"You know what I'm so sick of?" tweeted Bon Appétit editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport earlier this month. "Sliders."
Ouch, I thought. Not a great PR moment for the miniburger. But thinking back, I can recall several occasions on which an influential food-world person expressed disdain for very small sandwiches--a once seemingly trendy snack item that has demonstrated surprising staying power over the past few years. (I like to compare them to cargo pants: Just when you think they're on the outs--bam!--some Fashion Week model saunters down the runway with pockets jutting out at her knees.)
Intrigued, I started asking some of the foodie types I know what the problem was. The words "bad value" came up a lot--sliders may seem inexpensive, but ounce for ounce, the argument went, you're paying through the nose for that hit of juicy beef. The sheer ubiquity seemed to bother a lot of people--from the catering world to bar menus in chains and neighborhood bistros alike, some foodies see baby burgs as a lazy fallback when something more creative was called for.
But the anti-slider argument I've heard the most is that sliders simply aren't tasty. Fresh buns are a rarity, meat tends to be dry . . . they're just not good. As when you see the word "gyoza" on a mid-priced, contemporary-American bar menu and know those dumplings likely came straight from the Sysco truck, the word "slider" can also indicate something slapdash and industrial, a throwaway item designed to distract you from the cost of your cocktail. But for every rule, an exception, and in this case five. Here, a list of sliders that show a small sandwich can be a thing of beauty. Even if it's not that cool anymore.
1) Prime Beef Sliders at the Source Lounge
The izakaya menu at the Source offers several fairly delectable miniature sandwiches--it's easy to overlook the prime beef sliders and opt for mini bánh mì or tender pork belly tucked into a bao bun. Really, you can't go wrong, but the beefwich--with Maryland cheddar and smoked onion marmalade--is unlikely to disappoint.
When these little guys first arrived on the scene, a brioche bun was a relatively rare thing, as was a slider made with so much attention to texture and flavor combos: snappy pickles, buttery bread, Gouda cheese. The ingredients added up to an expectation-defying bar snack that's become a classic.
3) Ibérico de bellota mini hamburguesas at Jaleo
Jaleo's hamburguesas are stuffed with a pork patty made with Ibérico de bellota, among the world's best pig products. It's kind of a perfect tapa, too--a full burger would be overkill for most of us, but a little one offers the opportunity to sample the legendary Spanish pork without breaking the bank (or the scale).
4) Little Burgers at Eatbar
On my first trip to Eatbar--the casual Arlington eatery adjacent to Tallula--I was most excited about the Little Pork Burger topped with celery root slaw and red chilies. But while that sandwich was a little dry and underseasoned, my tablemates and I almost got into a scuffle over the juicy Little Burgers, perked up with balsamic onions and a rich truffle aïoli.
5) Tuna sliders at PS 7's
I left these for last so I could peace out before
getting into an argument about what "slider" even means. Does it have to be a burger? Is it just any small sandwich? Semantics aside, these are genius: A sesame-seed bun helps turn tuna tartare into finger food--white
miso aïoli and cucumber-cilantro slaw lend fat, pep, and crunch. And when I called PS 7's to make sure they would be remaining on the menu, the staffer on the other end of the phone let out a deep chuckle. "Oh," she said. "Very much so."