Over the last three years, the City Pulse Food Fight team has conducted a dozen taste tests encompassing over 75 local restaurants and food stands to determine everything from the best barbecue joint in town to the best margarita (obviously, some trips are more fun than others). But this Food Fight — finding Lansing’s best onion rings — stands out for the wallop it packed to our arteries and complexions. Lesson learned: onion rings are good in small batches, but six consecutive orders is just too much deep-fried food for one night.
We narrowed the contenders down to seven locations and ranked the rings by cost per portion, crispiness, greasiness, flavor and the atmosphere of the location. Each category was rated between 1 and 10, and then averaged out to find the winner — and yes, one did emerge, but it certainly wasn’t our digestive systems. We really hope you appreciate what we’ve done for you.
DAGWOOD’S TAVERN AND GRILL — 6.3 OUT OF 10
On the menu, the description for the onion rings ($3) says they’re “’No, you can’t have one of mine’ good.” However, the best thing we could come up with was “not bad.” These “thin-cut” onions suffered from a “ratio of batter to ring that was off.” They were “bland,” but at least we knew why: “they’re frozen—and you can taste it.” That said, it is Dag’s, so at least you can cover up the inadequacies with a beer — including the awesome Widow Maker Black Ale from Keweenaw Brewery, which made a good food-drink match.
Dagwood’s Tavern and Grill, 2803 E. Kalamazoo St., Lansing Township
MORIARTY’S PUB — 6.7 OUT OF 10
We were intrigued by the premise of the black-and-tan onion rings ($5.50) at Mort’s, but alas, it was all hype. “A sweet batter with spices following later on the tongue” and a definite “Worcestershire sauce flavor” that, while “unique,” was still “a little overpowering.” Some points were deducted for touting their onion rings as homemade and then admitting that they were frozen, but at least our palates knew better — is it any surprise that the bottom two entries in this list were both from the freezer?
Moriarty’s Pub, 802 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing
STATE SIDE DELI — 7.5 OUT OF 10
State Side is known for two things: its corned beef and its onion rings ($2.99). “A nice thick cut” that was “nicely salted,” however, didn’t rise to the top — perhaps because it was simply “good but not great” and possibly because they were the final stop on our journey and we were about “onion ring-ed out.” Either way, the price was right, the location “bright and clean” and the rings were “passable.”
State Side Deli 313 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing
FALSETTA’S CASA NOVA — 7.6 OUT OF 10
The biggest surprise of the night comes from this family diner, which was nominated by more than one person when we issued our Facebook request for contenders. For $5.49, we got a whopping pile of onion rings, all coated in a “wonderfully crispy and flavorful” batter. The “wait was a little long” and the nearby “crying babies took away some of the fun” (and lost them a few points), but these “big and thick” onion rings earned them top marks in flavor.
Falsetta’s, 138 S. Waverly Road, Lansing
NIP N SIP DRIVE-IN — 7.8 OUT OF 10
There’s something about pulling into an old-fashioned drive-in that sparks nostalgia, one of the best appetite aids (besides hunger). Sure, they “didn’t give us any napkins,” they were “served in an inconvenient bag” and the “grease got on everything,” but there was something about eating in our car that made it a “fun experience.” And at $1.99, they were certainly the best value of the night.
Nip N Sip Drive-in, 2603 N. East Street, Lansing Township
OLYMPIC BROIL — 8.5 OUT OF 10
“The in-house batter reigned supreme” at the champion, Olympic Broil. “Dry to the touch, but deliciously greasy,” these “melt in your mouth” onion rings ($2.19) made the trip worth it. The “eclectic soundtrack” and “sassy clerks” added to the experience, as did the “’70s diner feeling to the place.” One of our judges thought the rings “tasted like chicken,” but that was probably just the heartiness of the batter getting to him.
Olympic Broil, 1320 N. Grand River Ave., Lansing
Honestly, we had full intentions of making it to at least one more place — either Crunchy’s or Bonnie’s Place, which came in at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the 2012 City Pulse Top of the Town awards for best bar food — but our bodies just couldn’t handle it. The last couple of places were a challenge just to get through, with half the basket abandoned. We hope you enjoy this guide, but please don’t try this at home. Please.