- Matthew Schniper
- The sweet sauces shine on Marlee Rae’s specialty sliders.
When Tiffany and Chris Countryman set out to open the sliders-and-sides truck Marlee Rae’s Killer Food earlier this year, the duo concedes they kept the two chains in mind, mainly as a launching point for elevating the form.
“If we do a burger, it has to be phenomenal,” she recalls them saying. “Anyone can cook a burger — so we tried to figure out how to be different.”
That starts with the beef, from Denver processor Castle Rock Meats, a mix of roughly equal parts sirloin, brisket and short rib that Chris, an experienced restaurant hand, cuts and grinds to around an 80-20 lean-fat ratio. Then there’s carefully curated buns, a fine fluffy pretzel bun from Delicias Bakery, and a more basic, but proficient, commercially procured dinner-roll-type white bun eager to soak up sauces. Among distinguishing toppings, it’s Chris’ booze-infused sauces that Tiffany says have been a big selling point.
On the whiskey barrel slider, he starts with a bottle of Jameson to concoct an outwardly sweet and mildly tangy Marlee Rae’s Signature Whiskey Sauce, that with crunchy fried onion garnish makes for a pretty enjoyable beer-paired bite. Several flight samples at Brass Brewing play nicely, like their excellent Dogger IPA, which lends prominent passion fruit and mango notes from an expressive tri-hop blend. Or ponder the amazing Overwatch blonde stout paradox as a more dessert-like follow to the Brewhouse beer-cheese slider (sometimes made with the host brewery’s beer), its richness balanced by bacon and sweet caramelized onions. We prefer it to the American cheese on the Marlee Rae’s Classic, a less adventurous option that at least sports housemade ketchup. A special spiked-bbq-bacon slider features a Guinness-Jim Beam sauce, also notably sweet, perhaps heightened by our seriously salty, thin house fries; side slaw’s crunchy and fresh but of an ilk that’s ubiquitous.
Across town at Red Leg Brewing, I catch yet another spirited sauce in a beer-braised bbq chicken special (two sliders and a side are $10.25), made with a bourbon barrel-aged maple scotch ale from Nano 108, again landing tangy-sweet, with fried jalapeño garnish. (To be clear, all the hooch sauces are good, but they’re not super distinguishable, in that they carry a similar theme.) Smoked cheddar and roasted chilies on the Hatch Slider pair toward commendable spiciness, buffered beautifully in this taproom with a summer seasonal Market Garden Session IPA, amber in hue, huge in citrus hop aroma. A side of smoked cheddar mac and cheese mixed with bacon, corn, cilantro and ancho chile sour cream tastes like the best essences of elote (Mexican street corn) and a loaded baked potato.
Side note for vegetarians: I didn’t try Marlee Rae’s spicy black bean slider.