Slide into SliderBar Cafe in Palo Alto

After launching Mantra, the contemporary Indian restaurant in downtown Palo Alto four years ago, what was the next logical move for Ashwani Dhawan?

To open a restaurant that specializes in itty-bitty American hamburgers, of course.

Say what?

Yes, the Indo-American, techie-turned-restaurateur opened SliderBar Cafe in downtown Palo Alto at the end of March.

Don’t even strain yourself to look for a curry or tandoori burger on this menu. There is nothing Indian about it. Instead, find everything from the “American Classic Slider” ($2.89) with a Niman Ranch beef patty, and served with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, mayo and a pickle to the “Memphis-Style Natural Pulled Pork Slider” ($4.49), made with Niman Ranch pork, and coleslaw.

Breakfast is served all day, too. So you can enjoy a “Mediterranean Breakfast Slider” ($2.69) with a cage-free egg, olives, artichokes, tomatoes, onions, feta cheese and roasted garlic sauce on a puffy little white bun, no matter what the hour.

SliderBar also offers a variety of wines, including economical ones on tap from kegs and dispensing machines that help preserve the wines better.

Why baby burgers?

“I wanted to do something simple and not fine dining,” says Dhawan, who is still part-owner of Mantra. “Fine dining is too hard these days. I also was very interested in portion control.” Light eaters can order one slider while their carnivore companions can go to town to order them by the trio or even by the dozen.

Recently, I was invited as a guest to try SliderBar, where the menu is still being tweaked a bit. The yogurt shakes are now made with ice cream instead. The baked fries were axed in favor of the more traditional fried ones. And dessert offerings are still to come.

The casual restaurant was packed with folks with laptops on their tables, as well as families with young children. The front of the restaurant spills out onto the sidewalk, with tables for prime people-watching on bustling University Avenue. Two flat-screen TVs at the bar also provide entertainment.

You order at the bar, and the food is delivered to your table.

Garlic fries ($2.89) and sweet potato fries ($2.89) arrive in silver julep tumblers, hot, crisp, and done perfectly.

My hubby, aka Meat Boy, and I ordered five sliders between the two of us, each of which could have been cradled comfortably  in the palm of one hand. Sliderbar doesn’t bake its own buns, but they are nevertheless fabulous, particularly the multigrain ones which have a crispy exterior and memorable hearty flavor.

The pulled pork was a tangy, sweet tangle of shredded meat. The “California Chicken Slider” ($2.89), piled with avocado, lettuce, tomato and a pretty tame chipotle sauce, was fine but not that exciting.

The “Kobe Beef Slider” ($3.89) with lettuce, tomato, onion and a Parmesan cheese spread was definitely richer tasting than the classic beef slider, which we also had. Both beef patties were seasoned nicely, but bordering on well-done.  Had they been a little pinker in the middle they would have been even better.

Our favorite of the bunch was the “Mediterranean Slider” ($3.89) — a Niman Ranch lamb patty topped with crumbled feta, olives, artichokes, tomato, red onion and garlic sauce. It had the most flavor by far, with deep lamb deliciousness singing through.

A side serving of the “Mediterranean Chopped Salad” ($4.49) was quite sizable. Though not chopped quite as finely as true chopped salads, the mix of Romaine, feta, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, olives, onions, garbanzos, tomatoes and candied walnuts was a satisfying blend of tang, saltiness, sweetness and textures. However, there was almost too much cheese. And I’m a cheese lover. But the amount almost overwhelmed everything else in the bowl.

A mocha milk shake ($3.49) is a new addition to the menu. Rather than the humongous-sized shakes at some other places, the ones here come in more manageable ice tea-glass sizes, which is actually kind of nice, given how rich they are. The mocha one had a welcome strong coffee kick to it, too.

Dhawan hopes the Palo Alto SliderBar will be the first of many to come.

With teeny cupcakes all the rage now, who’s to say the next big thing just won’t be eeny-weeny burgers?

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Date: Friday, 6. August 2010 5:25
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Chefs, General, Meat, Restaurants

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30 comments

  1. 1

    Oh, I love all things small! :) Big burgers are so overwhelming, but good sliders are perfect. Sounds like a toddler-friendly place, too! :)

  2. 2

    I just love every burger, fries and the coffee…yum…yum..yum. The sweet potato fries were exceptionally tempting! And I need that coffee now for an afternoon kick :D ending with a salad ….something healthy to remove all guilt…haha

  3. 3

    I am drooling… Those cute burgers and fries look to die for!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  4. 4

    That sounds fun to create a tasting of sliders. But is that red onions I see!!! ;-)

  5. 5

    What a great concept!

  6. 6

    This is such a great review for a unique restaurant concept. I love the idea of the Slidebar. Great that the portions are not all huge! if I lived closer I would meet you there :)

  7. 7

    I love little bites, so I would love the size (and price!) of these sliders and fries. Fun for sharing too!

  8. 8

    now that’s how a chopped salad s/b done. i love that salad!
    and yes, i love the sliders too! LOL

  9. 9

    Cannot wait to try out this place. I love that they have smaller portions. That way I can eat the pulled pork sandwich AND have room for the mocha shake!

  10. 10

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by andi_fisher, CarolynJung. CarolynJung said: A place that serves nothing but itty-bitty burgers. Well, pretty much. http://bit.ly/cx7SEI […]

  11. 11

    A whole restaurant devoted to sliders…I think I’m in love.

  12. 12

    too much cheese? say it ain’t so! this sounds like a place where i could take up residence. :)

  13. 13

    Some foodies roll their eyes at sliders because they think it’s so “overhyped” and “trite”…but whatever! I love my mini cute burgers because I can eat more of them! :D

  14. 14

    Hey, but I was looking to see a tandoori or masala burger :D….or maybe a masala chai shake?

  15. 15

    Oooouuuuuu!!

    Now i feel like having a burger for breakfast! Hahahaa… i love the presentation of the fries! And sweet potato fries??? Yum yum yumssss!

  16. 16

    Sliders are one thing that I have yet to try. Oh and re that city swap, now that would be a great idea! ;)

  17. 17

    Sweet Potato Fries ar starting to become popular here in Australia. I am yet to try them

  18. 18

    Sliders are really nice if done well. Some can be a little dry. The first one really looks good. I also like the Mediterranean Chopped Salad.

  19. 19

    Forwarded this link to my friend and we’ve agreed to meet there next week. Stay tuned for an incognito review — starting with some of those sweet potato fries!

  20. 20

    I do like Mantra, but I’m a little skeptical about this new enterprise. Surprisingly, a really good, well-prepared burger is very hard to find. “Bordering on well-done” is an example of what I’m talking about. It’s always something!

  21. 21

    those petite burgers looked so gorgeous! I can easy wallop 10! lol!

  22. 22

    which one taste better pork or beef? The pork I had at my place did not turn out good, the meat was mussy! :(

  23. 23

    Everything looks so delicious, how I love a good burger. Wish this was near me.
    *kisses* HH

  24. 24

    Too bad that I live in Rice Lake, WI only huge burgers up here, Sounds like the right size, the shake looked like it would be great for breakfast…since it’s only 6:45 am here.
    The photos make me hunger.

  25. 25

    I need to make a stop in here for sure! This place looks and sounds amazing!

  26. 26

    i can’t wait to try sliderbar! thanks for the review!

  27. 27

    What a fun restaurant concept! Maybe I’ll convince my mom to take me when I fly up. It won’t take any convincing to get my dad to go. :)

  28. 28

    I just find that an extremely logical transition; Indian food to sliders. But regardless of the road traveled, this idea is genius.

  29. 29

    I am biased because I work for Matchpin but the offers Slider Bar has on Matchpin are really out of the ordinary – free sliders for first 100 customers who redeem. $1.99 beers. I’m loving it.

  30. 30

    […] Plus Other Downtown Palo Alto Establishments: Sliderbar […]

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