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Marlee Rae’s Killer Food truck hits hooch-assisted sweet notes with its sliders

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The sweet sauces shine on Marlee Rae’s specialty sliders. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • The sweet sauces shine on Marlee Rae’s specialty sliders.
During the process of making visits for this review, several friends snarked about sliders being some gimmicky form of gourmet hamburger made smaller for an inexplicable reason, other than perhaps twee trend-chasing. Sure, you can direct them to White Castle, where sliders were invented nearly a century ago, followed by Krystal’s rendition, plus later inane banter over which reigns supreme. (My winner: the person who skips fast food altogether.)

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.
And an explainer on the name: Marlee Rae was the Countrymans’ daughter, born prematurely, who passed away in 2016. “It’s not an easy conversation,” says Tiffany, regarding “the club that nobody wants to join.” She doesn’t want people to feel sorry for them, just to know: “This is how we’re honoring her, and passing something on to our three other girls.”

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