Dish of the Week: Tiki TNT’s SPAM musubi

Media Credit: Sabrina Godin | Photographer

The SPAM musubi at Tiki TNT can be served grilled or fried in a sushi roll with a side of spicy sriracha.

Tiki TNT is a Hawaiian-themed tiki bar and restaurant where customers can enjoy Polynesian food and tropical rum drinks with views of the harbor.

Located at 1130 Maine Ave. SW on The Wharf waterfront, Tiki TNT is a three-story high restaurant situated near the seafood market. The exterior is built with industrial metal and concrete, but you can expect an island feel once you step inside and see tiki umbrellas and bamboo rods hung above the bar.

A neon pink sign with the restaurant’s name hangs above the entrance and welcomes customers inside to the first floor. Stairs lead to a bar and seating area on the second floor, where doors open to patio seating. You can also snag a seat in a relatively smaller third-floor area.

Tiki TNT offers three menus – brunch, daily and late-night – depending on what time you drop in. The joint is open from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday. On the weekends, brunch is served starting at 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., closing at 1 a.m. Saturday and 11:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Several menu options piqued my interest, but when I saw the SPAM musubi ($6), my mind flooded with childhood memories from my papa’s kitchen. SPAM was a staple in his household and he would fry it up every morning for breakfast. Aside from my personal memory, SPAM is one of the most popular food items in Hawaii, where residents consume 7 million cans of SPAM products annually.

It isn’t only popular in Hawaii. SPAM has grabbed people’s attention in the District, and some food critics have called it a new D.C. food trend.

SPAM musubi – a grilled or fried dish including either sushi rice or nori, also known as seaweed – is a common preparation of processed meat in Hawaii. At Tiki TNT, four squares of SPAM musubi pieces are served, and each piece includes two layers of SPAM and two layers of sushi rice wrapped in a lightly moist nori sheet. The pieces are dusted with sesame seeds and served with a sweet sriracha sauce.

The processed, brick-like appearance can be off-putting to some, but the taste isn’t far from a piece of country ham. The salty, savory and fatty pieces of SPAM pair nicely with the bright flavor of the rice vinegar in the sushi rice.

The nori tastes a bit like the ocean, but it held the SPAM and rice together tightly in a visually pleasing square that can be eaten in two bites. The sweet sriracha sauce also packed some heat into the dish and gave it a finishing touch of sweetness.

If you came to the bar for drinks and other Hawaiian dishes, you can try the loco moco plate ($10) with ground beef, rice, soy gravy and fried egg, or the SPAM and egg sandwich ($14). Grab a pitcher of the house rum daiquiri ($25) or bottomless mimosas ($18) for your breakfast booze.

The regular daily menu offers a mix of bar food with Hawaiian flare and classic Hawaiian dishes. Some nontraditional Hawaiian dishes include the vegan watermelon poke bowl ($10), tiki wings ($13) with a pineapple barbecue sauce or the “T’s Big Burger” ($15) with bacon-onion jam and queso fresco served on a Hawaiian roll. If you’re looking for an authentic meal, try the roasted pork shoulder “Pumba Platter” ($24) served with slaw, Hawaiian rolls and tater tots.

From the classic Hawaiian food items like the SPAM musubi to the house distillery rum drinks and the tropical decor, Tiki TNT gives customers an immersive island experience.

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