While many of the fast food chains continue to push their big bad-boy burgers (Wendy’s Baconator and Hardee’s Thickburgers come to mind), the Ruby Tuesday and T.G.I. Friday’s chains offer downsized versions with a lot of upside.
We recently dined at Ruby’s and sampled their Ruby Minis, cute little hamburgers made with USDA Choice ground beef. For $8.99 you get four Minis topped with American cheese and onion straws. You can also choose mini turkey burgers topped with fresh leaf lettuce, tomato, pickle and garlic mayo—they come in pairs with fries and salad bar for $8.99.
I should take a quick detour here and mention their salad bar, at least in passing. It is superb. The Food Channel chefs and I agreed, the Ruby Tuesday Fresh Garden Bar is best-in-class among casual dining restaurants, hands down, with several kinds of crisp lettuce and greens (including organic), fresh fruits and veggies, premium cheeses and a wide selection of toppings. As far as we’re concerned, Ruby Tuesday has set the bar for salad bars.
Okay, back to the bitty burgers. We found the beef burgers to be quite tasty, with a smoky grilled flavor, and they’re surprisingly thick and juicy for a mini. The buns were warm and soft, too.
The turkey burgers got mixed reviews with our group; I thought they were a bit on the bland side, though the garlic mayo helped ramp up the flavor. But one of our chefs gave the little turkeys the thumbs down.
Friday’s has joined the mini movement with their “Sliders,” a slang term long associated with White Castle burgers that wasn’t really meant to be a compliment. I guess it fits Friday’s irreverent attitude.
Anyway, the Sliders at Friday’s come in orders of three, dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions. You have two choices: the Cheeseburger Sliders which are topped with American cheese and caramelized onions; or the Chimichurri Sliders, which are topped with melted Provolone cheese and an Argentina-style garlic sauce that has a nice kick to it.
We liked the Sliders even more than Ruby’s Minis. They have all the flavor of a full-sized burger in a subcompact size. Truthfully, one order of 3 Sliders with a side of fries would be plenty for two people to share. If only they had that amazing Ruby’s salad bar.
This counter-trend toward mini sizes, noted in an earlier Food Channel piece on the new Sammies at Quizno’s, is something we’ll continue to watch in the weeks ahead. Could McDonald’s be planning a “Little Mac”? Nah, probably not.
Editor’s Note: See our mini-burger recipe courtesy of Williams-Sonoma if you want to make these at home.