Those Damn Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings (Part 3)

(Continued from Part 1 and Part 2)

Greg Koch

Yep. They are the mostest favoritest thing to love AND to hate on our menu. True, the Mac & Beer Cheese and the Buffalo Burger give them a run for their money, but the onion rings don’t just edge out…they’ve got a clear margin.  People really HATE them.

I don’t get it. True, I’m in the “one and done” camp with the onion rings. I never get them when I’m dining by myself, and wouldn’t even if I could order just one. The only time I have one is when I’m dining with other folks and they want to order them. I’ll try gently nudging them to one of our cheese plates, the Brussels sprouts or okra (depending on the season), or our house-made Kimchee. I prefer all of those to the onion rings. However, in my effort to be a good host, I’ll usually succumb to pressure and agree to get an order for the table. And I’ll have one. I’ll slather it in our BBQ sauce (which I genuinely love), and I’ll enjoy it.

The most hated item on our menu

The most hated item on our menu

And it’s not just hate. We get anger. Flowing and unrestrained. Expletives fly freely on rating websites about them as reviewers spit out their “How. Dare. They.” vitriol. What could there possibly be about an ONION RING that causes such unbridled bile?

And yet they sell huge.

And believe it or not, we’re actually not that thrilled about that fact.

OK then. What’s the problem? Bad profit? No, the onion rings rank a solid “OK” on the profitability scale. Not bad, not great.

It’s making them.

We have three deep fried items on our menu: the aforementioned onion rings, our Spud Buds and the Mushroom Pillows.

When things get busy, the onion rings are usually what puts us in the weeds. Four minutes frying time per batch. Period. If the person working that station is absolutely on it like clockwork — and the busier a kitchen gets, the more challenging that can be sometimes — then they can probably actually produce two batches every five minutes (we’ve been able to squeeze two deep fryers into the too-small kitchen). If we get thirty orders in over a short period, which can often happen when it’s busy…especially when there’s a wait as people order them in even more volumes from the bar to tied them over…then a little quick math demonstrates that the 30th order ain’t comin’ out until (take 30, multiply by five minutes then divide by two) an unacceptable seventy-five minutes later. Ugh. That’s just plain ugly. And our guests are, and let’s put it politely here, decidedly Not Stoked when they find out that they’re at the tail end of that chain. Can’t says I blame ‘em.

So let’s pause a moment in this too long tale of joy turning to sadness, woe and…perhaps?…eventual redemption and take score.

On the Good Side:
Some folks really actually do genuinely, for all their flaws and character defects (the onion rings’, not the people’s), like them. A lot.

On the Not Good Side:
Some folks make them the target for their ire. As such, they’re one of the most complained about items on our menu. I think it’s partially because their one of the most, errr…’normal’ things on our menu so the folks that are looking for ‘normal’ order them and are disappointed as they…aren’t. Normal that is.  The Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings admittedly share the stage for being targeted with this type of angst with the Mac & Beer Cheese and the Buffalo Burger, our two other most ‘normal’ items on the menu that still…aren’t.

They barely fit within our Food Philosophy. True, we use organic onions, make the batter ourselves, etc. They qualify on that side, no prob. However, we have an unstated co-philosophy of not really wanting things on our menu that are arguably out-and-out BAD for you. Honestly, the onion rings are hard to defend on that level. In fact I won’t even try. Sure, I believe in people’s right to make their own decisions, but I also believe in our right to be at least VERY reluctant to serve food that’s in the no-redeeming-value-and-perhaps-a-fair-amount-of-just-plain-bad-for-you category. You want poor health? Well, we don’t really want to enable you on that quest. Ummm, ‘cept with this dish I guess. Yeah, I suppose it’s fairly evident that have a personal tough time with this one (unlike the folks at that link above that find them “healthy.” Yeah. Right. Healthy deep fried food.

They’re really hard to get out in the volume we need, when we need it. And when you need them (uh, want them rather…no one “needs” onion rings, no matter how much you might be on the Love Them).

Here’s the current menu description for them:

Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings                           7

Crispy tempura-style Arrogant Bastard Ale batter. Too big and
well on the too greasy side (hey, they’re big, fat onion rings, not
carrot sticks). Burned ones often occupy the same plate as ones
that have uncooked gooey batter still on the inside. Yum. Call
us crazy…and many do…we love ‘em. Delivered with a side of
our Stone Smoked Porter BBQ Sauce (same delicious sauce
that we sell in the Stone Store, hint hint).

Here’s how I’d like the menu description to read:

You should reconsider ordering these. It is quite likely you will not like them. They are too big, and both too underdone and too well done. Too greasy as well (what is it with people that want non-greasy deep fried food anyway?) These are one of our most complained about items on the menu. Why don’t we just ax ‘em off our menu and be done with it? Because they’re one of the most popular items on the menu as well. Go figure. If you’re feeling a bit cranky and are looking for something to complain about, then perhaps these will give you just what you need. Oh, and ketchup does NOT go well with these, which is why we accompany them with the Stone Smoked Porter & Pasilla Pepper BBQ sauce. If you’re one of those ketchup-demanders (yes, you have a special designation in the restaurant industry…and it’s not one to be considered in high regard) we’ll supply it on request, but trust us when we say it’s not the best match for these rings. But we digress….

OK. Enough is enough, and it has indeed been enough. What do you think? Should we get rid of them, or are you going to sign up as a charter member of the Save The Arrogant Bastard Onion Rings Campaign?

I’ve made up my mind. Now’s your chance to tell me what you think. Speak up, or forever hold your ketchup  (Actually hold the ketchup no matter what, you hooligans).