Review: New burger spot in Forest Park deserves spot on ‘best of’ list

When it comes to food, listicles abound. Who’s got the best barbecueThe best brunchThe best fried chicken?

Such rankings can turn into quite the food fight for those impassioned by all things culinary. Like me with baguettes. (You should see the ridiculous spreadsheet I kept that time I wrote a piece on top baguettes. Did some bat-shaped bread really require that many columns of judging criteria? Oh, yes.)

Burgers are especially emotional rousers. It’s Muss & Turner’s. No! It’s Holeman & Finch. No! It’s Fred’s Meat and Bread, One Eared Stag, Bocado.

Calm down, all of you. And then make room for the burger that deserves a spot on this “best of” list. It’s a place you probably haven’t heard of.

Sliders Burger Joint, open since late February, sits in an unassuming spot on Jonesboro Road, just south of I-285 in Forest Park. It is a joint in every way: unwiped tables, napkin dispensers in need of refilling (same for bathroom hand towels), minimal parking (between both sides of the building, I count six spots, but that’s including the one you can’t park in because a nearby tree needs trimming) that might force you to park in the Subway lot next door, scant wall decorations (OK, pretty much none besides its own big thin-papered poster with a logo) on a blue painted wall. And let’s not forget the blue cinder block structure itself or the tin roof overhead.

You don’t come here for any of that. Actually, you come here despite all that. Well, unless you love joints and shacks and all things cheap and grungy. I do (which explains why, after lunch, I ambled over to the seen-better-days strip mall behind the restaurant to check out a store called “Discounted Stuff.” It was closed down for good, darn it.).

Back to why we’re here. At Sliders Burger Joint, there are options for ground beef or turkey patties. They are hand-packed and made to order. The menu is pretty much the same whether you go the slider or burger route. Order sliders and you’ll get three of them. They’ll probably fill you up as much as one of those hefty burgers, which you can turn into a double stack for $2 more. All in all, we’re talking around $8 to $9.

So let’s fixate first on this place’s signature burger: the Original Big Joint Burger. Look at that patty. It’s raggedy like you might make at home. I prefer it with beef, as it’s fattier and juicier than the ground turkey rendition. (If I’m going to eat a burger, might as well go whole cow. OK, what the heck, make it a double.) All Big Joint Burgers can be topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions. I suggest you follow the house’s lead and order it with the works.

But there is more. It is of the dispense-with-etiquette sort. You must order the Sloppy Chili-Chez and the Fried Egg. I got them both as sliders. They can be had as burgers. Both are messy as all get-out, delicious and will leave you with dirty fingers, a pile of spent napkins and, sorry, but you might as well just lick your fingers or wait to wash until you get home because that paper dispenser in the bathroom is done empty.

This place also surprises with its “exotic” offerings, like the Grilled Pineapple Swiss burger. Or the mango version. Thing is, they char fruit better than some high-end places in town.

If you’re in a mood for chicken between the bun, they’ve got that, too. The Big Flaming Jalapeno Chicken Joint saw pulled chicken paired with minced jalapeno for some seriously spicy heat, plus melted Swiss and the rest of the standard fixings.

All orders come with a fountain drink and a side. About those sides. French fries are of the scratch sort. Hand cut, still sporting some skins, they are wonderfully fried, not too oily and perfectly salted. Or there’s the sweet potato version. Cut into thin ribbons with crimped edges, these don’t suffer from mush syndrome as so many renditions do.

They’ve got onion rings. I ordered them with one of the burgers, but somehow ended up with more fries instead.

Scalloped potatoes, a curious — albeit thoughtful — side dish for a burger joint, were wet and one-dimensional in flavor. It’s the kind you can doctor up at home to turn into German potato salad.

Hold also on Chili-Chez fries. The chili held no spice. Rather, it was strangely sweet and with none of the ooey-gooey character of melted cheese you’d expect from a plate of loaded fries.

Shakes see ice cream blended with milk and topped with a charitable spray of whipped cream from the canister. Shakes are nothing outstanding, but if shakes complete the burger-fries combo for you, order the vanilla.

Service was slow, particularly for a late lunch on a weekday. But that might be because there seem to be just two people working at Sliders Burger Joint: the cashier behind the counter and the cook in the kitchen.

So give ’em a break as they pat together your fresh patty and cook your fries just so. Take a seat on the covered patio. Watch the cars zoom by on Jonesboro Road. Look up and follow the airplanes that cast a quick shadow overhead, since this place is right on the flight path to Hartsfield-Jackson. Oh, and while you wait, you might as well grab a piece of paper and start compiling your list of Atlanta’s best burgers. Get ready to add Sliders Burger Joint to it.

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