Remember those heady days of can-do American spirit, when we made something great even better by making it bigger? Like our homes, our cars, our action films? Of course you remember; it wasn’t that long ago.
But now the days of belt-tightening are officially here, and everything is getting tinier. Two words: Smart Car. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Case in point: the slider, the miniaturized burger that White Castle so elegantly brought to our attention decades ago. It’s made in America, it’s meat, and you can eat dozens in a sitting. What’s not to love? And now that frantic TV pitchman Billy Mays is shilling a home slider-cooking device, the mini-burger has gone mainstream.
So we set out to assess the state of local sliderdom, in part to stay on the cusp of a culinary trend, in larger part to eat expense-account mini-food. We ate high-end (Brand, Cut), we ate lowbrow (Chili’s), we ate the hell out of the middle ground. We even ate things that are called sliders but are not, in fact, sliders (the delish pulled-pork “sliders” at Memphis Championship Barbecue) in our book. But we quickly realized that we were up against an implacable fact: too much good stuff. If it hasn’t reached chicken-finger levels of ubiquity, the slider is certainly comparable to, oh, the quesadilla, appearing on more and more menus.
So even though White Castle has yet to deem us worthy of its presence, there’s no shortage of locally produced mini-burgers for the adventurous Harolds and Kumars among us. We pored over the many options throughout Las Vegas, and we’ve come to a definitive conclusion: Small rocks.
A few to get you started
Sliders at Claim Jumper
We’ve eaten our (ever-increasing) weight in Claim Jumper sliders, and for good reason: They are in some ways the template for the ideal slider. They’re simple, cheese and juicy beef on a small roll. They come with classic toppings—tomato, sliced pickle, fresh onion. And Thousand Island dressing on the side. Newfangled and old-fashioned at the same time. 1100 S. Fort Apache Road, 243-8751. In Town Square, 270-2509. 601 N. Green Valley Parkway, 933-0880.
Mini-Kobe Beef Sliders at Cut
You’d expect nothing less than a top-drawer product from celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, whose basic philosophy is to “use the best stuff available, and try not to screw it up.” That’s exactly what he’s done at his signature Palazzo steakhouse, where Kobe beef runs $20 per ounce. Twenty dollars will also get you a quartet of mini-Kobe beef sliders, though, made from Snake River Farms American beef. A coarse grind makes for moist, juicy meat; the patties come on an eggy brioche bun smeared with shallot jalapeno marmalade and crowned with sweet pickles. If you aren’t hungry yet, call a doctor. Inside the Palazzo, 607-6300.
Classic Sliders at Yard House
In more than a dozen visits to this raucous restaurant, only three or four times have we ordered a dish other than the classic sliders. (One of those times, we ordered the bearnaise sliders—sliders with bearnaise sauce—which were a bit too oh-la-la for our earthy taste buds.) They are simplicity—Angus beef and cheddar cheese—with a twist: the tasty house sauce. Curiously, they aren’t accompanied by the usual burger garnish of tomatoes, fresh onion and so forth. Perhaps Yard House doesn’t want any distractions. In Town Square, 734-9273.
Big E Sliders at Elephant Bar
We were reminded of an important principle of slider-consumption while sampling these little fellas: Minimalism is a virtue. We ordered ours with the works, which included a slice of bacon and a curl of avocado. But those extras quickly came to seem like affectations—unnecessary touches that just got in the way of what is otherwise a fine mini-burger. It’s made even better by the tangy bistro mustard that comes with it. The chili-spiced ketchup is okay, too, but the mustard is the keeper. In the District at Green Valley Ranch, 361-7468.
Kobe Slider Trio at BLT Burger
Laurent Tourondel, a big-deal New York chef, made his bones in Vegas at Caesars Palace before finding fame in the Big Apple with his BLT Steak and BLT Fish concepts. Now he’s back in Vegas with BLT Burger, an upscale joint that serves a Kobe Slider Trio with a BLT topping, plus barbecued onions and blue cheese. These are moist, juicy and uncommonly rich. That apt description might fit the chef as well. Inside the Mirage, 791-7111.
Kobe Beef Mini Burgers at Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza
They come with chipotle aioli, whatever that is—we were done eating before we thought to ask. 7345 Arroyo Crossing Parkway, 263-7171. 9500 W. Flamingo Road, 638-9500. 4300 E. Sunset Road, 450-6664. 7160 N. Durango Drive, 365-7777. 6500 W. Sahara Ave., 227-6000.
Smithwick’s Mini-Burgers at Fado
So it’s not called a slider on the menu; the effect is the same. From the perfectly shaped and lightly toasted bun to the teensy fried onions, bit of pickle and dab of jack cheese, this is a splendid slider from start to finish, not too greasy and cooked with just the right amount of flavor. As a great bonus, you get to eat them with boxty fries, cooked until they’re hard enough to be used as weapons, but still chewy inside, as well as the ultimate dipping sauce—Guinness mayonnaise. Our opinion? One of the best to be found in town. 9470 S. Eastern Ave., 407-8691.
Veal Sliders at Brand Steakhouse
Chef Brian Massie is nothing if not creative, and he’s been allowed to riff to his heart’s content at Brand. If you aren’t up to a steak, you can’t do better than these veal sliders, served two to an order with crisp seasoned fries. Served on buttery homemade buns and topped with pickled shallots, a grossly underused condiment, the patties are milder than their beefy relations, and as moist as the morning dew. We still haven’t tasted the chef’s rumored lamb sliders, but we live in hope. Inside the Monte Carlo, 730-7777.