Along with French fries, onion rings are a quintessential junk-food side dish. Something truly magical happens when sliced onions are battered or breaded and tossed into the deep fryer, and these restaurants do it better than just about any other restaurants in America.
While the exact originator of onion rings is up for debate, there are a few historical benchmarks that track their growing popularity over the years. In 1933, Crisco included a recipe for them in one of their ads in the New York Times Magazine, and in the 1960s, A&W became the first fast food chain to add them to its menu. America’s first drive-in restaurant, Dallas-based Kirby’s Pig Stand, claims to have invented the dish; it also claims to have invented Texas toast.
No matter the history, onion rings are an American original, and a menu mainstay. One reason they’re so popular is the fact that they’re so versatile. Restaurants can cut the onions as thin or as thick as they want, can toss them in a light cornmeal dredge or a thick beer batter, and can serve them in a heaping pile or in a dainty stack.
No matter the method of preparation, however, there are certain qualities that all great onion rings must have, and they’re ones that we looked for when assembling our ranking. They need to be crispy and crunchy, and the coating needs to adhere to the onion. Great onion rings aren’t bogged down by grease, and they should taste like more than onions and fryer oil. The best onion rings of all can stand alone as their own dish, and when they’re placed on a table all hands should immediately be grabbing for them.
Read on to learn which onion rings are America’s best! While onion rings might still take a back seat to fries in the deep-fried side dish pantheon, these give even the best fries a run for their money.