The hottest side dish this fall and winter is apparently fried squash rings. In the last six months, Danny Meyer’s new wine bar Vini e Fritti, David Chang’s fast-food restaurant Fuku, Greg Baxtrom’s Prospect Heights restaurant Olmsted, Aurora Restaurant Group’s new Evelina in Fort Greene, and popular Carroll Gardens pizzeria Pizza Moto have all added versions of the dish — from onion ring-inspired versions to fluffier ones topped with honey.
Fried squash, of course, is nothing new. Japanese (and less Japanese) restaurants across the city typically include a piece of fried squash in tempura bowls, with light, flaky crust around a slice of squash. Vini e Fritti’s sister restaurant Marta has also had a version of the fried delicata dish since it opened in 2015, and restaurants like The Smith and ABC Kitchen have employed similar tactics in the past.
But the fried squash ring — particularly with a cute, collared slice of delicata squash — seems to popping up even more now than ever as the vogue root vegetable that restaurants are frying up as a solo side dish or appetizer.
“We love delicata squash and wanted a fun and different way to serve it,” Baxtrom says of the Olmsted version. The beer-battered snack seasoned with an Olmsted version of furikake, accompanied by green tomato ketchup, is the restaurant’s take on an onion ring, Baxtrom writes. The $8 snack has been available since fall and will remain throughout the winter. “We've started to see it everywhere too, love that others are using it a lot too, it's one of my favorite ingredients,” he says.
Over at Fuku, corporate chef Stephanie Abrams serves a fast food version of the dish, similarly calling it “onion rings 2.0.” “We wanted to create a seasonal vegetable side that was as crave-able as onion rings but with a nod to vegetable tempura as well,” she writes. Here, an order of the seasonal fall item costs $4.
Meanwhile, Pizza Moto’s $10 version, created by sous chef Joe Bliffen, is also inspired by Japanese fare but is a tad fluffier than other versions, somewhat resembling a funnel cake when seen in a pile. The fried delicata dish here is created by slicing the squash into rings, roasting them in a wood oven, and dunking them in a whole wheat sourdough starter that’s used for baking bread. It’s then drizzled with burnt honey and a rice vinegar glaze, topped with shaved ricotta salata, according to co-owner Dave Sclarow. “We love Japanese food, and it influences our menu decisions quite a bit,” Sclarow writes.
Evelina’s tempura version also uses delicata squash and is topped with spicy honey and pecorino. It costs $10, and they — like the Olmsted and Fuku versions — look kind of like giant onion rings. Vini e Fritti’s rings are also tempura-battered, but these $8 ones are half-rings instead of full circles of delicata.
These fried snacks across town are already a hit in their own right. Eater critic Ryan Sutton recently said that the Vini e Fritti version packs “a pleasantly sugary heat thanks to a dusting of dark brown sugar, cayenne pepper, paprika, and salt.” Olmsted plans to keep theirs on the menu through the winter due to the popularity. Eater contributor Sonia Chopra called Baxtrom’s version her favorite dish of the week — “crispy, filling, and topped with enough crunchy flavorful things that they don’t even need a sauce.” And Evelina’s version, Eater critic Robert Sietsema says, is “spectacularly good.”
They’re fried, they’re spiced, they’re delicious; don’t be surprised if fried delicata squash rings spread even further as the season continues.