Ah, the slider: the perfect answer for when you want to eat three burgers but don’t want to deal with any self-loathing and stomachaches to follow. As the average slider has between 200 to 250 calories—based on our cross-referencing of the nutrition info for the little burgers covered here—you can eat a few, sip some soda, enjoy your fries, and only take in a bit more “sustenance” than you’d get with a full-sized burger from most fast-food places.
The thing is, there actually aren’t that many fast-food places that serve sliders, so you may have to do a bit of traveling to find a spot near you. While a few of the restaurants we’re featuring are national chains with broad reach, others are much more regional and are smaller in scope.
Here’s something else that’s hard to find: a clear history of the term “slider” itself. According to First We Feast, the slider was either named as such because they’re small enough to “slide” down your throat, the other is because showy employees at early White Castle locations would slide plates laden with little burgers down the counters to customers. And still, another potential provenance of the term has roots in Navy slang of the 1940s, per American Social, the name coming from how the greasy burgers would slide on the grill due to ship movement.
A few bites (or a few whole burgers) into your meal, and you probably won’t care about etymology that much anyway, so let’s get to where you can find the best fast-food sliders right now.
The slider is to White Castle like the bucket of fried chicken is to KFC or the burrito to Chipotle: without it, there simply is no White Castle. This is hard to imagine, as the chain is one of the oldest restaurants around, having first opened way back in 1921.
Today at White Castle you can get so many different kinds of sliders we’ll not bother listing them all, but as a snapshot, consider out-of-the-box options like the Chicken & Waffles Slider, Veggie Slider, and Panko Breaded Fish Slider.
Now, if you want to try the classic, the chain’s The Original Slider consists of nothing more than a patty steam-grilled on onions and served on a bun with pickles. That’s the classic, but not the OG. White Castle also offers The 1921 Slider, which comes with a patty, caramelized onions, cheese, tomato, lettuce, and pickles.
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Arby’s has over 3,400 locations in America right now, and the chain can be found in every state except Vermont and Rhode Island. Given that reach, if you’re looking for a slider burger near you, Arby’s is going to be the best go-to for many people.
Just note before we share the several mouth-watering sliders on Arby’s menu that they are posted on the chain’s limited-time menu, but the chain often carries some type of slider.
Right now, Arby’s is offering a Bourbon BBQ Country Style Rib Slider, a Bourbon BBQ Chicken Slider, and a Bourbon BBQ Roast Beef Slider. Each is served with crispy onion strings, BBQ sauce, and pickles, and all three are worth trying while you can.
Krystal is the contender for the White Castle slider throne. Or another way to look at is that Krystal is the White Castle of the South. While smaller than its better-known counterpart, there being 294 Krystal locations to White Castle’s 345, per ScrapeHero, Krystal has achieved great reach across the South and is even in some of its northern rival’s territory; both chains have a presence in Kentucky, Tennessee, and New York.
Like White Castle, Krystal is an entirely slider-centric chain. The restaurant serves sides, wings, beverages, and little hot dogs it calls “pups,” but the slider is the heart and the soul. Known as “Krystals,” the sliders from Krystal have square-shaped patties and are made with onions, mustard, and pickles, just as a true slider should be.
And to many online folks, Krystal holds the true slider crown. We found many people agreeing with these sentiments shared by a pair of Reddit users: “Always preferred Krystal to White Castle as far as the sliders go” and “I’ve had both, and it’s hands-down better than White Castle.”
A&W is best known for the root beer and maybe second best known for its burgers and its sides (cheese curds and chili cheese fries, e.g.), but the chain’s sliders deserve a look, too. And a taste, of course.
Here’s the catch: A&W does not offer slider burgers, per se, but has chicken sliders, instead. The chain’s 2 Chicken Sliders meal comes with “hand-breaded” chicken tenders fried and served on buns with pickles and mayo.
These chicken sliders have 230 calories each, eight grams of fat per slider (not bad!), and 16 grams of protein. What they don’t have, at most A&W locations, is their pal the cod slider, which was a popular menu addition a few years back and made a limited-time reappearance in 2023.
Smalls Sliders may be a rather small burger chain right now, with just seven locations operating at the time of this writing, but two more are slated to open soon, and who knows how big Smalls will get? All of this fast-food restaurant’s locations are in Louisiana, including a couple in the capital, Baton Rouge.
While the hopes and dreams of the team behind Smalls Sliders are likely large, the menu matches the chain’s name in its scope. Right now, you can get a slider (made with classic ingredients like a patty, cheese, pickles, and sauce), a slider with two patties, fries, milkshakes, and soft drinks. And that’s it!
It’s an elegantly simple menu, but Smalls Sliders customers love it based on the many reviews we read. On Yelp alone, we spotted raves including quotes like: “the sliders are delicious. Pro tip: get a side of queso to dip your fries. So good!” and “Can’t believe I am just now trying Smalls! It is delicious, and I love the fact that the only main course they carry is sliders, nothing else!”
Due about a thousand miles north of the reach of Smalls Sliders you will find another slider-centric chain largely contained in Michigan but with two Ohio locations, as well. Savvy Sliders offers little burgers featuring Angus beef, pickles, and grilled onions, which is classic slider stuff.
But the chain doesn’t stop there: Savvy Sliders also has fried chicken and grilled chicken sliders, a Steakhouse Rib-Eye slider, a Fresh English Cod slider, and a vegetarian-friends Spicy Falafel Slider.
And if all those different slider burger options weren’t enough to have you headed to this regional burger chain, how about “hand-spun” custard shakes, fried chicken, or sides like sweet potato fries, onion rings, or Cheesy Curds? They even have breakfast sliders for when you wake up a little bit hungry.
This content was originally published here.