Picture your average onion ring. There's semi-crisp batter that leaves grease on your fingers, limp, unseasoned onions, and zero adhesion between onion and fried dough. Bite your way through and the onion slips right out.
Now picture your average good onion ring. The batter may be more crisp and less greasy. The onion may be more tender. Does the onion still slip out of its fried shell? I'm betting it does.
It's hard to make a good onion ring, at least the traditional way with the thick batter method. So I don't know why I'm the least bit surprised that Shopsins not only says "to hell with this" in their approach to onion rings ($7), but that they make awesome stuff as a result. The Shopsins technique is simple: dredge, don't batter, and don't mind some grease if it does some good.
Shopsins onion rings are really more like onion shavings, wittled down into thin circles that are then dredged and seasoned. The dredge doesn't coat the onions completely, but where it does, it sticks. Since the onion slices aren't encased in a thick coffin of batter, they're not puffing out the steam and moisture that pushes said batter away. And direct contact with oil cooks the onions hotter and faster than steam, meaning they begin to caramelize, turning sweet and a little nutty. Onion rings that actually taste like onions? Who'd have thought?
The resulting onion rings are distinctly sweet and savory; salt makes direct contact with the onions to properly season them. The fried dredge stays put much more effectively than a thick sheath of batter, making for a crunch that sticks with you. Are they greasy? You bet they are. But so are plain 'ol onion rings without caramelized flavors and crisp coatings and proper seasoning. As with everything else at Shopsins, the grease counts for something special here.