Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Cleveland Chop House and Brewery and the Barley House

Cleveland Chop House and Brewery
824 W Saint Clair Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 623-0909

Barley House
1265 W 6th
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 623-1700

by Beau Cadiyo
I first came into sliders in any great quantity here in Cleveland. In California, we were much more likely to get a Double Double, and the idea of a slider at White Castle was completely foreign to me. Thus, seeing them in person made me think of first Saturday Night Fever where Travolta jumps on the table, and then Harold and Kumar (entire movie); the idea of a slider attracted me, but I never got the urge to actually take the first step toward getting one. Like going home with a stripper, it was always one of those things I wanted to do but never did, satisfying my desires elsewhere.

I thought I knew what sliders were, though. So, when my belief was challenged, I looked them up on two separate sites. First, Wikipedia:

Another variety of hamburger is the "slider", which is a very small square hamburger patty sprinkled with diced onions and served on an equally small bun, popularized by White Castle. The name comes from their size, whereby they are considered to "slide" right down your throat in one or two bites (Many U.S. vets will disagree; the term "slider" originated from the hamburgers served by flight line galleys at military airfields, which were so greasy they slid right through you). Another purveyor of the slider is Krystal. Burger King has sold pull-apart mini-burgers, first under the name "Burger Buddies" and later as "Burger Shots". In the late 2000s, the "slider" has gained in popularity and has been featured on the menu even at more formal restaurants such as T.G.I. Fridays. Jack-in-the-box also now serves sliders marketed as "Mini Sirloin Burgers."

Then, I read this, which sounded more reasonable:

So what makes a Slider?
…Most of all it’s the size, current White Castle Slyder patties are only 2.5 inches wide and very thin, the buns are just as small. Because of their size Sliders are often served in pairs, trios or even six at a time.
Next is the small square and super soft burger buns. These are custom baked just for Slyders so don’t expect the same taste and feel anywhere else. The nearest thing you can get from a grocery store might be Martin’s Potato Rolls but a lot of the flavor and softness comes from the unique White Castle cooking method.

When faced with the opportunity to order sliders at the Cleveland Chophouse, I couldn't resist. I'd gone to meet my mentor, attorney Frank Rosenthal, who - while constantly stressed out - is still one of the most fun people I have met, and is also notable for his genuine interest in others. We sat outside and talked; runners passed by, and lawyers going home from work, and dates, and valets.

The "sliders" that came out were, to my mind, unrecognizable as such, even if I'd never laid eyes on one before. The large plate held four pieces of what was otherwise a normal hamburger, which had been quartered. In the middle was a mess of fried onions - not onion rings, but thin-sliced onions which were almost all interconnected. I took a "slider" and some onions, realizing a moment later that because they were all tangled together I'd taken nearly all of them.

The "slider" had bacon on it, which is almost to be expected nowadays, but otherwise it was completely average. The Chophouse may believe that it is being gastronomically progressive by taking the concept of "slider" and changing it to “quartered hamburgerTo me, it merely seemed like they were adding a menu item without actually having to do anything beyond cutting up a hamburger. Ruling: disappointed.

The weird thing was, a day later and around the corner, the Barley House offered exactly the same thing. Frank Nguyen, a local restaranteur, Frank Whitman-Rush, Frank Hoxha and I all sat outside on the patio. There were a lot of people there for a West Sixth Wednesday - the patio was packed, and the pub quiz kept most of the inside tables busy. We sat outside and Nguyen ordered the sliders. He then went on for almost five minutes on how much he liked their menu layout, and how cheap the food was.

I was again disappointed. The slider was, again, simply a burger cut up into quarters, this time with waffle-cut french fries. It came with impressive Italian bread, real cheddar cheese, special sauce, bacon and a reasonable piece of hamburger meat, but it was still cut into quarters - a poor man’s slider. It made me wonder if people were just going crazy.

So after all that, I'm still a slider virgin. The "sliders" I was served were not sliders at all - they were quartered hamburgers. Quarters. That's what they should be called, and that's what you should order the next time you go to either of these places. If the wait staff say they don't have quarters, but they have sliders, insist on a quartered hamburger, then say, "You know - quarters." They will probably think you eccentric, and will possibly condemn you when they're among their own. They may even spit in your quarters. However, such is the price of integrity - something that they will never, ever know.

Cleveland Chophouse & Brewery on Urbanspoon

Barley House on Urbanspoon

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