There’s a new vegan restaurant and coffee shop in Deep Ellum. Tiki Loco, a fast-casual Tex Mex and Hawaiian-themed shop, opened in fall 2018 from tattoo artist Oliver Peck. It occupies the former Zini’s Pizzeria at 2639 Elm St.
Peck is co-owner of Elm Street Tattoo in Deep Ellum and owner of True Tattoo in Hollywood, but he is best known for being a judge on Ink Master, a tattoo reality TV competition. After suffering from health issues, Peck turned to veganism and it “helped change his life around,” says Monse Cerros, general manager of Tiki Loco.
Peck and Shawn Hodges, Tiki Loco’s project manager, believed there was a need for healthy, grab-and-go food in Deep Ellum, as well as a coffee shop.
“A lot of the coffee shops around here don’t last long," Cerros says. "They wanted to bring good coffee here."
Peck and his girlfriend, Audra Cabral, are longtime patrons of White Rock Coffee and partnered with the business. Tiki Loco is White Rock Coffee’s first franchise.
Cabral has been vegan for many years and drives recipe development at Tiki Loco.
“Audra is the creator of anything that we serve here: juices, smoothies, tacos, nachos, pastries … anything that has to do with the creative side of it," Cerros says. "She came up with all the recipes from scratch."
All of the proteins used at Tiki Loco are soy-based and gluten-free.
“Our vegan tacos are almost like ‘this can’t be real,'" Cerros says. "We’re changing the expectation that vegan options can’t be good as regular meat. We want to change people’s minds."
All of the spice blends and marinades are made in-house. Cerros says the citrus chipotle chicken tacos and the Hawaiian steak poke tacos are two of the most popular items on the menu. They also offer salads and five types of nachos, options like tiki-fied barbecue pork, the house original ground beef and pineapple mango sweet 'n‘ sour chicken ($8.75 for half, $12.75 for a full order).
While it says at the bottom of the menu that the kitchen is 100 percent plant-based, they refer to their vegan proteins as chicken, bacon, steak — no quotation marks around the words, no intentional misspellings as you often see with other plant-based “meats.” There is no indication that their food is vegan, except in that fine print at the bottom of the menu. This initially caused us some confusion.
Tiki Loco recently started serving breakfast, things like bacon migas ($10.75), bagels (from $4.75) and breakfast tacos. Cerros says the soyrizo and tofu scramble taco is one of the most popular items on the breakfast menu.
“You almost think it’s real egg,” she says.
You can get a “boat” of two tacos for $5.75, three tacos for $7.75 and five for $10.75. Frustratingly, you cannot mix and match types — you have to get two, three or five of the same flavor.
They also offer smoothies and shaved ice ($4 for small, $6 for large), which is part of the inspiration for the restaurant.
“Oliver loves shaved ice; it’s a traditional Hawaiian dish. That’s where the ‘tiki’ comes from,” Cerros says.
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They offer more than 25 flavors of shave ice, from watermelon, peach and mango to wedding cake, pink cotton candy and root beer.
With Tiki Loco, Peck wanted to “use his voice and bring something to his community that he really believes in,” Cerros says.
“We put a lot of love and care into everything we put out. We make it as fresh and original as we can. We want to make that happen every time you come in.”
Tiki Loco, 2639 Elm St. (Deep Ellum)