The Non-Safe Choice: Spam Bites at The Blue Door

St. Paul's Blue Door Pub is quickly making a name for itself by presenting local pub food with a novel twist. Whether it's the menu's eight different twists on the classic Jucy Lucy concept, the bierock (a pastie- or piroshki-like meat-stuffed pastry) or the $5 Spam bites, The Blue Door is willing to push the envelope when it comes to food that tastes good with beer.

Spam gets a bad rap. Granted, canned meat is never going to be a first choice when it comes to haute cuisine, but the lower 48 (and Alaska) could take a lesson from Hawaii, where Spam is firmly enshrined as good eats. Hawaii even boasts a well-regarded style of Spam nigiri.

Minnesota is Spam's birthplace, so it makes a certain amount of sense that a local eatery would attempt to salvage its reputation. The dish in question is a basket of little fried nuggets, each containing Spam, cream cheese and some small slices of pickle.

"We wanted to have an underlying theme of being a Minnesota-centric place," says co-owner Jeremy Woerner. "Spam bites kind of fit into that, but like all great things, it involved a drunken 2 A.M. moment of discovery. My wife and I were having a party, and it was getting to be a good time for food. I don't even know why, but we had Spam in the cupboard. And I've always been a sucker for those appetizers with the cream cheese and the pickle and the corned beef wrapped around it. So it was basically that concept. We put the Spam, pickle and cream cheese on hamburger buns and quartered them and handed them out at the party, and everyone was like: 'Oh my God!'"

Originally, Spam bites were going to be served in the same way, on mini-buns. But then, playing around with the restaurant's fryer, the Spam bite evolved into a full-on fried mini sandwich. That was too much. "It looked atrocious," says Woerner. "Then we came up with more of a crunchier, more '50s onion ring really crispy kind of batter. It's got a crackery/chippy mix we roll 'em around in, too."

The bites offer a nice balance of flavors, playing the creamy cream cheese against the sharp bite of the dill pickle against the salty savory taste of the Spam against the crunchy fried coating. A sweet chili dipping sauce further works to complement and contrast the heavy and fried aspect of the bites. In short, they're surprisingly well balanced, and — even when sampled stone-cold sober — they're really quite good. And despite the somewhat frightening description (pickles! Spam! fried!) you'll be surprised by how comforting they actually are, once you've tried a bite or two.

Spam Bites at The Blue Door Pub Price: $5 Fear and/or Confusion Factor While Ordering (out of 10): 7 Actual Fear and/or Confusion Factor, While Eating : 3 Taste: 7

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