tom’s sandwich co. digs into Tacoma’s sandwich scene

Tom Gibbon is serving up approachable sandwich staples in Opera Alley

By Mariah Beckman, For the Tacoma Daily Index

For Tom Gibbon, sandwiches are more than a meal — they’re a legacy.

Growing up in Tacoma, he spent his formative years working at Gibbon & Sons Towing and Tillicum Chevron Deli, his family’s service station equipped with a bustling deli counter.

Here, intoxicated by the thrill of the lunchtime rush and impressed at the limitless combinations of meat, cheese and bread, Tom’s passion for creating beautifully balanced sandwiches was born.

“It was my father, Tony Gibbon,” he said, “who stoked my curiosity about the science behind mayo and mustard proportions and ask heavy questions like ‘to toast or not to toast?’”

Life and career took Tom far from Tacoma’s familiar streets and the sweet simplicity of sandwiches. Once he graduated high school, his deli counter days were over, and he carved a successful path in tech and business here in Washington. Eventually he followed bigger and better job titles to as near as San Francisco and as far as Amsterdam. But something changed after his daughter was born. Watching her grow sparked a longing for deeper roots, a place where he could be closer to family and a familiar community.

Upon returning to Tacoma, Tom found a welcoming embrace in his North End neighborhood, especially from the owners of the Rusty Goat taproom. This local gem, known for its curated beer selection and stellar coffee service in Opera Alley, just happened to be looking to expand its offerings.

Tom’s sandwich senses, long dormant, started tingling.

“It started as a simple suggestion, but it quickly grew legs,” Tom said. “In a kind of serendipitous coincidence, I learned not long after that this great bodega by my house, the Delightful Neighborhood Market, had a deli slicer they were willing to part with. It kind of felt like the universe was nudging me toward this.”

tom’s sandwich co. is the perfect complement to the Rusty Goat’s inviting atmosphere, which leans into the historic Opera Alley quirk and charm. The menu blends beloved classics with Tom’s own elevated yet unpretentious twists. He sources artisan bread from Kent’s Wild Wheat Bakery, gets top-notch meats and cheeses from Peterson Cheese and prioritizes the freshest local ingredients to make every bite amazing.

The signature must-try is the Hot Gibb.

“You won’t find a better one within driving distance of Tacoma,” he said confidently. “This is an elite hot salami sandwich.” It’s served on stalwart slices of ciabatta and piled high with hot soppressata, mortadella, smoked gouda and an array of veggies for depth.

Developing the menu proved to be an unexpected creative outlet for Gibbon. Each sandwich is a tribute, a nod to a family member, a memory, a testament to the experiences that shaped his journey from — and back to — Tacoma.

“The way that that’s kind of come to fruition is that each sandwich is sort of a family portrait or photo album for me. It’s inspired by my family and their roots, and I created it trying to evoke a sense of their journey and experiences. The names reflect that,” he said.

Tom is so proud to be a part of Tacoma’s local business scene because, for him, there’s just no place like home.

“Tacoma, as a community, has this rich blend of pride and humility in everything it does,” he said. “In our shops, in these character-rich old houses, there’s love for supporting your own and honoring those who came before you. Those are values that I share wholeheartedly. I am humbled by those, like my father, who came before me, and so proud to support and uplift other local businesses that feel the same.”

Outside of his outstanding sandwiches, it’s a powerful sense of community that makes tom’s sandwich co. feel like more than just a place to grab a bite. There’s an energy, warmth and palpable sense of nostalgia here that locals love. Regulars here linger over their sandwiches and meander over to the record player; families enjoy an elevated yet approachable meal; craft beer lovers find the perfect pairings for their brews.

Looking ahead, Tom plans to keep things fresh with seasonal weekly and monthly specials. He’s hard at work seeking out local vendors and farms who can supply him with ultra-fresh and hyper-local ingredients. His Substack newsletter, Sandwiches Near & Far, is the best way for dedicated sandwich aficionados to stay in the loop about these limited-time creations.

Stop by tom’s sandwich co. inside the Rusty Goat taproom in Tacoma’s Opera Alley, located at 712 Court C, Tacoma.

Follow him on Instagram for menu updates and current hours of operation @toms_sandwich_co.