Sliders are those mini-burger appetizers that have been popping up on menus all over town. Single-serving size and usually sold in groups of three, they are easy to share and lend themselves to variation, which may explain their growing popularity at bars and eateries across Anchorage.
Upscale sliders are relatively new, but the term goes way back. It's popularly reported to have originated with the sliding motion of burger patties across the greasy grills of naval ships, but their small dimensions have everything to do with White Castle's signature 2.5-inch square hamburgers (historically, it must be noted, the word has some negative connotations having to do with fast food's effect on sensitive digestive systems). While purists insist that a true slider must follow the White Castle model of a flat burger patty, cooked onions and square shape, sliders come in all shapes and sizes now -- from meatballs to crab cakes and breakfast versions. Sliders are the cupcakes of the bar food world: cutesy portion control that leaves room for almost endless elaboration.
The list below is not comprehensive, but a sampler of the sliders Anchorage has to offer. So go ahead, take a bite.
The 1950s-themed City Diner comes closest to approaching the classic slider, at least in appearance and value. $10.50 will buy you six of these little sandwiches -- that's $1.75 each (we hear White Castle charges about 70 cents per slider, but hey, these are Alaska prices). Like the original, these have thin meat patties and grilled onions. City Diner adds American cheese and "diner sauce," a pink sauce resembling Thousand Island. It's all layered on a white bread bun -- cut square, of course. ($10.50 for six)
Haute Quarter Grill is a recent arrival to the downtown restaurant scene, and their trendy revamped bar features a trendy slider appetizer. This version had a beef patty about a half-inch thick cooked precisely to medium. It had a pungent hit of blue cheese, some bite from a sprinkle of pickled red onions and added richness from bacon butter brushed over the toasted bun. While the bun was, confusingly, a little greasy on top (as Play food reviewer Mara Severin noted last week), this is a slider that would hold up to a full-size burger anytime. ($12.95 for three)
Other notable entries in this category: Kobe beef sliders at SubZero ($14 for three) and Whale's Tail ($14 for three).
Salmon and crab
In SubZero's crab cake sliders, every component works by itself and as part of a whole. The crab cake is perfectly seasoned and has a crispy crust. It's topped with arugula and lemon aioli, giving the sandwich some freshness and citrus tang. It's served on a Hawaiian roll that is toasty and slightly sweet. Anchorage has some great bar food, and this is definitely an example of that. ($9 for three)
The Whale's Tail appetizer menu says its Asian salmon sliders are served on Hawaiian rolls, which I'll have to take on faith because they were missing when I opened my takeout box at home. I happily discovered the carb-free version could stand on its own. Like many Alaskans, I'm very particular about how my salmon is prepared, and the substantial slabs of marinated fish were cooked perfectly, complimented with a wasabi aioli drizzle, sesame seeds and long strips of cucumber that added a pickled crunch. ($13 for three, buns included)
Braised and barbecued
Ginger and Killjoy Tasting Roomboth have slow-cooked meats on offer. Ginger's Kalua pork sliders contain Hawaiian-style pulled pork, which had a nice smoky flavor and was served on a potato roll topped with coleslaw. ($8 for two) Killjoy's sliders are stuffed to overflowing with wine-braised beef. It wasn't mentioned on the menu, but the beef had some kind of spice that gave it a little heat and was also topped with coleslaw -- because slow-cooked meats and coleslaw go together like, well, tiny burgers and cocktails. ($12 for three)
Hours: 6 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Sun.
Location: 3000 Minnesota Drive
Contact: 277-2489 and citydineranchorage.com
Hours: 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Tues.-Thur., 4 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Fri.-Sat.
Location: 612 F Street
Contact: 276-2337 and subzerolounge.com
Hours: 4 p.m.-10 p.m., Wed., 4 p.m.-12 a.m. Thurs., 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Fri.-Sat.
Location: 939 W. Fifth Ave.
Contact: 276-6000 and captaincook.com
Bar hours: Open until 11 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., until 12 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Location: 425 W. Fifth Ave.
Contact: 929-3680 and gingeralaska.com
Killjoy Tasting Room
Hours: 4:30-11 p.m. Tues.-Thurs. 4:30 p.m.-3 a.m. Fri.-Sat.
Location: 400 W. Fourth Ave.
Contact: 278-0070 and killjoytastingroom.com
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By Victoria Barber