TNT Diner

Miss the Hawaiian food on 6th Ave? Here’s an update on Tacoma’s Da Tiki Hut

The Loco Moco plate, a Hawaiian classic of a hamburger patty and gravy topped with a fried egg at Da Tiki Hut on Sixth Avenue.
The Loco Moco plate, a Hawaiian classic of a hamburger patty and gravy topped with a fried egg at Da Tiki Hut on Sixth Avenue. News Tribune file photo

Steve Lerma wants fans of his Hawaiian food to know that Da Tiki Hut, the popular Sixth Avenue restaurant, will return.

It’s taking longer than expected to rebuild the restaurant following a devastating grease fire in the kitchen in March 2018.

“We’ve been blessed by the customers who come by and ask about us,” said Lerma, who gets a tap on the restaurant’s front door or the occasional Facebook message with the question of when he’s going to return to the Da Tiki Hut kitchen.

Hopefully soon, says Lerma, who runs Da Tiki Hut with wife Tamara.

A reopening likely won’t happen before the end of February, but he’s hopeful the end is near.

“It’s happening, but it’s just taking so long,” said Lerma.

tiki (2)
Owners Tamara Lerma and her husband, Steve, with Steve’s mom, Jan Settle, right, run the family business at Da Tiki Hut on Sixth Avenue. Lui Kit Wong News Tribune file photo

There are details to coordinate between insurance companies and the building owner. The kitchen fire knocked the restaurant’s venting hood out of compliance and replacing that expensive piece of kitchen equipment has not been easy or without complications.

With the shutdown, Lerma has reconsidered the interior of the restaurant that he opened in 2014 at 4427 Sixth Avenue.

The footprint and floor plan won’t change, but he’s making a few cosmetic changes that will make for a more appealing dining room. The restaurant is getting a new coat of paint. He said the restaurant will be outfitted with new lighting and new accent decor will be brought in because the dining room had so much smoke damage.

“The (exhaust) fans blew smoke through the entire restaurant and exited out the other door. It did substantial damage to my personal stuff,” said Lerma.

Tacoma firefighters mop up the scene at the Da Tiki Hut, a Hawaiian restaurant which suffered a kitchen fire on Monday, March 19, 2018. The restaurant is known for classic Hawaiian fare, such as poke and loco moco. The restaurant opened in Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue neighborhood in 2014. Joshua Bessex

He’s also working on new recipes for the cocktails served at his tiki bar, which will continue to anchor the back room of the restaurant.

He’ll also expand the menu. “We’re going to keep everything, the original menu, but we have some new additions coming,” he said.

Those additions will include some smoked meats.

When the restaurant reopens, diners will be able to feast on all the Hawaiian classics the restaurant is known for, such as Spam musubi, loco moco, tuna poke, plate lunches, kalua chicken, chicken katsu, mochiko chicken and haupia.

Da Tiki Hut poke
Regular ahi tuna poke from Da Tiki Hut in Tacoma. Sue Kidd

In the meantime, Lerma has been operating his restaurant’s food truck. He serves his Hawaiian food on weekdays at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where he serves with a pod of about eight other local food trucks. With apologies to all who miss his food, the JBLM service is for diners with base privileges only.

Da Tiki Hut

Contact: 4427 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253-625-7690,

Reopening: Hopefully February or a bit later

Sue Kidd has been The News Tribune’s restaurant critic since 2008. She dines anonymously and The News Tribune pays for all meals. Sue is a South Sound native. She writes about new restaurants, openings and closures and knows where to find the best tacos in every neighborhood.