Worthington, Minn., is 180 miles south of Minneapolis, more than 1,100 miles from New York City and at least five years away from sushi and tapas, maybe longer. But the World's Best Onion Rings are no further than Michael's restaurant off of Interstate 90 at the exit for Highway 60 South.

When the denizens of Worthington wish to celebrate a birthday, throw a party or dine out fancily, they invariably opt for a table at this self-proclaimed Italian-American steakhouse, with its menu of spaghetti, burgers, seafood and sandwiches.

The food is straightforward, but thoughtfully prepared -- french fries are hand sliced from real potatoes, salad dressings are made on the premises (the blue cheese with big hunks of roquefort is a personal favorite) and the ground beef and steaks can't be beat -- in fact, favored customers are known to place bulk carryout orders when they come in for a meal.

Proprietor Larry Lang, who must have been born with a coffee pot in one hand and a water pitcher in the other, is a regional institution, a slave to his job and a no-nonsense host (except for New Year's Eve, when he lets his hair down long enough to lead his guests on a romp through the entire restaurant to a rendition of "When the Saints Come Marching In" on his trombone).

But it's those freshly sliced sweet onions in their light golden batter, deep fried, that have set the standard for my onion ring splurges and make this Midwestern locale worth a detour.