Pork belly sliders at City Tavern

The slider as we know it was born in 1921 in Wichita, Kansas, at the first White Castle—and along with it a million bad jokes (“I heard White Castle had a banner year. They used two cows”). Now, 91 years and Lord knows how many sliders later, the chain must be amused to watch its signature land on virtually every trendy menu around. We sought out the best nonburger sliders in town and found plenty of gems on little round buns. No one’s laughing anymore.

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Short rib slider at Sable Kitchen & Bar
At Eleven City Diner (1112 S. Wabash Ave., 312-212-1112), the crisp-edged patties are made from house-roasted turkey and ground with rosemary and sage. Loved them almost as much as the waitress’s pride in them ($7.50 for three). If you want the lunchtime tuna sliders for dinner at Tavern on Rush (1031 N. Rush St., 312-664-9600), just ask. The perfectly seared sushi-rare tuna with wasabi mayo and Asian greens is great for either meal—or both ($12.25 for three). Of course the Purple Pig (500 N. Michigan Ave., 312-464-1744) mixes pork into its meatball sliders, topping them with fresh tomato sauce. Arugula adds a peppery spike, and grated Parmesan smoothes everything out ($10 for two). Pork belly is so de rigueur that the sliders at City Tavern (1416 S. Michigan Ave., 312-663-1278) came as no surprise—except for the way the cabbage added great crunch and the meat managed to be juicy but not fatty ($9 for three). We thought frying an oyster was a subtlety-killing waste until we tried the muscular innovation at GT Fish & Oyster (531 N. Wells St., 312-929-3501), where spicy kimchi and pickled jalapeños offset the oceanic flavor of a fried Kumamoto. Not subtle, but delicious ($4 each). The most savory of all are the root-beer-glazed short rib sliders topped with crispy onions at Sable Kitchen & Bar (Hotel Palomar, 505 N. State St., 312-755-9704). So decadent you probably ought to eat just one—though nobody has exhibited that kind of willpower yet ($9 for two).


Photography: (Pork Belly Sliders) Travas Machel; Food Stylist: (Short Rib Slider) Lisa Kuehl