Updated: March 27, 2018 at 1:50 p.m.
The hum of ukuleles and vibrant small dishes and treats at D.C.’s newest taco restaurant will send you straight to Oahu.
Tiki Taco, located at 2010 P St. NW, opened this month to serve up a unique fusion of Mexican food with an island-like Polynesian flair in Dupont Circle. The cozy spot features tacos with Polynesian fillings like pork, fish and beef as well as more traditional Hawaiian dishes, like poke – a marinated raw fish dish similar to ceviche.
Ryan Fichter, the owner and chef at Tiki Taco, said he wanted to put a unique spin on a staple of D.C. cuisine – tacos and other Mexican small dishes – using what he learned from working more than five years in sunny Hawaii.
“I wanted to kind of create a Caribbean island infusion, but take those flavors and put them in a vessel basically everybody knows and recognizes,” Fichter said.
Originally from Howard County, Md., Fichter worked at a number of restaurants in the DMV before traveling around the nation. His culinary education took him to New York, and later worked at restaurants in North Carolina, before he landed at a Hawaiian resort spot. His career as a chef, combined with his experiences cooking and socializing with locals in Hawaii, inspired the fusion style of Tiki Taco.
“It was really just a sense of family and ohana out there,” he said. “They gave me an honorary nickname as Ha-Ryan.”
After working as a chef at Thunder Burger and the Georgetown restaurant Maxime, Fichter decided to create a restaurant that was both unique and rooted in his experiences.
The menu’s main feature is the choice of one taco for $3.50 or three tacos for $9.75, consisting of fixed fillings to choose from. Taco selections include savory pork with an acidically sweet pineapple salsa, salted beef with an earthy watercress namul or fresh fish with crisp cabbage and a subtly spicy Sriracha aioli.
The poke bowls have two choices of protein – salmon for $10 and ahi tuna at $12 – along with a $7 vegetarian dish. All poke options incorporate tasty Maui sweet onions, with variations on other ingredients for their four flavor options, such as pineapple salsa, cilantro and lime juice toppings for their Tiki style.
The entrance to the restaurant is four steps down a dark stairwell leading to a small, cozy basement. Reggae-style music plays in the background as you are greeted with a warm “Ahola” from the restaurant’s workers.
Six bar stools are placed by a bar shelf that extends the length of the wall, and the other side has three tables that seat four people. Pictures of Hawaiian beaches and tiki torches cover the brightly colored walls. The atmosphere evokes a sense of beachlike calm, and the fresh foods are no exception.
Share appetizers like hummus made from edamame for $7 and wings in a spiced pineapple sauce for $10, or try the power greens salad in a sesame ginger dressing for $8. Pair the smooth hummus with the salty, fried corn chips ($6) for a delicious contrast and texture.
“I try to stay true to form to the flavors that I have tasted out there by all of the true Hawaiians who taught me how to make this food,” he said.
Shaved ice is the speciality dessert of Tiki Taco with more than 20 flavors to choose from like lime-lemon, root beer and mango. The frosty treat comes in a small size for $3 or large for $5. The shaved ice is flavored with a syrup and then served in a paper cup with a sour worm garnish.
Fichter has recently added a daily special taco to the menu each day of the week depending on the ingredients available, and soon, he will be offering breakfast items like huevos rancheros and breakfast burritos.
“I try to bring the islands to you, with the flavors I am invoking in the food that I cook,” Fichter said.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the shaved ice is served out of a styrofoam cup. It is served out of a paper cup. We regret this error.