Why adding deliciously smaller sliders can up your business
In certain circles — business, real estate, commerce — downsizing can be a negative term. It means a reduction, a loss. But when it comes to burgers of any kind, downsizing can be a great thing. Why? It results in a deliciously smaller sandwich we’ve all come to know — and love — as a slider.
Sliders have become ubiquitous at bars and restaurants around the country. They’re small, easy to eat and go great with beer. Oftentimes, sliders will be a featured happy hour special as they’re an effective way to draw customers into your place during slower periods.
At American Cut in New York, chef Marc Forgione has offered an elevated version of a traditional beef burger slider during happy hour (and also for Monday Night Football games). Guests at the bar can get two dry-aged wagyu sliders for $21 served with braised onions and house-made beer cheese.
Like Forgione’s wagyu sliders, chefs around the country have gotten creative with ways to present their diners with something a little more special in the form of a slider. Cochon Butcher in New Orleans offers a $7 hot-pressed duck pastrami slider with Gruyere cheese and béchamel sauce. At Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which has 10 locations across the Northeast and Chicago, has a variety of sliders like BBQ pork with pickles, pulled jerk lamb shoulder with coleslaw and chopped brisket with pickled onion and jalapeño horseradish mayo ranging between $3.95 and $4.95 each.
“Sliders are casual and informal. You don’t have to get dressed up for them and people want the quickness of them, too,” said Jill Barron, chef/owner of Chicago’s Mana Food Bar. “It’s a great bar snack and you always want people sitting at your bar and eating.”
At Mana, an intimate globally inspired vegetarian- and vegan-focused restaurant, Barron offers a brown rice and mushroom slider with spicy mayonnaise. Priced at $3.75 each, the Mana Slider came about after Barron experimented with various ingredients.
She didn’t want to do a black bean burger and instead played around with a number of types of rice and mushrooms before settling on the combination of brown rice and portobellos, which offer a nice meatiness.
“Sliders are casual and informal. You don’t have to get dressed up for it.”
- Jill Barron, chef/owner of Chicago’s Mana Food Bar
“I was going for flavor, for what tasted best,” Barron said. “There’s cracked wheat for texture, egg to bind and it’s on a King’s Hawaiian role. The two-ounce patty gets nice and crispy on the griddle. Even meat eaters say it’s a great veggie burger.” To drive in business during happy hour, Mana offers two sliders and a beer or juice for $7.50.
Moving further away from the traditional beef burger, many restaurants have also started playing around with seafood. Tapping into his favorite diner food, executive chef Ben Pollinger of New York’s Oceana created a smoked salmon Reuben slider where everything — except the Swiss cheese — is made in-house from the smoked salmon to the sauerkraut to the Russian dressing and the rye bread.
“I wanted to do something fun on the bar menu where people could drink, share easily and eat standing up with thier hands,” Pollinger said. “Growing up in northern New Jersey, the home of the diner, the Reuben was always my go-to thing and it still is. I’ve made my own corned beef, but how could I make it interesting with seafood?”
Pollinger has also done a shrimp and tuna slider — a shrimp burger with a tuna core. He packed the center with the tuna where the shrimp would get cooked and the tuna would stay raw. It was topped with mango sauce and a slaw of green papaya fennel, lime and cilantro.
“It’s something different than your typical bar food,” he added. “It’s not just a bowl of nuts or chicken wings. People always want something new.”
To that point, Chef Tyson Wong at ROKU in West Hollywood, Calif., played around with dozens of dishes before opening in November 2015 and discovered one of the more popular items was a sea bass slider.
He crusts the fish in panko, roasts it and serves it on mini buns with butter lettuce, red cabbage, tomato, tonkatsu sauce and yuzu tartar sauce. On the flipside, Wong also has a crispy chicken tatsuta aged slider that uses free-range chicken where the skin gets scored and crispy with panko and Japanese chili flake that’s served with kewpie mayo, vinegar and spicy chili.
“People are surprised we have the sliders and they’re anxious to try them,” Wong said. “It’s easy and delicious and it’s not really in most Japanese restaurants. It’s more variety.”
And while variety may be the spice of life, it’s also the key to getting more diners in your operation.