Salmon Rub from Tom Douglas' Rub with Love Collection


The Future Is Bright for Tom Douglas

These days, Tom and his wife Jackie have eased slightly out of their business—helping their next generation of hand-picked leaders whenever they’re called—and are relishing spending time farming in Prosser, teaching cooking classes at Hot Stove Society, and recording the Hot Stove Radio Show.

We’re grateful to have them as such powerful representations of our state and what we can create here. Shop all things Tom on our website, and digest happily, knowing each dish you put out on the table was rubbed with love. 

Tom Douglas Restaurants, a food company built on the foundation of deliciousness and graciousness, was designed, crafted, and made in Seattle, Washington.

Tags: Seattle