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A Few Great Bakeries in Seattle: Dahlia Bakery

This month, KCTS 9 celebrates bakers, bakeries and baked goods from all across America with the premiere of A Few Great Bakeries. Producer Rick Sebak and his crew explored warm, toasty, small bakeries from coast to coast, including a Kitsap peninsula favorite: Sluys’ Poulsbo Bakery. Viewers will discover how a business that makes cakes, pies, and bread can become a neighborhood landmark. A Few Great Bakeries premieres Tuesday, August 25, at 8pm. Building up to the premiere, KCTS 9 spoke with two of Seattle's most-loved bakeries: Dahlia Bakery and Nielsen's Pastries.

In this post, we talk with Dahlia Bakery staff and see what they had to say about their treats, their customers, their work, and their legacy within the Puget Sound community. 

Along 4th Avenue and Virginia Street in downtown Seattle resides one of Tom Douglas’ famous establishments, Dahlia Bakery. Small and somewhat hidden, this quaint bakery is nestled beside another Douglas business, the Dahlia Lounge.

With a space of only about 150 square feet, it’s astonishing to discover how much foot traffic the bakery sees and how many delicious treats they bake each day. We sat down with Barb Parrott, Dahlia Bakery Manager, who has been with the store for seven years.


What does it mean to you when you hear that Dahlia Bakery is one of Seattle’s favorite bakeries?
Barb: I think it’s fantastic! We are such a tiny bakery—a little hole in the wall—and not many people know where we are located. We have so many people that are working behind-the-scenes every day just to get the bakery full of amazing products, from our pastries to desserts to lunch items. It's nice to get that recognition, especially for those individuals that are baking bread at 2 o'clock in the morning. They are pouring their heart out!

What is the story behind the birth of Dahlia Bakery?
Barb: The Dahlia Lounge had already been around for many years when Tom moved it to its current location. Next to the new location was a tiny space that he had been eyeing. He was in love with the romance of little bakeries—especially ones that he had seen in Paris—and he really wanted to create a platform where he could really highlight the dessert and pastry products in their own right. In 2001 the bakery was established.

How hard is it to resist taste-testing the treats, or is there no sense of self control when you work at a bakery?
Barb: You do get sort of immune to it after a while, but we really encourage all of the people behind the counter to taste everything so we can speak to it and describe it to the customers. I mean, product knowledge is not only knowing the ingredients, but knowing how to describe the flavors and how to describe where all the different ingredients come from. There is a fair amount of taste testing—it happens, but it’s necessary, and one of my favorite parts of the job is the quality control.

What sets Dahlia Bakery apart from other bakeries?
Barb: I believe all bakeries are just little pockets of wonderful, buttery goodness. At Dahlia, we like to think that our bakery is a reflection of our restaurants and our employees; we encourage creativity on the production side and love working closely with customers. Everything is from scratch and made by hand by people who love the dough, love the cookies, and love the food they create. Behind the counter, we try to bring a personal touch to every interaction.

How often does the menu change? What are some of the deciding factors that go into that process?
Barb: Our menu really follows the seasonal availability of ingredients as we use only fresh fruit and produce in our products. We do our best to source as locally as possible, so our chefs are always paying close attention to what’s happening across the state weather-wise and distribution-wise. The creation of Prosser Farm in eastern Washington—which Tom founded in 2006 with his wife Jackie Cross—has really allowed the restaurants to highlight ingredients that have been planted by the chefs and grown and harvested by employees.

We try as much as possible to incorporate those items in our offerings! Sometimes this results in a limited run item—we’ll have just enough to get people hooked, and then it goes away until the next season. We hate breaking hearts in that way, but it happens. We have a sweet summer corn load that, as soon as summer hits, people start asking about it. We also try to bring back crowd favorites over the holidays months (October to December); maple éclairs, gingersnaps, and of course the pies!

What is the most popular item(s) at Dahlia? Why do you think it’s such a favorite among customers?
Barb: Obviously, the triple coconut crème pie. We offer it in the full 9-inch pie, 6-inch, slices, and then pie bites—it’s Tom’s signature dessert. It’s delicious! A slice of pie and a cup of coffee can make any rainy day better. Beyond that, we have fried-to-order doughnuts, which are fantastic! They come in an order of six: beignet-style, pillowy pockets of goodness. We fry them as soon as you order them, then they get shaken with cinnamon sugar and come served with vanilla mascarpone and house-made jam. Love that at the restaurants they are served as desserts, but at the bakery we serve them as breakfast!

What is your favorite part about working at Dahlia Bakery?
Barb: The customers! We develop great relationships with folks—some who have been coming for years—and feeding people is such a powerful connecting act. You get invested in people’s lives.

I’m terrible with names, but I’ll remember whose child is coming home for college or who is pregnant and doesn’t want to eat anything but the bakery’s egg sandwiches.

What kind of atmosphere and experience does Dahlia set out to create for customers?
Barb: One of the mottos for the whole restaurant group is "Deliciousness served with graciousness," so that is what we are trying to project. We just want to feed people we care about, whether we see them once a week or one time—that is what we are in the business of doing. We pour our hearts into the product and make sure people are well fed and happy. We want people to come in and feel like they are the most important thing about the bakery—because they are! It’s like when we go home we cook for the people we love—that applies here. We cook for the people we love, our customers.

DAHLIA BAKERY is located on the corner of 4th Avenue and Virginia Street next to the Dahlia Lounge. 
2001 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121

NEXT: Read our interview with Nielsen’s Pastries and see what they have to say about their 50-year legacy in the community, what is unique about Nielsen’s, and more.


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Sluys Bakery in downtown Poulsbo on Liberty Bay is indeed a Kitsap County landmark with very tasty baked goods. However, the last few times I've been in I've been appalled at the lack of customer service and courtesy provided (or NOT) that all customers should expect from the young kids who work there. I've been left standing with no one asking if they could help me; I've watched other customers who came in long after me being waited on first; I've left without a "Thank You" after making a purchase. And I've read similar comments on Yelp and TripAdvisor. It's great that Sluys employs so many local kids. But management needs to monitor the service level being provided by their employees and re-train those who don't meet basic standards i.e. Good day and thank you.

perfect donuts!!! i don't what else to say in the praise of their donuts and the coconut pie, i have never had the donuts fluffier than theirs! at so amazing price!

there is certainly no doubt that you love your customers, thanks for making our bellies giggle!

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