Pickwick is the place if you like your onion rings thick

Gina Wagner only dines out a few times a year, so she wants it to be good. Good, as in the Pickwick's famous onion rings good. Wagner has tried onion rings at area restaurants, from Grandma's to the Dry Dock to Black Woods. She has even tried an ...

Gina Wagner only dines out a few times a year, so she wants it to be good.

Good, as in the Pickwick's famous onion rings good.

Wagner has tried onion rings at area restaurants, from Grandma's to the Dry Dock to Black Woods. She has even tried an item called a "blooming onion," which is a whole onion sliced vertically, splayed to look like a flower petal and deep-fried. "Sorry, but they just don't compare," she said.

We met at the Pickwick for dinner on Thursday. Wagner was on the bar side, where she usually dines, but I was on the dining room side, where I usually have eaten. We found each other quickly, though, and our hostess escorted us to one of the rear dining rooms whose windows look out over the lake.



Wagner has two favorite menu choices when she eats at the Pickwick, which is usually with her husband, Bob. If it's lunch, she usually has the rings, soup, cole slaw and a roll. "For me, that's plenty," she said. Bob usually has the Little Boss, a half-pound hamburger. (Incidentally, the Big Boss is a 1-pound burger). If it's dinner, usually a more formal affair (an anniversary, for example), then she usually chooses one of the shrimp dishes.

We decided to split a full order of onion rings, and we got cole slaw and rolls for each of us. I also ordered a tomato basil soup, one of two soups offered that night.

Wagner doesn't dine out much. But she likes cooking Italian, part of her ethnic heritage, and also enjoys preparing game and fish. She spends lots of time in the summer camping on the Whiteface Reservoir and doing battle with northern pike.

Our food came up and, after sampling a ring each, we both agreed that they weren't hot enough. We quickly flagged our waitress; she whisked the rings away and they were back within three minutes, the sizzle still audible. That's better.

Wagner walked me through her ritual of eating onion rings: Lay one down, attack with pepper and salt, dip in mayonnaise, repeat.

"They're huge and sweet," she said, referring to the aromatic vegetable hidden beneath the batter.

"They're crispy," she added, referring to the crunchy coating.



I came into this review expecting to not much like the Pickwick's onion rings, but I was surprised. I'd had some about two years ago as a small side order, and I remember those rings being very thick sliced, nearly three-quarters of an inch, it seemed, and deep-crusted with batter.

A former colleague argued at the time that that was the whole point of onion rings: the batter. "You don't actually eat them for the onions, do you?'' she said in mock disbelief.

Well, yes, I do, and as regular readers of this column know, I like my batter thin. And I like onions -- a good thing, because when this platter came out, my eyes may have bulged a little. It was piled a good 8 inches high. The rings were sliced about a half-inch thick and ranged from 2 to 4 inches across. The batter was cracking on some, allowing some of the translucent contents to peek through. After the warmup, the batter was crisp and crunchy, sturdy enough to withstand several bites before crumbling. It was thinner than I remembered.

I reviewed the Brewhouse's onion rings about two years ago, and I raved about their light, tempura-like batter. This may strike some as sacrilege, considering that theirs are a preproduced, frozen product. But they're high-quality, and taste homemade. Assuming they're using the same product and preparation methods, I still prefer that style. But the Pick's have a lot to recommend them, too, especially if you like your batter on the thicker, gnarlier side.

I like my cole slaw creamy but not swimming in it; the Pickwick's is just right. The finely shredded cabbage tasted crisp and fresh. The tomato soup was a nice counterpoint to the rings and the creamy slaw. It was chocked with large chunks of tomato and plenty of fresh basil leaves.


Pickwick owner Chris Wisocki said the onion ring recipe is the original created by his great-great-grandfather, restaurant founder Joe Wisocki Sr. "They're all handmade fresh every day. The onions are fresh and not frozen, so they don't get gooey inside the batter," he added. The recipe basically is buttermilk and egg wash, with bread crumbs and cracker crumbs.

Wisocki described the Pickwick's menu as "casual fine dining," where everyone is welcome. Pre-hockey game crowds often sit in the bar while, the lake-facing dining rooms fill up with symphony crowds dressed to the nines.


The Pickwick's happy hour is from 3-6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close daily; it offers $2.50 off appetizers, half price wines by the glass and $1 tap beers, Wisocki said.

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