TNT Diner

Sushi burrito: Bad food dare or legit delicious? You decide

Find the sushi burrito at Happy Teriyaki #4, with locations in downtown Tacoma, Fife and Lacey.
Find the sushi burrito at Happy Teriyaki #4, with locations in downtown Tacoma, Fife and Lacey.

Turn to someone, anyone, and ask, “Would you eat a sushi burrito?”

The responses in my office were hilarious. They included exclamations — “Whaaaaaat?” to “Oh my godddd”— and always included scrunched-up faces, the kind a kid makes when powering through Brussels sprouts the first time.

Sushi burritos define 21st-century marvel cuisine with engineering from Mexico (the wrapper) and infrastructure from Japan (raw fish, rice, sauces).

A cursory search of Instagram yielded more than 26,000 posts and photos about sushi burritos. Other than Nashville hot chicken, it’s one of the most talked about novelty foods in the country, and is completely absent from Tacoma’s dining landscape.

Until now.

Tim Bartz, owner of Happy Teriyaki #4, with locations in downtown Tacoma, Fife and Lacey, was intrigued when he saw those same social media posts about the burritos. He had never tried one, but because he’s owner of a restaurant that specializes in maki, he figured he had all the ingredients, so he could just make one up.

He and his restaurant’s chef, James Park, collaborated on creating what I believe to be Tacoma’s first sushi burrito (but a sushi burrito restaurant is opening later this year; read to the end of the story for details).

They took the cubed tuna and salmon they use in the restaurant’s poke bowls as the center of the burrito. They added masago (those are fish roe, you Neanderthals), some chopped romaine lettuce, rice, a squeeze of spicy mayo and a creamy onion sauce, then finished it with avocado and krab salad for creaminess. In lieu of an actual burrito tortilla (it’d be too chewy and heavy for the delicate fillings), they wrapped theirs in soy paper, which Bartz said he thought would yield a much better texture than nori, the seaweed wrapper typically used to wrap maki.

In fact, think of the Happy Teriyaki creation as a supsersize maki. It’s roughly the same shape, except about four times the size — and about four times as filling as a typical sushi roll. I’m a professional eater and even wore stretchy pants and was completely full after half. I did appreciate the delicate wrapper that broke to a thin layer of rice enclosing raw fish, the veggies and spicy sauces. I’d eat it again. Probably.

Bartz introduced the sushi burrito June 3 and sold 40 the first day. Now they’re thinking of building a few other varieties.

“We’re thinking of doing a tempura shrimp and crab mix with cream cheese, and we thought about one with chicken katsu, but we’re still doing research,” said Bartz. For raw varieties, they’re discussing a spicy tuna and a spicy scallop version.

He’s serving the sushi burritos for $10.95 at all three Happy Teriyaki #4 locations.

While Bartz is the first with a sushi burrito here, more are on the way.

Trapper O’Keeffe, owner of Trapper’s Sushi restaurants, is turning his Bonney Lake Trapper’s into Trapurito’s, a fast-casual restaurant focusing on sushi burritos and tacos. He’s currently working on that restaurant at the same time he is opening another Trapper’s Sushi across the same parking lot in Bonney Lake. Expect a mid-to-late summer opening for Trapurito’s.

Happy Teriyaki #4

Tacoma: 2223 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-272-1544.

Fife: 4910 Pacific Highway E., Fife; 253-896-3668.

Lacey: 8205 Martin Way E., Lacey; 360-413-9000.