Doane’s Oyster House

Oyster Pan Roast Recipe: “a large cupful of oysters, frizzled in four tablespoonfuls of melted butter, a cupful of tomato catsup, one tablespoonful of Worcestershire sauce, one scant teaspoonful of Tabasco, salt and pepper, poured piping hot over oven toast.”

Although found from Mexico to Canada, the Olympia Oyster achieved wide fame in the late 1800s mainly from the reputation of Captain Woodbury Doane’s Olympia Oyster Pan Roast.

Born 1825 in Maine, Doane went to sea as a young man and eventually landed in California for the 1849 Gold Rush.  Soon after, he followed new gold strikes in British Columbia.  Unsuccessful at mining, Doane eventually returned to seafaring as an officer on steamboats on Puget Sound.

In Victoria, he married Elizabeth Pendergast and they had two sons, Jack and Wood.  Elizabeth died in 1875 and Doane brought his sons to Olympia in 1880.  They opened the first Doane’s Café on the northeast corner of Fifth and Capital way but moved to the south side of Fifth as their business grew.

The reputation of Doane’s hospitality and his Oyster Pan Roast attracted visitors from far away. Doane kept the exact recipe a closely guarded secret, but some suspected his Chinese cooks enhanced the dish with techniques and seasonings then unfamiliar to western cooks.  The Oyster Pan Roast was so popular that Doane served about 60 gallons of oysters a day.

Doane’s Oyster House became the hub for political affairs in Olympia.  Attempts by legislators from other Washington cities to move the Capital from Olympia were countered by “pro-Olympia” Oyster feeds, leading to the Oyster’s nickname, the “succulent lobbyist.”

Captain Doane passed away in 1903 but the fame of the Olympia Oyster as a delicacy lives on, still served in Olympia Restaurants.

Sources

Stevenson, Shanna. Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater: A Pictorial History. Norfolk, Va: Donning Co, 1985.
Goldie Robertson Funk “Captain Doane’s Oyster Pan Roast” Pacific Northwest Quarterly, 43 154-157.
“Captain Doane Passes Away” Morning Olympian, 13 February 1903.


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