DENVER • Before stepping into TK’s Surf and Turf, many newbies have likely already seen a sneak preview of what’s to come.
There’s a video of a grown man crying in his car while eating the restaurant’s shrimp. “It’s so good,” he mumbles dramatically while sad music plays in the background.
There are photos of celebrity rappers like Bun B or members of the Denver Broncos dropping in for plates of food.
And there’s a TikTok, a slow-motion immersion in TK Surf and Turf’s branded dish. Taken from the Denver Food Scene report, the 15-second clip shows “The Works”, a platter of colorfully seasoned lobster, prawns, sausage and crabs.
It’s the kind of delicious videos that made food videos to cat video popularity on the internet. After watching someone hand pull apart pieces of lobster and dip them in a butter sauce, TikTok commentators were ready to give it a try, saying things like, “I’m going and I’ll take everyone I know!” and “I know what I’m going to have for dinner now.”
The video surpassed 1 million views across multiple platforms in January. In the real world, this corresponded to long lines that stretched across the parking lot in front of TK’s Surf and Turf.
It only opened in October 2020.
Owner Tyler Kanwai, whose initials make up the company name, says he’s not prepared for the rush. But he and his team, which includes his mother Tina, have learned from this time.
“It was like a tsunami,” Kanwai said as he pointed to a colorful mural on the restaurant floor that showed a cartoon version of himself surfing a wave. “Now it’s like things are calmer. We’re surfing the second wave. “
The second wave means that customers are still coming for videos they saw on the internet.
There’s a lot of hype, something Kanwai’s mom hits on when people walk in.
“Welcome to TK’s,” she says from behind the counter, before explaining the menu on a board above her.
When she references “The Works,” which costs $ 55, she calls it a # 1 seller. “Since we went viral, the demand has been so great,” she says.
For those not in the mood to pay over $ 55 (plus more for the side dishes), there are other options such as a prawn alfredo dinner for $ 25 and the option of having your own main course to build. As a tribute to Kanwai’s favorite drink from childhood, TK’s exclusively sells lemonades with a calypso flavor. “It’s like liquid candy,” he says.
At the highest end, there’s TK’s Dinner Feast, which will feed six to eight people and cost $ 399.99. The feast includes six grilled chicken breasts, 16 snow crab clusters, 80 jumbo prawns, eight lobster tails, eight chopped beef sausages, your choice of side dishes, and a whole pound cake. Kanwai and his cooks can finish it in an hour, he is proud to say.
He is most proud of “The Works”, which, as he says, offers “the best of both worlds”.
“I do it the way I like to eat it,” he says. “And people like it. People get off the plane to come here and get it. “
They’re also coming to support Kanwai, a Denver native with a background in party promotion. He grew up cooking since he was old enough to turn on the stove, but most of his friends and followers didn’t know this side of him until Kanwai started selling plates of food from his house in recent years. When the pandemic broke out and restaurants closed, Kanwai was able to continue selling food. As he grew in popularity, Kanwai decided it was time to take a chance and open up your own space.
He continued to cook the food his own way, covering seafood with spices in a way that encouraged people to “lick the bowls.” And there is his secret sauce that he encourages to go into it all.
He also made the place look the way he wanted it to, with walls covered in different words and phrases of different sizes and colors. Some words are related to food, such as “Seafood tastes better here”. Some are heavier, like a wall full of names of blacks killed by the police. Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Elijah McClain are among the dozen names.
“These people cannot speak for themselves,” said Kanwai. “So we stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.”
There’s another reason people come here: to support what Kanwai calls Denver’s first family-run seafood restaurant in Denver.
He wears this title with pride. TK is approaching its 1 year anniversary and wants to keep riding the wave. There could be more exposure and viral videos. But Kanwai wants to focus on making the next plate of food as pretty and delicious as the last.
“I just want it to be about good food and good vibes,” he said. “You come here and you are a family.”