Loved then shunned, mini burgers are returning to national-chain menus. This could be the result of record high beef prices or just of the cyclicality of food trends, but the small sweethearts of 2009-10 are back on national-chain menus.
Burger King pioneered the trend in early 2009 with its Burger Shots. Steak ‘n Shake countered with Steakburger Shots (renamed Shooters after a legal dispute) and Jack in the Box introduced Mini Sirloin Burgers. Johnny Rockets, Farmer Boys and others jumped in before the fad exhausted itself. In 2011, Jack in the Box retired its minis, leaving the menu field open to chains’ next big thing: patty melts. Most recently, mini burgers have been disguised as $1 value-menu burgers.
But true mini burgers or sliders are coming back at national brands:
This isn’t to say that mini burgers completely went away from some menus. They remain core items for mini burgers’ co-founders, White Castle and Krystal. In fact, 82-year-old Krystal just introduced its biggest minis ever: the double-patty Krystal Stacker. At 93-year-old White Castle, coming soon are Sriracha Chicken Sliders.
Minis continue to be found at many small chains and independent burger bars. The New York City-based Bareburger chain’s menu offers three sliders for $9.95 and protein choices include beef, turkey, lamb, wild boar, elk or quinoa-veggie. Sliderbar, which opened in Palo Alto, Calif, at the height of the craze in early 2010, is still going strong, selling Niman Ranch beef minis for $3.50 and up. At Sliders Burgers and Belgian Fries in Syracuse, N.Y., another class of 2010 concept, “build your own sliders” start at $2.09.
Farm Burger in Atlanta cooks up sliders on weekends at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market. Last weekend’s build: grass-fed beef, arugula, grilled strawberries and thyme-basil goat-cheese sauce.
During their exile from dining-room menus, sliders found work on bar menus. Now with the original burger-bar concept evolving into full-bar restaurants, sliders have been rediscovered as great shot accompaniments. At Spears Bourbon Burgers Beer, which opened May 13 in Wheeling, Ill., the menu has not only full-size burgers but also a selection of sliders. At the Connecticut-based Plan B Burger Bar chain, where bourbons have a prominent role, $3 mini burgers (beef, chicken, veggie or turkey) are a happy-hour special.