The once-a-year arterial greasing.

I only want fried onions once a summer, but it’s an itch that I absolutely have to scratch.  Why just once?  Well, mostly because afterwards I feel moderately ill, like I’ve been funneling the grease at the bottom of the fry-o-lator, and that’s regardless of how light the batter is.

Fortunately, a few places on Cape Cod combine onion expertise with seafood know-how, and the jointly-owned fry shacks Kate’s and Liam’s, on Route 6A in Brewster and on Nauset Beach in Orleans, respectively, churn out some of the best onion-and-fried-frutti-di-mare combos that you’ll ever lay lips on.

Liam’s beachside shack used to house the longtime institution Philbrick’s, which my mother and her cousins swear had the best onion rings in the universe, but they lost their lease somewhere around 15 years ago and moved into downtown Orleans for a few unsuccessful summers.  Having been too young to really give the Philbrick’s onions a fair comparison, I can only say that I can’t envision them being any better than Liam’s, which are practically perfect.  Sliced to tiny strands and fried in a flour dough so light it makes the food service onion ring batter look like sandy cement, then served to you in an overflowing miniature rowboat-shaped container, the only thing that can improve them is a hot summer’s day and a large soda.  (They’re available in sizes ranging from small to jumbo, and prices from $4 to $9.50.)

Kate’s, as befits its common ownership with Liam’s, also serves these onions – with the added bonus that you don’t have to have to pay the Nauset parking fee or brave the sandy crowds (though Liam’s does stay open after the parking fee ends in the evening).  Many menu items are a buck or two cheaper, too, including the delicious whole clams (Liam’s is $14 per half pint, Kate’s is $13).  The scallops (half pint $11.50) were my choice on a recent summer’s afternoon, and while the scallops one is served in a restaurant these days border on the planetary, the taste and cooking technique were unimpeachable.

As far as things I wasn’t impressed with, I can’t say that I really thought the clam fritters were that interesting, nor was the cole slaw anything but standard-issue food service quality.  But then, you’re not really there for the slaw, are you?  If you still have room after the fried goodies are gone, you should be aiming at ice cream or a frappe, not cabbage and mayo.  Me, I had room for neither, my fried onion and seafood objective for the year having been fulfilled, and the associated groaning having just begun.  

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