Why are thin, crispy onion rings so hard to find? Sure, I know about Mahoney’s ultra-thin onion shards, but the list of area restaurants frying up old-school o-rings is a short one. Thick, battered rings abound: Liuzza’s, Rivershack, Mandina’s, and seemingly every other south Louisiana restaurant with a deep-fryer and a modicum of kitchen pride can turn out righteous thick rings. Problem is, I don’t crave thick-cut rings.
What I crave are rings so thin-cut and lightly coated, the onion itself browns during cooking. The snowball stand/snack bar a few blocks from my house turned out a credible version before it imploded in a tragic grease fire several years ago; my taste buds still mourn the loss, while my arteries are eternally grateful. My platonic ideal of thin-cut rings used to be found inside a greasy paper bag at Danny’s Fried Chicken in Galliano, LA. Hand-cut, flour-dusted, and fried right up to the crunchy edge of burnt, these onion rings cooked into a tentacular mass of crisp, savory-sweet, salty, greasy goodness. Pull one ring, and you ended up with a handful, which was good, because no one ever wanted one onion ring. [The Danny's outpost is no more; in its place is a short-order cafe with Mexican plate lunches, but that's an entirely different post for another day.]
Happily, I discovered this weekend that Phil’s Grill (3020 Severn, Metaire; 504.621.3738) offers onion strings, pictured above, that fit the bill: cut just thick enough to hold a light, seasoned-flour dusting yet thin enough to allow the onions to caramelize a bit. The onion strings are available as an appetizer or a complimentary side with any burger. Phil’s burgers leave me lukewarm, and I always seem to visit the place when it is stuffed to the rafters with vibrating 5-year-olds. But I’ll definitely go back soon, just for the onion strings.