The history of Tiki Terrace

The history of Tiki Terrace

When people inquire about the origins of Tiki Terrace, there are a few key points that immediately come to mind.  The entire story would take quite some time, but I wanted to write out the version that fits in a nutshell.  The  big milestones that pop out it my mind are as follows:  Juggling > Fire > Samoan Fire Knife > Polynesian Drum and Dance > A Dream > A Reality > A Journey.  There it is.  In my mind, these things are what molded the "what" and "how" of Tiki Terrace.  So I will address each of these points below, no doubt, leaving out a lot and hopefully filling in enough so you can get a broad history of The Tiki Terrace.

If this story were told from either of my brothers, I'm sure these milestones would look very different.  It would be fun to hear about the details from their point of view.  Nonetheless, here is my account.

I can trace the very beginning of Tiki Terrace back to Y2K in 1999.  My brother Scott has always been the originator and source for the beginnings of Tiki Terrace.  Although my older brother Jim and I were “all in”, the dream started with my brother Scott and spread quickly among the three of us.


Back in 1999, my brothers and I were very much into juggling.  Juggling all sorts of things. I remember attending juggling festivals and meeting other jugglers on oak street beach to hang out, learn and just.... juggle.  My brothers and I spent a decent amount of time together juggling and going to various concerts.  Also at this time, the three of us together enjoyed, toured and traveled with our favorite band, Phish.  For me, when I think of the beginning of Tiki, the very beginning, this is where my mind goes.  I’m sure it goes a little further back for Scott and Jim may remember things at a different beginning point, but for me, I see the Everglades.  We were traveling to Florida to spend the New Year with Phish. 


Eventually, fire was introduced into our juggling.  We would even attend the burning man festival (a pretty huge festival in the middle of nowhere) with juggling fire as the culprit.  Before heading out to the Phish show in FL (1999), we had constructed a flaming ball of wick on the end of a chain and we would spin two of these around our body in a practiced routine.  We practiced and performed this routine to the Red Hot Chili Peppers “Give It Away”.  A stage was built in a way that could easily be taken down and packed up in a large cargo van.  The backdrop of this portable stage was built and finished upon our arrival in FL.  The stage had one purple and one blue painted dragon on the back.  It was awesome.  We went to FL with about 15 of our friends, the stage, a couple of speakers and camping gear.  Every night we would perform our routine and draw large crowds. After the concert,  crowds would stay and dance all night at our camp site....hundreds of people.  Little did we know, the spinning of the fire around our body was a Polynesian art known as the “poi ball dance”, a dance that was done in ancient and modern New Zealand.  This is an important part in the story.  The "tie-in" between juggling/fire and the next milestone of Samoan fire knife lies within the following part of this story. 

My brothers and I, all three of us, grew up as competitive swimmers.  We all swam our entire youth.  Around the year 2000, we were attending a retirement party of a former swim coach.  This swim coach was retiring and he was moving to Hawaii.  While at this party, there were Hawaiian dancers that were hired to perform.  During their performance, a couple of girls started spinning the “poi balls” as part of their luau show. These were the things we were lighting on fire at the Y2K Everglades show.  As part of their routine they would pull up members out of the audience to try their hand at this ”poi ball dance”.  Well, they picked my brother Scott to come up and try the poi balls....and he did quite well.  His unorthodox, self-taught style of this ancient practice caught the eye of the performers and the band members who were pretty awe struck at what they saw.  From there, my brother was extended an invitation to come join the group for a practice session and see what this Hawaiian dance group was all about.  There were many weeks, perhaps even months, that went by with Scott attending these classes before he invited me, and eventually Jim, along into this new world and new culture. 


The exciting bait that drew myself, my brother Jim (and I’m sure Scott) into this Polynesian world, was the new and exciting venture of “Samoan Fire Knife Dancing” (or Siva Nifo Oti Afi).  This was a new skill and new passion that led the way into experiencing Hawaii in many, many ways.  If you’re unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, I can briefly describe what this is.  Every tourist that attends a luau in Hawaii will witness the Polynesian art of drum and dance from the various Polynesian Islands.  At the very end of the Luau, traditionally, a guy will come out and perform the "Siva Afi", or Fire Knife Dance.  I won't nerd out on you and get into the Samoan culture and history of this dance (this is the nutshell story, remember?) but I will tell you this.  It became our passion.  Don't get me wrong, we were all good, (competing in competitions in California and Hawaii's annual "World Fire Knife Competition" at the Polynesian Cultural Center, Laie, Hawaii), but Scott would shine, no pun intended.  He would go on to forever revolutionize the way this ancient art is performed.  The uniqueness of guys coming from "cold country" (Chicago) and not only compete in Hawaii, but do beyond well, was a remarkable and very special time, for both Hawaii and our family.


Hawaiian culture was now permeated in our lives.  We would go on and spend several years performing the various dances and siva afi for many crowds, large and small.  Summer time was a "busy season" where entertaining in Luaus throughout Chicagoland was both busy and fun.  This is a time of the milestone progression that lasted years and I don't recollect anything else to really say.  We performed a lot.  We practiced a lot.  We drove (and I still do) out to Des Plaines a lot.  It was fun, and no doubt shaped our lives. It is completely noteworthy when telling you the story of Tiki Terrace, to mention this time.  This was also the time when the dream of Tiki Terrace was introduced to me.


Remember, at the beginning of this story I told you it was my brother that was the originator and dreamer who gave life to the concept of Tiki Terrace.  I can slightly remember him sharing the concept with me, but do not remember any details.  I just remember him telling me the vision and me being all in.  The strategy was to build a mobile luau show with props, lighting, a stage, a band, decor, and of course, performers.  This mobile show would go on to and acquire the name "Fires of Polynesia".  I remember the practice involved, the building, the time that was put in to this vision.  I remember Fires of Polynesia strategically being the first step before hunting for a permanent "home" for this production.


In October of 2005, The Tiki Terrace opened its doors in Prospect Heights, IL.  The little 50 seat restaurant/tiki bar was as unique then, as it is now.  We spent three years at that little place and of all three years, the memories that first stick out in my mind is the build out with my brothers and my Dad.  The building was old.  Very old.  The unit in this strip mall was small.  Very old.  Very run down. Very old.  I remember we had a north shore car club come out for an event at  Tiki Terrace and most of the guys would constantly leave the building to check on their cars.  That's what type of strip mall we were in.  There was a sandwich place a few units down, a pizza place next door, a European place (which I'm still not sure what the business name was or what they did to make money) and a liquor store that I remember.  This mall, run down and beat up, was our humble beginning...a true diamond in the rough.  We would have a luau show every Saturday night.  We would work every night and look forward to the weekends when the hired staff would show up and there would be excitement.  This is the point in my recollections where I'm flooded with memories.  I look at Tiki now and can see the growth from our very first table and the very first plate of food we sent out.  I find myself laughing  at the things we did and how much we have grown, but we didn't know any better-  we had never been in the restaurant business before and were giving it our all.  I remember the source of pride I had in the amount of hours I would work.  I would laugh at the 60 hour work week and would easily blow way past this, working an insane amount of hours.  The building years of Tiki were without a doubt, just that.  All work, no play.  Work was play and work was life.  That I remember.


We quickly found out that we had to grow and we did.  Three years later, we moved into our current location of 1591 Lee street, in Des Plaines.  We have been on a journey and things now, are not as they were before.  And things in the future, will no doubt be very different then they are now.  Now, my wife an I run Tiki Terrace, and we are giving it our best.  I look back at the beginning and feel blessed because here we are, continuing to bring Hawaii to the mainland and none of The Tiki Terrace would be here, had it not been for God's grace and love expressed through my family.  We love Hawaii.  I mean it, we truly love Hawaii.  But we love providing guest with a unique and affordable vacation style dinner and show experience.  We love the Tiki Terrace staff and feel honored and humbled that some of their income stems from a piece of our life (that goes way back to juggling).  We are excited to see what Tiki Terrace will become and watch more and more people experience something special and unique.  The story and past of Tiki have all been incredible learning experiences and memories that I hold very near.

Our direction now is to build and increase the luau dinner and show experience.  We are implementing more technology in the way we work.  We are constantly trying to improve our systems in the kitchen.  We are trying to be more and more creative within local style Hawaiian foods like "build your own poke bowls", "spam musubi", "ramen noodle bowls", "mahi mahi" "Hawaiian beef teriyaki" and a lot more!  More frequent menu changes take place now a days.  We specialize in Luau catering now and have a really busy catering season!  We focus banquet rentals, especially toward the end of the year as this is the season for holiday Christmas parties!  We also focus more and more on advertising then we ever have.  Angie and I love what we do and are excited to provide a environment that duplicates Hawaii and provides authentic food and Hawaiian music-

So there it is,  thanks for reading.  I wish I could include pictures of all the above content.  Maybe one day~


Pineapples and Hawaii

Pineapples and Hawaii

When we see a pineapple, hear the word pineapple and even smell pineapple we no doubt think Hawaii!  Truth of the matter is that Pineapples did not originate in Hawaii-  It is neither pine, nor apple.  Pineapple origins have been traced back to South America, specifically Brazil.  Because of the HUGE pineapple industry built in the early 1900's, and because at one point, 80% of the worlds canned pineapple is from the Islands, Hawaii deserves to be in one's mind when that sweet aroma hits your nose!  The Dole plantations of Hawaii will always remain a huge part of the Island's history-

Early Hawaiians called the pineapple "Hala Kahiki".  Hala, because it resembled the Hala fruit, Kahiki, because this word means foreign.  So pineapple became "foreign halas" to the natives.

Today, people throw pineapple on something and immediately label it "Hawaiian".   Even here at Tiki Terrace we have a Hawaiian Flat Bread Pizza.  Try one if you come out during the week!  Check it out on our menu here-  

We also garnish all out tropical tiki cocktails with a golden slice of Hawaii, right on the rim.....with an umbrella as well, of course-  check out our list of tiki drink here as well-  

Thanks for the quick read and we hope we got your mouth watering for that delicious "foreign hala"




Why Spam?  For reals?

Why Spam? For reals?

We all know about Hawaii's love addiction to SPAM.  If you don't, now you do-  Hawaii buys and eats more spam than any other state in the country!  According to SPAM, they sell over 7 million cans a year to Hawaii alone!  The love for SPAM(that is now tied into their culture) started in WWII when G.I.'s would pack that can in their back pack and not worry about refrigeration and the long shelf life din't hurt either.  It's like a dark little secret if you actually like it.  Normally, when you mention SPAM, you can prepare yourself for a wrinkled nose followed by an annoying "eeeewwwwwww".  Why is that?  Go ahead and try-  tell some people at work that you love SPAM and watch the reaction.  After eating SO MUCH SPAM the G.I.'s came back and never wanted to see the salty canned meat ever again, and to this very day.....on the carries a negative connotation.  Even if people have never ate the stuff, you'll get that same reaction.

SPAM comes in a TON of flavors.  Go ahead, give em all a try.  My personal favorite, green chile SPAM!

SPAM comes in a TON of flavors.  Go ahead, give em all a try.  My personal favorite, green chile SPAM!

In Hawaii though...the SPAM comes alive!  SPAM Loco Moco, Spam Musubi, SPAM and eggs, deep fried SPAM, you name it Hawaii eats SPAM with it.  Here at the Tiki Terrace, we use spam in a couple of items.  But if you want a real treat, ask for a spam loco moco.  It's not on the menu but we'll make it!  We used to offer a lot of SPAM items on our menu, but most mainlanders gave us that wrinkled nose look followed by the "eeewwww".  We'll still try to turn you onto the Spam though, we're not giving up!  After all, ever hear the saying"when in Rome"?  Well, when in Hawaii!

Spam Musubi-  the beloved snack of the Islands.  Once you try, you'll never go back!

Spam Musubi-  the beloved snack of the Islands.  Once you try, you'll never go back!

The Tiki Terrace serves Island style food and pairs it with a luau entertainment!  We do shows every Wed, Fri and two on Saturday!  Give us a call and check it out!  And please give our FB page a like to keep up with fun articles about all things Hawaiian!

Poke.  (Poh-Kay.....not poke). Please.

Poke. (Poh-Kay.....not poke). Please.

How do you wake up lady Gaga?  Poke her face. Get it? Poker face.  Get it?  Anyway, this is not the way you pronounce one of the most esteemed and saught after dishes of Hawaii ever in the history of ever.  It is pronounced POH-KAY.  This traditional dish is cut in small cubes and mixed with soy, sesame, tomatoes and onions.  In fact, the word "poke" literally means to portion, slice or cut.  At The Tiki Terrace we slightly sear the outside of the tuna and serve warm.


Poke is Ahi Tuna.  Ahi is the Hawaiian word for Yellowfin Tuna.  Yellowfin tuna is one of the largest species of tuna reaching upwards of 400lbs!  Ahi Tuna is commonly served raw in both poke and sashimi.   In fact, "sashimi grade" tuna is a term used as a top quality product.


Food historians can't quit agree on when the term "poke" started to represent this classic Hawaiian fish dish, but the majority tend to pinpoint it around to the early 1960's.


Stop on by Tiki Terrace and give our spin on this classic dish a try!


Da Uke!.....or ukulele

Da Uke!.....or ukulele

The Ukulele is so rooted in Hawaiian history and naturally plays a HUGE role in The Tiki Terrace. Where did it come from? Is it a guitar? What’s up with the name?

Everyone loves the uke!  Even these silly little girls.  

Everyone loves the uke!  Even these silly little girls.  

So check it out. The Ukulele goes all the way back to the 19th century. The Portuguese immigrants played an instrument called the machete and the ukulele is the Hawaiian adaptation of that instrument.

The work literally means “jumping flea” because when played skillfully, finger tips dance on the strings like…well…dancing fleas. The pronunciation is as follows… oo-koo-le-le. Want to upset many a Hawaiian? Go ahead, say it like you mean it…yook-a-lay-lay. The big error in saying this is the first letter “y”. Say it without the “y” and your half way there!

This instrument can be played by guitar players keeping in mind that this four stringed instrument is the bottom four strings of a guitar-

The Tiki Terrace always has Island music playing in the background for all tourists dining and feasting on local food. It sets the mood and really relaxes one’s mind and body! Our stage has graced many of the world’s finest ukulele players and groups such as Jake Shimabukuro, Hapa, Raiatea Helm, Stephen Espaniola, Kimo Hussey, Aiden James, Abe Lagrimas Jr. just to name a few! Weather you want to hear some great quality ukulele music of some soothing lad back Island tunes, The Tiki Terrace transports you through all the sounds of the Islands!

The stage at Tiki has been the host to a huge amount of the worlds greatest ukulele players. 

The stage at Tiki has been the host to a huge amount of the worlds greatest ukulele players. 

Luau time!

Luau time!

We hear the word “Luau” but we often associate it with our neighbor’s backyard party where we find tiki torches, hula hoops and tropical drinks.

It wouldn't be a luau without our world famous kalua pork! 

It wouldn't be a luau without our world famous kalua pork! 


The word Luau refers to a traditional Hawaiian party and feast that is usually accompanied by entertainment. A lei, or flower wreath worn around the neck, and Island music is a must! A luau is a party, a gathering, a celebration and joyous occasion! Here at The Tiki Terrace we throw four Luaus a week! Choose between one show every Friday, two shows every Saturday, and starting on 2.22.17 one show every Wednesday-

What you can expect from a Luau is something unique and different. Something other than what you are used to. Tropical Island music, Kalua pig, mahi mahi whitefish, teriyaki chicken, ahi seared tuna, beef sirloin, eggrolls and the list goes on and on. The Tiki Terrace luau show will navigate you through the Polynesian Islands, describing the culture through story and dance. Don’t be surprised when those celebrating special occasions get up stage to dance the hula or when the MC interacts with those that celebrating a very special occasion. The luau gatherings at Tiki Terrace are something that you have to reserve for and are most defiantly worth it!

The tiki terrace dancers grace the stage and perform dances from all Polynesia!  Above, you see the Tahitian ote'a!

The tiki terrace dancers grace the stage and perform dances from all Polynesia!  Above, you see the Tahitian ote'a!

If you’re looking to escape the cold weather for a short period of time, have a celebration and want to do something fun and unique, have a date night or a blind date, attending the Tiki Terrace luau show will add that special lively twist to you special day. We are located in Des Plaines, IL so you can save yourself the cost of that flight to Hawaii and come on by! Aloha!

Loco Moco- what's the deal?

The Tiki Terrace proudly serves one of Hawaii's most classic dishes- loco moco.  To those who speak Spanish, this seems super funny..... loco meaning crazy, and moco meaning buger.  Yup, that's right....Hawaii serves up one mean dish of crazy burgers.  Don't believe me?  Check it out here on our menu.  Hey, we even cater it by the tray here.  So what is the deal with this dish and the name?  So check it out, loco moco is simple and delicious.  Start with a huge bed of white rice, then top with grilled beef patties, cover with fried eggs and smother (and I mean smother) with gravy!  Aloooooha loco moco!


So let's get to the name-  to explain the name, we give a short history lesson.  First reports of loco moco came from 1949 in Hilo, Hawaii.  Young, broke surfers needed something cheap, big and loaded with carbs. A request for rice, beef and gravy was given to Nancy Inouney of the Lincoln grill restaurant (the egg came later down the road).  The youngsters named this dish after one of their buddies George Okimoto, who's nickname was "crazy".  George Takahashi, a student at Hilo High school, was studying Spanish at the time and inserted loco into all this.  The word moco was added because it rhymes with loco!  


Come and get some authentic loco moco at The Tiki Terrace in Des Plaines, Il.


Kalua pig Hawaii's most Hawaiian dish.

Kalua pig Hawaii's most Hawaiian dish.


Many have eaten and many have heard of Hawaii's most popular, authentic dish.... Kalua pig.  The Tiki Terrace brags about it's authentic island dish that not only represents the islands well, but many islanders find themselves coming back time and time again.  The menu at Tiki Terrace boasts of many local island dishes, but the Kalua Pig is, and will always remain, king of all entrees.

Shredded pig that is so tender!   Some of the staff uses bear claws, some use their hands, but I use a good ol pair of forks!

Shredded pig that is so tender!   Some of the staff uses bear claws, some use their hands, but I use a good ol pair of forks!

The process is simple and the outcome is awesome!   The word "Kalua" literally means 'to cook in an underground oven'.  Although we don't cook in an 'Imu' we flavor and season with all the goodness of Hawaii!  At one point in time the USDA put out a law that declared you could only cook and sell from an 'Imu' out in the islands.  Here at Tiki, guests can experience our shredded pig on the weekdayweekend or catering menu!



At every Luau, the tourists and locals alike all gravitate toward the goodness off that pig-  it wouldn't be a luau without it!