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Not so long ago, the slider was a fast food castoff, served only at a handful of greasy chains. You could expect to get a mouthful of bun and some underwhelming toppings. With the rise of foodie culture and experimental eating, however, these miniature burgers have become a prized menu offering at a number of cutting-edge and trendy eateries.

No longer relegated to greasy cheeseburgers only, sliders are now taking on just about every popular kind of sandwich you can imagine. Chefs seem to have a great time coming with smaller versions of the most popular dishes served on buns or between two slices of bread.

In some ways, sliders are like the tapas of the burger world. These tiny little sandwiches allow you to savor the flavor of several different kinds of sandwich. Traditionally, burgers and sandwiches are made large enough to serve on a meal all on their own, but sliders often depart from that standard.

Their smaller size means that you can enjoy multiple different sliders at one meal or even share a massive plate with a friend. If you’re looking for a fun way to try a variety of flavors at a single meal, sliders could be the perfect solution. Grab your appetite and head on out to any of these four great local restaurants that are taking the art of the perfect slider to the next level.

San Diego Sliders Company
Location: 534 Broadway in Chula Vista (map)
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Price: $$

Okay, so technically this place is located outside of San Diego proper, but it’s definitely worth the drive! Some places have reputations for small or underwhelming sliders, but San Diego Sliders Company absolutely delivers big flavors in small burgers.

Their entire menu focuses on slider sandwiches, which range from simple, like their Classic Cheeseburger Slider, to more unique, like their Chicken and Waffle Slider. This sandwich twist on a classic southern dish actually offers up a piece of chicken in between two-quarter pieces of a thick waffle.

If red meat is your preferred protein, they also serve up Prime Rib, Sloppy Joe and Spicy Philly Sliders. For pork lovers, there are also plenty of options. Consider the Hawaiian Pulled Pork Slider, the Cubano or the BLT Sliders. Vegetarians, never fear. You can actually order a veggie burger slider topped with pickles, cabbage and guacamole.

Their 3 Piece Tour De Slider is a great way to try several sandwiches at once. You may want to order fries and split this with a friend, unless you have a big appetite. There are plenty of other options, including a Mac and Cheese Slider and a lobster tail slider served with secret sauce. If nothing else, the variety will keep you coming back.

The Smoking Gun
Location: 555 Market Street (map)
Hours: Monday-Friday: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday and Sunday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Price: $$

The Smoking Gun is more than just another restaurant and bar in San Diego. It’s practically a staple of the local foodie scene. With a menu that celebrates local street foods and brunch on the weekends, this hip eatery embodies many of the best characteristics of San Diego.

The customer service here is impeccable, and the atmosphere is trendy and yet intimate enough to inspire some incredible conversations over a craft cocktail. The sliders here are not micro-dishes. They’re actually pretty darn big. You’ll get served a quarter pound of meat on a homemade sweet roll. Their options include a classic Cheeseburger, a BBQ Pulled Pork, Smoked Brisket and even Pulled Lemon Chicken.

During Happy Hour (Monday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.), you can enjoy a Cheeseburger Slider for only $5. The same price will also score you a draft beer, house wine or well drink. They also discount their side dishes, like baked macaroni and cheese, fried Brussels sprouts and homemade stuffing to $5 during Happy Hour. The only thing more impressive than the food menu here is the cocktail menu. You simply can’t go wrong with a drink and a slider at The Smoking Gun.

Our definition of #SundayFunday 👀🕺📸: @princesspurpley

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Banzai Bar
Location: 3048 Midway Drive (map)
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. to midnight, Friday: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday: 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday: 9 a.m. to midnight
Price: $

The Banzai Bar is somewhat locally famous for their namesake Banzai Burger, which has a full half pound of beef. However, just because they do big well doesn’t mean you should overlook their smaller offerings.

There are three different kinds of sliders on their menu, and two of them are pretty dang unique. Of course, they offer standard cheeseburger sliders, called the Waterfront Sliders. Topped with grilled onion, American cheese and house sauce, these little burgers come three at a time.

Collect the whole set! . . . 📸@jadediningoutsd

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You can also enjoy their Wonton Sliders, which are really burger sliders topped with crispy fried wontons, grilled pineapple, cilantro and Swiss cheese. Finally, they also serve up Bahn Mi Sliders, topped with grilled chicken thighs, pickled carrots, cilantro, jalapeno and dojo sauce.

During Happy Hour, which lasts from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, you can order sliders here for just $2 each! Combine that with $4 drafts, wells and wines, and there are few options that are easier on the wallet than Banzai Bar.

They call that a California Dip . . . 📹 @zeejay_plays

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Vegetarians will no doubt appreciate their Buffalo cauliflower bites and battered cauliflower tacos, while meat lovers and fish fanatics alike will also find great options, such as poke bowls and chicken tacos on the menu.

Cali “O” Burgers
Location: 1290 University Avenue (map)
Hours: Sunday-Tuesday and Thursday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Closed Wednesdays
Price: $$

For the last four years, Cali “O” Burgers has been serving up incredible American fare in the Hillcrest neighborhood. They only serve organic beef from grass-fed cows that never received hormones. In addition to beef, you can enjoy burgers made from pastured chicken, bison, elk and ostrich.

Standard organic beef burgers range from around $8 to $9, depending on the toppings you want. They will also add a host of great premium toppings, like bacon, avocado, fried eggs, chili made with chorizo and sautéed mushrooms for an extra charge.

Their Cali sliders feature two-ounce patties topped with cheese, grilled onion, lettuce, tomato and mustard aioli. Sadly, they don’t offer a combination platter with all of their unique meats on different sliders, but you can still enjoy full-sized burgers topped with exotic and healthy meat options.

Whether you choose a burger with a grilled ahi steak, ground ostrich, or homemade quinoa and garbanzo bean patties, you should definitely make sure you are hungry enough for a side dish, too. The options range from beer battered onion petals and tater tots to sweet potato fries and herb Parmesan fries. They even make battered curly fries. Enjoy a shake made from real ice cream, or just order up a soda to complement your meal.