Roadside Sliders, Coast To Coast

There’s an age-old battle between a man’s gut and a man’s burger. They are diametrically opposed; the burger calls softly like a siren, whispering of succulent beef and liquid cheese, the gut sits mute, hulking, accusatory. Luckily for me then, I appeased them both when I took the lengthy walk from Brighton’s Seven Dials area all the way along the front to the marina’s Coast To Coast restaurant. I’d burned off a decent amount of calories, I reasoned smugly, so I could return to a happy status quo by consuming them all again in the same meal. Taking this logic to it’s natural conclusion, factoring in the return walk and the added exercise, I went a step further and ordered three burgers. Well, ok, so technically they weren’t burgers, they were sliders. But I could count on a lot of bang for my buck, as long as Coast To Coast weren’t repeating the mistakes of the execrable Hove Bank and their miserable slider offering. I’d been burned once already. I prayed I wouldn’t be burned again.

I did get burned, after a fashion. I ordered chicken wings in a Louisiana hot sauce as my starter, not realising how flipping hot that sauce was to be. Historically opposed to anything evenly remotely spicy, my advancing years has brought with it a willingness to test my culinary boundaries, and subtle spices have been known to pass my lips in recent times. After these bad boys, I hardly had any lips left.

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Chicken wings with Louisiana hot sauce – hotter than the bowels of Hell

The Roadside Sliders at Coast To Coast are mini versions of their bigger brothers, comprising of a Black and Blue (blue cheese and an onion ring), Pulled Pork (self-explanatory really) and Bacon and Cheese (yep, you guessed it). At £12.95, they’re not exactly cheap, but any rising panic that I had another Hove Bank debacle on my hands were soon assuaged when they arrived resplendently on a big chunky wooden board (bonus points!), perhaps not identical to the picture printed on the extensive menu, but as near as dammit. I licked my lips and bent to my task.

The Sliders

coasttocoast_fullMealThe Roadside Sliders, an admittedly beautiful sight

The first of the three to find its way careening down my esophagus is the classic bacon and cheese, and its a bit disappointing that it ends up being the best of the three. The patty is a little thin, but juicy and tender, made even more lip-smacking by crispy, streaky bacon. The cheese takes a little bit of a back seat, but the little bundle of perfect ingredients is held together admirably by a sizeable, homemade brioche bun. As I dab away the last crumbs on my (still-burning) lips, I’m nodding vigorously at the quality of the meal.

Such unbridled enthusiasm is tempered by my next victim – the pulled pork burger. Same deal with the beef patty, but crested with a handful of pulled pork. What’s not to like, I hear you cry, incredulously. Too much sauce, is the definitive answer. The pork is drowning in BBQ sauce, to the detriment of the flavour of the meat, the Monterey Jack cheese and any number of other ingredients lurking anonymously under that bun. Not a bad burger by any stretch of the imagination, but a wasted opportunity.

coasttocoast_CheeseBaconInside the cheese and bacon slider. It’s hard to mess up this combination, and Coast To Coast doesn’t 

The Black and Blue suffers from the same affliction, but this time from the blue cheese sitting on the bottom half of the bun. The onion ring manages to let out a brief, strangled cry before being washed away by a tidal wave of stinky, stinky cheese. A recent convert to blue cheese done right (The Troll’s Pantry’s ‘Troll’s Stinky Breath Burger’, incidently), when it’s handled wrong, the results are not quite disastrous, but unsatisfying. The Black and Blue needed something more then the scrapings of rocket and the onion ring to combat against that cheese onslaught, and a third beef patty did little to alleviate matters either.

And yet, I polished off all three quickly and greedily, and didn’t feel as if I’d ordered poorly. Coast To Coast have made a decent fist of introducing its customers to its range of burgers, but perhaps could mix it up a little more, offering the customer their own choice of sliders, or at least switching out one of these (the Black and Blue perhaps) for a chicken burger, or (whisper it) maybe even a veggie option. The whole point of sliders is to cater for the burger lover that just can’t decide what he wants – why not mix it up a little further, push the boundaries, refuse to play safe.

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The Black and Blue. Don’t be fooled by the innocuous cheese hiding under that patty – it makes its presence known

The Sides 

Not at all left hungry by the sizeable sliders, the straw fries filled in any last remaining gaps in my groaning stomach. Plentiful and crispy, and nestling cosily in a little metal bucket, the fries were a little lukewarm, feeling suspiciously reheated. Which, in retrospect, was understandable giving how busy it was inside the restaurant, and how many of the meals came with fries. Nothing mind-blowing then, but nothing to really complain about either.

The homemade slaw fared much better however. Made predominantly out of purple cabbage, the slaw provided some nice crunch to counterpoint the unctuousness of all that buttery bread and chewy beef. And that gallon of BBQ sauce that comes with the pulled pork…

The Atmosphere

Swamped in American kitsch and memorabilia and leather-clad booths as far as the eye can see, Coast To Coast is one of those enormous eateries that screams ‘chain restaurant’ as soon as you step into its air-conditioned entranceway, and reinforced further as you navigate the lengthy tome that constitutes its menu. But it stops short from soullessness on account of its down-to-earth staff, and its gently nostalgic soundtrack of Motown and American rock; a playlist that had me singing along to pretty much every number during our meal there, much to the chagrin of my fiancé. The food is down-to-earth too, unfussy and generous and comforting, the kind of meal where you know what you’re getting and you know you can expect a certain quality from. I’ve had a club sandwich at Coast To Coast that will blow your mind (and your stomach), a thing of gargantuan beauty. But an erring on the side of caution and an imbalance of flavours prevents a good meal at Coast To Coast from being a great one.

Summary

You won’t go hungry, you won’t be disappointed, and you won’t complain. You’ll be sated, even, and at least parts of your meal will be lip-smackingly good. If you’re at the marina, you could do a lot worse in your quest for a burger – there’s a Wetherspoons nearby and even, shudder, a McDonalds.

But some careless balancing ultimately proves the undoing of the Roadside Sliders’ appeal. A little shake-up in what’s offered here, and more care applied to what’s going in could elevate these sliders above what they currently are – a tasty, above-average meal.

Price: £12.95

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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The ODB, BBQ Shack at The World’s End

Being no stranger to The World’s End’s wares, I knew I wouldn’t leave the London Road pub hungry; their BBQ Club sandwich of ham, turkey breast, bacon and cheese is a personal favourite of mine, and never fails to do anything less than make me stagger, satiated, out the door. But I have my limits, and new behemoth the ODB, not only reaches those limits, but utterly annihilates them. When I went in a number of weeks back, it wasn’t even listed on the laminated menu, so I had to ask for it. I’d seen it calling me seductively, bulging obscenely with its ridiculous collection of meats, from the BBQ Shack Facebook page. I had an intrepid friend with me, also hungry and apprehensive in equal measure like myself. The server raised his eyebrows at us as I uttered the letters, then proceeded to warn us that he could only manage a quarter of his when he tried one the day before. I wanted to scream at him, tell him who I was (thus blowing my anonymnity), and tell him that I snaffle down burgers for breakfast (not yet) but instead smiled and told him that “I’d manage.”

How wrong I was. The plate landed on the table with a noise like an anvil, and an insane sandwich of biblical proportions was staring me in the face. I looked across at my stricken companion, whose eyes had gone as wide as saucers. “Fuck me,” we said in unison.

Let’s break it down, then. The ODB consists of the following: pulled pork, Mexican chorizo, a 250gm all-beef hamburger patty, smoked bacon, sliced brisket, cheese and onion rings. In a store-bought bap, evidently. These things are a match made in meat-lover heaven; a towering smorgasbord of some of the most delectable foods on the planet. I only managed half, and then had a crippling stomach-ache for the remainder of the afternoon.

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The Burger

The first thing to tackle with the ODB is just how you’re going to eat the damn thing. Picking it up is simply out of the question; the ingredients were already escaping their bappy prison, trying to lift the bugger would have resulted in an incredibly messy shirt. I just attacked it from the outer rim with knife and fork, trying to sample everything it had to offer in one humungous bite at a time. My friend removed his bun from the equation entirely, and worked from the top down. As you’ll see shortly, it made little difference. Neither of us made it halfway through.

Its girth is not in question then. It’s frankly too big. Obscenely big. Too big even for two people to eat comfortably. Neither of us stood a chance. In terms of its ingredients, there were some clear highlights. The brisket was the standout component, moist, flavourful and plentiful. The patty was anonymous, buried deep under its cousins, a fate it shared with the Mexican chorizo. The pulled pork made itself known with the notes of the BBQ sauce, and the onion rings provided a welcome meat break. But not enough. Throwing this many meats together in a single burger is pure overkill. On paper, it’s enough to make a burger fanatic drool profusely, in reality its a heavy, uniform mass of meat, without distinction and without relief. That sounds perhaps unnecessarily harsh, as this is a sandwich that would make even Adam Bateman raise his eyebrows. I enjoyed it to a point, as any meat-lover will do, but it failed to satisfy, and so ridiculous was the amount that I spent the afternoon clutching my stomach in actual, physical pain. This burger is not for the faint-hearted. Literally. As it will kill you dead.

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As far as I managed…

The Sides 

I felt like I couldn’t look at food ever again after the ODB, so the sides barely got a second glance. The chips were plentiful, as usual for the BBQ Shack meals, and the salad might have provided some respite. But it didn’t stand a chance in the wake of the enormity of the burger task next to it on the plate.

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Summary

It’s the biggest burger I’ve ever seen, let alone tried to eat, with the exception of the gargantuan things I’ve seen on Man Vs. Food, but they don’t count. It’s a challenge, then, a burger badge of honour. A burger to impress your mates with over a couple of pints. It’s not a satisfying meal, however, it’s a true gutbuster. I’m glad it’s on the BBQ Shack menu, and I’m glad I tried to tackle it, but I’ll never order it again. But I will be back at the BBQ Shack. Their other burgers are great, and the BBQ Club even more so. Take my advice; if you do fancy taking on the ODB, try and share it eh? Your cholesterol will thank me.

Price: £15 approx. (I paid for both on my card, and it came to just under £30)

Rating: 3 out of 5