Call this My Summer of the Cheeseburger. Since June, I’ve dined at 27 locally owned fast-food burger joints in Pierce County to come up with my ultimate top-10 cheeseburger list, which I’m revealing Friday. Today, I’m taking a look at onion rings. I ate more than 20 orders for this tour throughout Pierce County, so I’m kind of really sick of them at the moment, but these ones were good enough that I’d suffer through another order. Here are my top picks — and why.
OUT AND ABOUT BURGERS
14214 Meridian Ave. E., Puyallup; 253-677-1974
The hand-battered onion rings ($2.99) at Out and About Burgers in South Hill were in the top three tried for this tour. I appreciated that the rings were fried to a deep golden brown, and the batter carried a pleasing crisp texture, but also a terrific flavor. Owner Bob LeSage said he was searching for an unusual batter for his hand-cut rings and stumbled on an idea: a well-seasoned pancake batter. “It really kind of was a fluke,” he said. “I was using a frozen product when I first started and one batch tasted like it was battered with mud and rocks. I couldn’t eat it.”
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So he came up with the pancake batter idea. At home, he uses the batter for fried mushrooms and fish. He said the real trick is letting the batter sit long enough to let the baking soda deactivate a bit so the dough doesn’t puff up or slide off the ring. However, there’s a limited window for the batter. Let it sit too long, he said, and “it gets too old, the coating is too hard.”
GOURMET BURGER SHOP
4120 Harborview Drive, Gig Harbor; 253-858-5205 or facebook.com/GourmetBurgerShop
Travis Hightower’s onion rings ($5) at Gig Harbor’s Gourmet Burger Shop carried another deliciously flavored batter. Hightower’s recipe is pretty simple, it’s a straightforward beer batter, but where his onion rings really excel are in the construction. He only uses the center cut of jumbo onions to make his oversized rings. And he fries them light enough so that there’s just a bit of snap left in those jumbo onion slices.
8901 Bridgeport Way SW, Lakewood; 253-301-0282 or delongsdeluxe.com
While the majority of onion rings on this tour came with a batter coating, onion rings at Lakewood’s DeLong’s Deluxe were crispy-crunchy with a breadcrumb coating ($3.29). Co-owner Marie DeLong, who opened the restaurant with husband Tim in 2013, said, “It’s the breadcrumb coating, I’ve always preferred the crispier ones.” She gets hers from Sysco.
LEFTY’S BURGER SHACK
8317 27th St. W., University Place; 253-565-0887
Fries? Rings? Why get one or the other. Here, you can get both in a single order. Pam Hubert has offered a combination order of “frings” since she opened Lucky’s Burger Shack in University Place in 2011. Frings ($2.75) were crinkle-cut French fries that were crispy-edged, with about a half dozen battered onion rings thrown into the mix. She also gets her rings from Sysco.
SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE
124 N. Tacoma Ave., Tacoma; 253-507-4060 or shakeshakeshake.me
The onion rings at the Stadium neighborhood’s Shake Shake Shake carried a smooth beer batter that wafted of yeast, with a resistant snap left on the thinner-cut onions ($3.19). Owner Steve Naccarato, who runs the restaurant with business partner Robert Stocker, said he gets his rings from U.S. Food Service.
7714 Custer Road W., Lakewood; 253-472-0736
This Lakewood burger drive-in serves thick-cut onion rings with a tasty batter coating ($3.59).
ALLSTAR BURGER AND PHILLY
3202 S. Gunnison St., Tacoma; 253-272-4311
This Tacoma burger joint probably is better known for its Philly sandwiches, but I think it should be known for its rings, which were thick cut with a crunchy breaded coating and looked to be handmade. They were served with a side of ranch. They also were among the best priced rings tried on this tour at $1.99.