As I’ve noted before, Madison is a little slow on the uptake when it comes to food trends. The rest of the country had become positively sick of cupcakes by the time we got our first cupcakery, to name just one example. So it’s with a sigh of relief when a trend that everyone else seems to have embraced years ago finally makes a splash here, like a debutante arriving late to the ball. The slider — a small burger about three inches in diameter — has been ubiquitous elsewhere for some time; now, Madison has Slide, its own dedicated food cart serving sliders that will convince you it was worth the wait.
Why a slider? One possible reason to eat a sandwich in miniature form is the desire for portion control, or lack of appetite for a full-sized sandwich. A superior and more likely reason is that diminutive sandwiches allow the diner to experience multiple flavor combinations in a single meal. Christine Ameigh, Slide’s owner, realizes this, which is why her sliders are offered two for $7 with a choice of sides. The menu, however, is sufficiently full of appetizing stuff that you may be hard pressed to limit yourself to just two. Everything that comes out of the window of the psychedelic blue cart is homemade, delicious and better than anything that emerges from a space that small has any right to be.
A friend and I sought out Slide at its current lunchtime location, parked outside of Grainger Hall on the UW Campus. It’s an unlikely spot for a food truck. Slide plies its trade alone rather than cheek by jowl with other carts on the Square or the Library Mall, but it’s worth seeking out even if getting an MBA isn’t on your to-do list. We maximized our slider-sampling capacity by ordering four different sandwiches. The popular “Buff Chick” variety, made with slow-cooked marinated chicken topped with bleu cheese and a carrot and celery tapenade was sold out, so we made do without it.
Aficionados of the White Castle slider will notice the lack of a traditional hamburger on Slide’s menu, but you won’t miss it. The most pleasant surprise was our vegetarian “Beets the Meat,” a soft white bun filled with thick, well-seasoned slices of root vegetable in a creamy dressing, which did the almost-impossible by making beets taste decadent. The “Powerball” featured a brawny, single meatball doused in marinara and seasoned throughout with bright fennel and garlic, which I thoroughly enjoyed even before discovering its hidden center of molten cheese. The “Wilbur” topped pulled pork with a spicy, zippy barbecue sauce and a crunchy patch of slaw, and the “How do you say the name of that Pepper?” combined shredded beef and provolone with a generous serving of pepperoncini for a super-salty, vinegary punch.
A trip to Slide would not be complete without an order of its homemade chips ($2, enough to share), which come with your choice of sauces including curry ketchup, French onion and wasabi garlic. It’s a bit astonishing that every bite that emerges from the window of Slide is house-made and delicious — homemade chips when bagged would be fine, curry ketchup when we’d have settled for Heinz. It’s a tiny powerhouse of a cart that deserves to park on any piece of real estate Christine Ameigh desires. May I suggest my driveway?