The Summer of Sliders
Sliders are back in full force this summer, showing up on menus coast to coast, in high-end eateries in New York, small town burger joints, and casual family chains. The perfect antidote to the skyrocketing costs of proteins, sliders require less beef per patty than a typical hamburger—another summer staple—and also ease right into the shareable/small plates trend.
“Although burgers can be one of the most satisfying and delicious foods, sliders allow you to graze through the menu,” says Jeremy Lieb, executive chef at Nada, a Mexican concept in Cincinnati that has sliders on its appetizer menu.
“They are a great way to experience a lot of different flavors without committing yourself to one, single item,” Chef Guillermo Tellez of Mercadito Hospitality says.
A natural for the Millennial cohort, sliders work well as an appetizer or a main meal; many restaurants sell them two at a time, often under $10 per order. “We see many guests ordering sliders and saving one to take home to enjoy at a later time,” says Scott Walton, executive chef at classic-American concept Howells & Hood in Chicago. “It’s much easier to take a slider home than a quarter of a burger.”
Under the direction of Chef Tellez, Municipal Bar + Dining Co. in Chicago, which recently announced an operating partnership with Mercadito Hospitality, rolled out a new summer menu specifically highlighting sliders. With 10 selections running at either $7 or $8 for two, Municipal entices guests to share dishes and try a variety of flavors and proteins.
Chef Tellez says sliders complement the beverage program and bar standards. He also incorporates seasonal flavors and ingredients into the sliders.
“Because of their size, we have to create and develop flavors that are like a slap in your face,” Chef Tellez explains. “With sliders, the guest has to taste everything in just a couple of bites.”
At Nada in Cincinnati, Lieb creates sliders that are “classic reinvented” and inspired by burgers of his youth. Nada Sliders are “hot and beefy, oozing with cheese, balanced by tart pickle, and held together on a yeasty cloud of a bun,” he says. Chef Lieb adds dimension to the appetizer offering with Lawry’s seasoning and a kick of jalapeno heat.
Sliders may be small, but they are given the same attention to detail as any menu item. “We love simple food, food that showcases bold flavor and ingredients,” says Lieb. “Sliders achieve that—they're perfect if you're in the mood for a burger meal, a snack after work with friends, or as a craveable appetizer to share before your entrees. The size makes them suitable to many occasions.”
In Chicago’s Howells & Hood, Walton eschews the traditional beef burger altogether, serving a Pork Belly Reuben Slider that pays homage to a traditional Reuben sandwich. “In each element of the Pork Belly Reuben Sliders, you can taste the rich, savory bacon flavors, as we’ve incorporated this ingredient throughout the entire dish,” Chef Walton says. “We corn the pork belly for a week, then braise and press it for two days.”
Chef Walton also braises the cabbage in bacon fat and renders bacon fat to use in the dressing. A small dark rye roll and sweet Swiss cheese from Indiana complement the slider ingredients.
Each bit presents guests with the full flavor profile head on. “We’ve taken the pork belly and accentuated its flavor in four different ways rather than revealing several ingredients to play off one another,” Chef Walton says. “Guests who enjoy bacon love ordering this dish, as these flavors are in every element.”
The slider love stretches from independent eateries to the chain restaurants. Family dining restaurant Ruby Tuesday brought back its Mini Masterpieces menu options earlier this year, allowing guests to choose any two sliders for $5.99: Classic Cheese with Bacon; Turkey & Swiss; Philly Cheesesteak; and Buffalo Chicken with Blue Cheese.
Municipal Bar + Dining Co., Chicago
- Angus Burger Sliders with pickled red onion, chipotle mayo, tomato marmalade, Brie cheese, lettuce, and tomato
- Black Bean & Lentil Sliders with roasted tomato, avocado, and chipotle
- Grilled Mushroom Sliders with maitake, portobello and cremini mushrooms, Gruyere cheese, and mornay sauce
- Crab Cake Sliders with jumbo lump Maryland crab, and jalapeno-cilantro mayo
- Crispy Chicken CutletSliders with breaded chicken breast, Pepperjack cheese, garlic mayo, and spicy slaw
Howells & Hood, Chicago
- Pork Belly Reuben Sliders with corned pork belly, bacon-braised sauerkraut, sweet Swiss, horseradish Russian dressing, and dark rye
- Nada Sliders with Angus beef, steamed onions, American cheese, and jalapeno
Terrazza, Santa Monica, California
- American Wagyu Beef Sliders with tomato jam, arugula, and Point Reyes blue cheese
The Original Dinerant, Portland, Oregon
- Donut Burger Sliders with local grass-fed beef and melted Tillamock Cheddar cheese, sandwiched between deep-fried and drip-dried house-made donuts with a thick, sugary glaze
- Chicken & Waffle Sliders with buttermilk-battered chicken breasts—seasoned and flash fried—placed open-faced atop a pair of mini, fluffy buttermilk waffles and drizzled with a syrup that’s both savory (dijon) and sweet (honey)
Urban Farmer, Portland, Oregon
- Tuna Sliders with house-made Parker House roll, seared Ahi tuna, red pepper, olive, fennel, and kohlrabi slaw
The Corner Office Restaurant + Martini Bar, Denver
- Pork Belly Sliders with pork belly, sweet soy cucumber salad, and TCO’s house-made mustard sauce
Oceana, New York
- Chinese Steamed Bun Sliders with five-spiced chicken, sour cherry sauce, and house-made buns
By Joann Whitcher