A Hamburger Today
Boston Market's New $3.99 Sliders: Are They Any Good?
"It's certainly one of the better deals out there."
But those are true sliders. The term "slider" has evolved (some would say wrongly) quite a bit from those sorts of tiny, onion-topped burgers. Any kind of mini sandwich now seems to be called a slider, and they're popping up on fast-food menus across the country. You can find them at TGI Friday's, Applebee's, and in local joints. The latest entry: Boston Market, now offering "sliders," which are smaller cousins of the Boston Carver sandwich they've had for years.
Boston Market is known for its affordable, fast-casual home-style food. I've been a devotee since Boston Chicken took over the old Wendy's in Squirrel Hill (any Pittsburghers out there?). Given my affinity for the chain, I was excited to try their three new sliders: BBQ Chicken, Meatloaf and Cheese, and Turkey and Cheese.
The sliders themselves come in threes. For $3.99, you can have three sliders; $5.99 if you add a drink and a side order. Though the Market normally allows you to mix and match—you can pick any combination of sides with your chicken meal—you can't with the sliders. You can only order three of one type. Which means, yes, I was forced to order nine total sliders to try all three.
First, I tried the Meatloaf Slider with Hickory Ketchup and aged Cheddar. Without even taking a bite, I could feel the cake-like consistency of the bun, almost more like a roll. It tasted sweet, but was so puffy it overpowered the meat. I prefer a thin bun that doesn't dominate the gooey, cheesy inside. And how was the meatloaf itself? It had no distinctly meaty flavor, more of a SYSCO burger (or even veggie burger) consistency. The cheddar cheese was OK, but could easily be overlooked.
They cover the whole meatloaf slice in hickory ketchup, basically ketchup with a hint of smoke. The pungent odor of the ketchup prevented me from tasting any meat flavor, or cheddar cheese. Overall, it tasted like a hard roll with ketchup and meat paste.
Next, I tried the BBQ chicken. From the first bite, it was better than the first. They use the same pulled chicken as their Boston Carver sandwiches, which has both white and dark meat from their roasted chickens and a tangy barbecue sauce.
I've always loved their sauce because it's not too tomatoey, and has enough pepper and spice to make your mouth burn a little, but not burn it off. I liked the barbecue chicken slider, and the bun didn't overpower the meat (a plus). The chicken had more substance than the meatloaf, which tasted more like a reconstituted and compressed meat paste. The BBQ Chicken slider actually tasted like a real Boston Carver variation! The cheddar, again, you could easily miss it.
Turkey and Swiss
Last up was the Turkey and Swiss Cheese with a dill-parmesan mayo. The "hand carved turkey" is bland. There's never been much flavor to it, on the sandwich or off, in the 15 years I've been going there. (Even Mom's Thanksgiving bird packs more juicy flavor!) The Swiss cheese on this slider, however, was much more noticeable than the cheddar on the other two, complementing the turkey rather well.
The dill-parmesan mayo was by far the star of the slider. It adds a hint of salt and dill, tying the sandwich flavors all together. Strangely, none of the ingredients stood out, yet the slider practically ate itself. I inhaled two of these without even realizing, whereas I had to force myself to eat half of the meatloaf slider. The whole was much greater than the sum of the parts.
If I had to rank them, the Turkey and Cheese would come first, the BBQ Chicken second, and the Meatloaf third. They're fast-food sandwiches, of course, but they certainly aren't bad. Three sliders amount to about one 8-inch Carver sandwich.
Surprisingly, when I showed the receipt to my eating companion, he was a bit troubled—not because the price was high, but because it was so low. I paid $9.98 for the Burger King ribs combo, and only $6.41 for the Slider Meal. On top of the sliders, I got a fountain drink and one of their sides.
How can a "fast casual" chain provide a "home-style" meal for below the cost of a fast-food "value" meal? I'm not sure, but it's certainly one of the better deals out there.