When you hear the phrase “burger joint,” gluten-free vegetarian fair probably does not come to mind. Add the word “sliders” to that mix, and it sounds like an after-hours comfort food choice that will come back to haunt you the next morning. Bucking that is Oskar’s Slider Bar. It has the hallmarks of a pub with great pub food: reasonably priced, inexpensive drinks, very, very casual dress code, kitschy, functional seating and décor and a great serving staff. But Oskar’s distinguishes itself in that it is a Scandinavian-inspired slider bar with unique flavor pairings served in tapas-style small plates, or small cardboard containers in this case. And it has great vegetarian options.
Oskar’s would be a great place to watch a game or have a fun night out, but I recommend it for lunch (or liquid lunch… depending on how functional one needs to be in the afternoon). It has plenty of meaty items for the carnivores: small dishes with pork belly, fried chicken, corned beef, venison sausage, a classic cheeseburger and more. But veggies will dig this place because of the excellent (gluten-free) veggie burgers, the abundance of healthy and not-so-healthy sides and great spicy sauces for pouring or dipping.
A note on beer and spirits: Oskar’s has a healthy draft beer list with just a touch of American swill to make sure everyone is happy — pale ales, stouts, IPAs, specialty brews and even a cider. Pints run from $3 to $7. Oskar’s also maintains a proper bourbon selection with some deeper cuts of Weller and Willett to cure the savage sobriety.
For my recent meal there, it was a nice spring day, the doors were open, hard rock was playing softly in the background and rugby was on the big screen. I filled out the order form, like you do at a sushi restaurant. For you first-timers, I recommend letting the knowledgeable staff walk you through the story of the restaurant, how to order and maybe about the flavors and tastes, so you can home in on a satisfying meal made up of many small parts. On this visit, I was in the mood for two sliders, two sides, a side and dessert to share, three sauces and a diet Coke (because I have to fit this thing into a bathing suit).
A large tray balanced perfectly made its way to the side of my table with many, many small trays and plates. My two Veggie Burger Sliders ($3 each with 40 cents more apiece for the gluten-free buns) were the centerpiece of this colorful food art display.
I also ordered House Cut Fries ($2.50) to split with my lunch companion, though most of “splitting” meant him watching me devour the fries like a jackal would attack a wildebeest carcass. The fries go great with the dipping sauces — three sauces (50 cents each) — “grind” smoked ketchup, juniper hot sauce and smoked habanero honey. Spicy honey on a crispy fry is truly a thing of sweet and savory glory.
I ordered a Kale Salad ($2) — kale with pumpkin seeds, pickled onion and a smoked-onion vinaigrette that offered sweetness and vinegary tang over the crunchy, deep green kale. To round out my colorful, tasty menagerie, I ordered a Swedish Beet Salad — diced beets, apples and a creamy dressing. Both salads have bold flavors and a tangy finish — which is exactly what one thinks of when thinking about Scandinavian inspired tapas food… obviously.
For dessert, we split an Annie May’s Sweet Café Ginger Cookie. The gluten-free buns and cookies come from Annie May’s, a café/bakery known for its gluten-free, allergy-friendly items. •
Oskar’s Slider Bar
3799 Poplar Level Road
Noise level: Lunchtime was moderately noisy, averaging 70 decibels with a max of 87 decibels. We could converse with no problem, but it might get noisier with a big crowd or game on the big screen.
Accessibility: The restaurant has concrete floors, good for wheelchair mobility. The bathrooms are spacious with grab bars. A few high-top table in the bar area would not be accessible.