First Bites

Sliderz Opens Next Week: Tiny Sandwiches, Big Flavors Coming to North Miami

The staff, comprised mostly of friendly students from neighboring Johnson & Wales University, is on call and eager. It's just a matter of setting the opening date. Sliderz, the slider-centric fast casual restaurant in North Miami is set to open any time now, according to owner Buzzy Sklar. "Right now, we're just waiting for the final OK from the city." Sklar expects that to happen some time next week. "It's a day to day. It could be Thursday, it could be Friday. But we're ready."

In the meantime, the restaurant has been doing practice runs for family and the media. Last evening, as I chatted with the Sliderz founder and consulting chef Josh Marcus (better known as owner of Josh's Deli), several locals stopped in to see when the restaurant would be opening. 

The name of the brightly lit restaurant is all you need to know about the menu. Sliderz serves a variety of small sandwiches, cooked and prepped to order. There are over a dozen to choose from, with offerings to make most everyone happy. High tech menu boards help you choose your meal, with sliders arranged by protein. Choices include cheeseburger ($3.25), buffalo chicken ($4), blackened fish ($4.25), BBQ pulled pork ($3.50), meatball parm ($.350), and a hot dog slider ($2.50). There's even an ice cream slider for dessert. All silders range from $2.50 to $6 for a crab cake slider, and value meals, known here as stacks, include four sliders, a soft drink, and choice of curly or waffle fries. Stacks are grouped by theme — for instance the chickburg includes two chicken and two burger sliders, and the animal kingdom offers one each of chicken, pork, fish, and burger.  

Chef Marcus calls the food American tapas, and says the menu is much more straightforward than that at his own restaurant. "There is no Joshing. When I do the deli, it's much more to my own dance. Here, I'm focusing on what Buzzy wanted. 

"It's a very simple idea, but we're cooking everything fresh to order. Every single thing is made to order. To me, the challenges to that are very interesting. There's an endless array to ordering and you've got to get that right in a few minutes."

Sklar, who calls Marcus his Jiminy Cricket  for being the voice of reason when it came to actually executing the menu, says, "I've never worked with a chef that truly put his ego aside. He got it from day one. Josh is one of the best, and he was really able to put on a totally different persona and have a professionalism when it comes to menu and costing. That allowed me to focus on the restaurant itself and never worry about anything.

Sklar received heavy criticism recently when he used the term "dragon lady" to refer to an Asian-American restaurateur and termed her husband an "asshole" on his Facebook. He excused the language by saying "If [the restaurateur] was a white Jewish woman who played canasta with my mother up in Boca, I would have still used the same vernacular."

Sklar has plans to open seven corporate Sliderz restaurants, then franchise the concept nationally. When asked how he plans to maintain the quality of the end produce, he says he's already worked that out. "We have the logistics in place with our purveyors. I've actually been to production facilities and farms to make sure the meat is hormone-free. We'll also ship the product fresh, not frozen."

The restaurant, designed by Saladino Designs and architect Rene Gonzalez and branded by Deepsleep Studios, already has a slick, franchise feel. Neon chickens, cows, pigs, fish, and plants happily rest inside buns, and the name is branded on everything from the wall to the tray liners. The result is a clean, well lit space suitable for family dining.

Once ordered, the sliders arrive at the table individually wrapped and marked. The buffalo chicken ($4) was tangy without being too overwhelming and went well with a Rod Bender red ale from 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Pete. ($6). Other beers include Miami Brewing Co.'s Shark Bait ($6), Goose Island 312 Urban pale ale ($6), and New Belgium Fat Tire ($6). In all, there are nearly two dozen beers (all in cans), and six different wines and sangrias.

The cheeseburger slider ($3.25) is made with hormone-free Certified Angus beef, topped with lettuce and tomato.

A meatball slider, a shrunk down version of a hot Italian hero, is a standout. Two well-seasoned meatballs rest on a tiny hoagie, smothered in sauce and cheese, and baked until the bread and cheese is toasted. At $3.50, it's a lot of flavor in a small size.

Mac 'n cheese bites ($5.50) needed more cheese for that gooey, fun factor people look for in a decadent, fried treat.

Ice cream and brownie sliders come three per order ($5.50)  and provide a satisfying sweet bite at the end of the meal. 

Sliderz is located at 1817 NE 123rd St., North Miami, and will be open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and will offer delivery by calling 786-703-7493 (delivery charges vary by distance).