I wish I could say I felt badly for the slider, but truth be told, rarely are they ever very good. Too often they are mass-produced in large-scale catering events, or they are a forgotten menu item receiving surprisingly little attention from chefs and diners alike. Best case scenario a slider is a delectable couple of beefy bites, tempting you to want even more than the three mini burgers that are usually offered. But the worst case scenario, one that most of us are accustomed to, yields three dry and flavorless balls of meat, sometimes beef, sometimes a combination of pulled pork, chicken and beef but usually mediocre at best. What always amuses me is when people order an appetizer of sliders because they don’t want or think they can eat an entire burger. But the reality is that three little burgers can often be the equivalent if not a larger amount of food than just ordering one single burger. Oh well. After visiting Saloon in Davis Square once before for a few libations and bites I had been intrigued by the “trio of grass-fed sliders” which ironically enough are listed in the entree section and not the expected appetizer corner. Saloon does not offer a full-size burger, and having never reviewed sliders before on this site, I thought it would be a suitable choice. A simple yet upscale combination of bone marrow, wild mushrooms and pickled shallots are the listed ingredients, and priced at $15 it’s in that sweet spot for what would normally be an appropriately priced burger of this caliber.
Three good looking sliders arrive on an elongated cutting board, an obvious choice but an attractive presentation nonetheless. The real test with three of the same flavored slider is consistency; just like a full size burger you want it to be cooked and flavorful from beginning to end, not just in spots. There’s a much shorter window of great to disastrous results, and even the slightest bit of over-cooking can strongly alter the overall enjoyment. I’m happy to say that two of the three sliders were very nicely cooked to a medium-rare, even if some would argue a proper slider ought to be in the White Castle realm, heavy on the onions and subjected to a longer cooking time. While I wish the bone marrow was more noticeable and pronounced, the beef still has a very strong and robust flavor and is about as juicy as a little disc of beef can be. The mushrooms are scarce and hard to spot, but the brightness and acidity of the pickled shallots helps bring out the meatiness of the patties. The choice of not topping the burger with cheese is questionable, but one that I didn’t even necessarily notice until I was almost finished. Seasoning is a strong point; the three to five bites per slider yield succulent burger flavor in a fraction of the normal size. One of the sliders manages to be a bit more over-cooked and thus a little drier, further speaking to the difficulties in cooking them properly. A mini brioche bun actually makes sense here; firm, soft and manageable they are the ideal fit and size. French Fries are just right: thick with a little bit of skin, they are fried perfectly and seasoned in the optimal way. (ie salty and delicious).
Saloon does a great job tackling the much maligned slider, although I kind of just wish I had eaten a regular size burger, these fit the bill for the snack-heavy and cocktail-centric menu. For $15 it’s competitive with the more higher end burger around town, and despite the lack of oomph from the promised bone marrow and wild mushrooms, the excellent French Fries and satisfying trio of sliders make this a memorable experience. Would I enjoy this as much if it was a normal size burger all rolled up into one sandwich? Hard to say, but for the purpose of treating it the same as all the rest, sometimes size does not matter.
Overall Score: 84