For many, onions are the scourge of the stomach, a stinging journey of tears, heartburn and gas. For others, onions are awesome blossoms of delight, crispy harbingers of the earth mother's lovely bounty. Then there are onion rings.
It's OK. Don't cry.
Breading and deep frying an onion turns it into something wholly new - not just a vegetable that adds a layer of flavor to a dish or a topping to a burger, but a dish worthy of its own spot on the menu. Some Seattle restaurants are making the most of this most versatile of veggies - so here are Seattle's top five onion rings.
5. Cinebarre, 6009 244th St SW, Mountlake Terrace, 425-672-8163
Cinebarre's Lord of the Onion Rings (yes, seriously) are thick, crispy, and beer-battered. These are pretty much standard onion rings, served with plain old ketchup, and in our case, served not-so-hot. But what makes these royal rounds stand out is the fact that you can eat them with a margarita, from a cushy chair, watching a movie, surrounded by adults. Sure, it's in Mountlake Terrace, but it's a trip worth making.
For $4 we got four lukewarm, thick cut, beer batter onion rings with two sides of a tart, thousand island-ish sauce. Getting them to go was not such a good idea because the rings were so large, you really couldn't get a whole one in your mouth. What was outstanding about the rounds, for Seattle natives at least, was the fact that they conjured visions of childhood. Different combinations of tasting onion/onion ring coating/entire ring/sauce finally led to the "ah-ha!" moment - that the surrounding breading tastes exactly like the breading on Skipper's fish. Ah, the memories.
3. Cafe Flora, 2901 E. Madison St., 206-325-9100
Cafe Flora's gluten free, vegan, Walla Walla sweet onion rings ($6) are served on a lovely wooden plank with a side of ancho chile molasses barbecue sauce. Battered with an interesting take on tempura, the organic onions are perfectly sliced for direct bites - no cutting! The sauce, reminiscent of dad's chutney, has a slightly bitter slow burn that kisses these little sweeties right on the lips. Be sure to get to Cafe Flora between 3-6pm Monday through Friday, as the only times they're served are at happy hour.
2. Red Mill Burgers, 1613 W. Dravus St, 206-284-6363
Babe's Onion Rings are a healthy serving of perfectly-sized slices of onions fried in a crunchy cornmeal breading. The cornmeal has an amazing, slow spice that sneaks up on you and the 25-cent side of tartar sauce many choose as an accompaniment. Perfectly sized, perfectly fried and perfectly spiced, you really can't go wrong with these babies.
And the number one onion ring in Seattle belongs to...
1. Jolly Roger Taproom, 1111 N.W. Ballard Way, 206-782-6181
These hand-cut onions are smoked with apple wood and hops, then double breaded and fried. The onions are sliced so thick that a small ($3.75) will do just about any appetite good. They're a bit hard to eat, since they need to be sliced with a good knife, but the roasted jalapeno tartar sauce makes up for the extra effort - you get to taste the jalapeno without the heat and it's a perfect complement to the smoky flavor of the onions. Really, you can't go wrong in a place that also serves deep fried pickles and beer batter bacon (seriously).
Go forth, enjoy, and don't forget the breath mints.