I made this bold proclamation this weekend, when Steve and I were staying at a rustic inn-type place where each "room" is actually a cabin. With our stay came a coupon for a free order of onion rings at the inn restaurant. I happen to enjoy onion rings so what the heck. They were free, after all--I finally caught a break after all those years carefully saving up for those full-priced orders of onion rings.
Those are the onion rings in the photo. The pile was huge. They came with a plastic container of ranch dressing. Exhausted from traveling with the baby and slightly buzzed on a can of Margaritaville canned margarita (more on that later. Actually, you know what, maybe not. Maybe you need everything you need to know) I dove in to my personal huge mountain of rings; Steve doesn't like onion rings but even if he did clearly there weren't enough to share.
Were the onion rings that good? Not really. But this is why I'm saying onion rings are better than fries. Because even if you get kind of bad onion rings (and these weren't bad, they just weren't, y'know, not mindblowing), they're still really good. You're still eating onion rings. They're soft rings of onion fried in crispy batter. Sometimes you get a whole bite of onion and batter, sometimes you pull the onion out of the batter. And it's a ring. What I'm saying is, it's all good.
Fries, on the other hand, have a frustratingly wide spectrum. In my opinion the best potato fries are the ones that come closest to emulating McDonald's fries, which you often find with, say, steak frites at French restaurants. I also will accept the following fries or type of fries: Arby's curly fries (also known as the kind you get at a cup at stadiums) and Superdawg fries. But in there is a lot of room for the bad and mediocre. I do not get excited for: big fat soggy steak fries, fries that are weirdly brown and hearty (like they were all carved from potato skins), fries that are doused with seasoning salt, and fries that look like big fat floppy potato chips. (I am not including sweet potato fries or tater tots in this category because they are completely different things.) The worst are fries that you bite into and immediately send you on an unfortunate sense journey where you can clearly envision the plastic bag in the cardboard box on the truck that they were hauled over in, frozen and stored for years before being half-heartedly fried.
I agree that a fantastic french fry is superior to a middle-of-the-road onion ring but what are the odds that you'll get that fantastic french fry? Too often you're just stuck with a loser fry (restaurants: you should include photos of your fries on your menus! Think about it!) But even the worst onion ring is still gonna be all right.
Normally I dislike turning the comments on with my site because I get flooded with spam and it's not cute. But I'm aware this is a volatile topic so have at it. #firstamendment
Update: Comments are now closed. If you have a burning comment to make on this piece please email me and I will put it in here as needed. Thanks for all the comments (I am especially addressing you if you are a robot who wrote to me about illegal designer shoes from China.)