McDonald's FiIet-O-Fish

A Comparison of Fast Food Fried Fish Sandwiches

In 1962, Cincinnati, Ohio-based McDonald’s franchisee Lou Groen had a problem. His local clientele was close to 90% Roman Catholic, which was causing his restaurant to founder mightily on Fridays and during Lent, the 40-day period leading up to Easter during which Roman Catholics abstain from eating meat.

In those days, when your McDonald’s franchise was struggling, you didn’t noodle around with middle management. You got on the phone with old Ray Kroc, himself. Sympathetic to the struggles at Groen’s store, Kroc rather famously came up with a proposition. They would, as Groen had asked, begin testing a new fish sandwich to help the store get through those Friday rough patches. Kroc also insisted, however, that the restaurant also test his solution. Kroc thought the answer was to feed Catholics his “Hula Burger,” a slice of grilled pineapple with cheese on a cold bun, and demanded that both items be placed on the menu. Whichever sandwich sold best would be rolled out to the nationwide menu, and would become the first non-hamburger addition to the McDonald’s menu. Lou Groen’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich won in a landslide, saved his struggling franchise, and McDonald’s went on to sell approximately 300 million of the sandwiches per year.

I wasn’t brought up under any particular religious doctrine, and thus don’t have a very well-developed sense of “guilt” or “self-discipline,” which is partly what allows me to waste my prime income-generating years by writing a blog about sandwiches. This lack of religious meat-eating guidelines also kept me from really being forced to explore the width and breadth of the fast food fish sandwich market. Living in Maine, where the best fried haddock sandwich you’ve ever had in your life is available on the side of the road almost anywhere in the state during the Summer, usually for less than the price of a Happy Meal, I have sampled Lou Groen’s Filet-O-Fish perhaps a half a dozen times in my life, and have certainly never explored any of the fish sandwich offerings from any of the other chains.

Realizing this massive deficit in my fast food knowledge, and with the various fast food restaurants rolling out their annual fish sandwich promotions for Lent, I did what any reasonable person would do. I went and ate them all.  Here’s what I observed, ranked from least to most delicious:

Fish Sandwich from Burger King

Name: BK BIG FISH® from Burger King

Price: $5.59 for a combo, including medium fries and a drink

The King says: “A crisp, golden breaded 4.3-ounce filet, tangy tartar sauce, and fresh lettuce all served on a corn-dusted bun. The BK BIG FISH® commands attention, and delivers satisfaction. Who are you to resist?”

Observations: If I’m being completely sincere, it’s hard to tell with absolute certainty if this was my least favorite of the fast food fish sandwiches due to any faults inherent in the sandwich itself, or if my low opinion was simply due to this being the fourth and final fish sandwich that I ate. There was plenty not to like about this sandwich: The hot iceberg lettuce that fell out in big, upholstery-staining clumps, the yellowish tartar sauce that looked like it had sat unrefrigerated for hours, and the oddly chewy butter-grilled potato (?) bun all helped this sandwich to earn low marks. The bright side of ordering fish sandwiches at fast food places is that they usually need to be made fresh, since no one ever, ever orders them. In this case, though, the square fish fillet was so hot that it exploded burning oil into my mouth on first bite, annihilating my tongue and making further analysis difficult. Burger King seems to make it a point not to disclose what type of fish they are using, so I am assuming it is a formed, pressed mishmash of pollock and whatever else is inexpensive during a given season. The fish itself was mushy, and overpowered by a very crispy coating that seemed synthetic, as though it were made from deep-fried packing peanuts.

Rating: 3 mouth-destroying fish-mash patties out of 10.

Wendy's Premium Cod Filet Sandwich

Name: Wendy’s Premium Cod Filet Sandwich

Price: $5.59 for a combo, including cheese, fries and a drink

Wendy says: “It’s hard to resist our Premium Cod Fillet. That’s because we use only 100% cod straight from the North Pacific. Battered in light, crispy Panko breading and topped with tartar sauce and fresh lettuce — all on a buttered, toasted bun. It’s quite a catch, but only for a limited time. Hurry in to Wendy’s today! ”

Observations: This was the fast food fish sandwich I was most looking forward to, thanks to some brilliant product photography clearly showing a thick, plump cod fillet, that looks like it just got done swimming up a Panko waterfall and leaped into place on my buttered bun. Unfortunately, it was one of the most disappointing. The sandwich came packaged as most Wendy’s items seem to nowadays, in an effort to mimic other, better chains with a white paper wrapper and half a cardboard box. The fish fillet itself had a somewhat natural shape, and the promised Panko breadcrumb coating did provide a greater crunch than the other sandwiches we tasted. The sandwich was served at slightly below room temperature, with a cold slice of unmelted, flavorless cheese hanging over the edges of the cod filet. This didn’t do the sandwich any favors, and almost makes it seem unfair to compare to fresher, hotter sandwiches we received elsewhere. A slightly stale, squashed, butter-toasted bun slathered in a liberal amount of appropriately tangy tartar sauce with a few anemic slices of iceberg did little to distract from the rather mushy, though pleasantly mild-flavored fish. Eating this sandwich made me wish that they had a “Spicy Crispy” version.

Rating: 5 bruised and battered North Pacific Cod out of 10.

Arby's Fish Sandwich

Name: Arby’s Fish Sandwich

Price: TWO fish sandwiches OR a fish sandwich combo for $5.00

Weird Rodeo Hat says: “Made with light, flaky fish fillets, served with Arby’s delicious tartar sauce, fresh lettuce, and always made fresh when you order. The Fish Sandwich is back! Dive in!”

Observations: First off, is there any sentence in the English language that sounds sweeter to those of us accustomed to eating in our cars than, “If you could just pull up to the curb, your order is going to be a few more minutes?” Sure, the extra wait is initially disappointing, but as soon as you realize that whatever you just ordered had to be made fresh and will be arriving piping hot, it becomes a thrill. Arby’s does, indeed, seem to cook each fish sandwich to order, ensuring that, already, it is going to outscore some competitor’s sandwiches. I was also tickled to see our friends at Grub Grade have their review name-dropped on the Arby’s marketing material. A chain that is serving fresh food AND paying attention to food blogs? Heavenly!

My expectations for this sandwich were low, due mostly to my generally low, lingering opinion of Arby’s that is based on their 1970’s-era grey, wet roast beef sandwiches, and has almost nothing to do with the mostly delicious food the chain is producing nowadays. I was delighted to open the bag, unwrap my sandwich, and be greeted with a piping hot sandwich that looked an awful lot like the picture on the menu. The sandwich is served on a bulky sesame seed bun, with tangy Miracle Whip-style dressing on both sides, that was fresh and stood up to the large fish fillet overhanging the edges of the sandwich. The hot iceberg lettuce is a bit of a bummer. The fish fillet itself, an Alaskan pollock, unusually shaped to resemble a real fish, rather than the pieces of thousands of other fish, smushed together, has a wonderful crunchy coating, with flaky fish inside. The more I ate of the sandwich, the more it started to lose me. The tangy sauce, was a bit overpowering, and every third bite of sandwich seemed to taste intensely, overly fishy. The texture of the fish itself took on almost a minced quality, that I didn’t particularly care for.

Rating: 5.5 oddly-shaped fishy minced fillets out of 10.

McDonald's FiIet-O-Fish

Name: McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish

Price: TWO Filet-O-Fish sandwiches for $3.33

Ronald McDonald says: “It’s the fish that catches people! Dive right in. Don’t hesitate, cuz it’s made with light, flaky filet of white fish from the deep, cold waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Bering, Baltic and North Seas. Topped with tangy tartar sauce in a lightly steamed bun. Down you go! ”

Observations: Look, I’m not any happier about this than you are. The sandwich that started it all, the sandwich that summarily trounced Ray Kroc’s Hula Burger way back in 1962, the sandwich that most people cite as the reason NOT to eat fast food fried fish and cheese sandwiches, was our favorite of the bunch, by quite a wide margin. What sets this sandwich apart? A few things.  Though the fish fillet itself, a fairly unremarkable mixture of pollack and hoki, is tasty, it’s not doing anything that is, in itself, better than the other chains. The fish is mild, with nice, big flakes of fillet. The half-slice of American cheese is a bit of a puzzle, in that it melts in the areas where it is directly in contact with the fish, and stays solid elsewhere. And the tartar sauce is absolutely heaped on, making the mayonnaise and dill pickle mixture perhaps a tad overwhelming for some. What makes this sandwich better than all the others we tasted, however, is the steamed bun, which melts and gives way immediately, making this sandwich seem like the seafaring equivalent of the best drive-in steamed cheeseburger, with no pesky, flavorless hot lettuce to get in the way. All of the ingredients fuse into a puffy, steamy little bite of the sea that was stunningly tasty, in spite of my preconceptions to the contrary.

Rating: 7 fluffy clouds of deep-sea deliciousness out of 10.

Conclusion:

How can this be? How can McDonald’s sandwich, made with a reconstituted fish patty that bears little resemblance to real food, outperform Wendy’s fish sandwich, which uses an actual, honest-to-goodness cod fillet? The answer is twofold.

First, McDonald’s succeeded as it always does in creating an entirely new food. In the same way that a McDonald’s cheeseburger can’t reasonably be compared to a cheeseburger fresh from your grill at home, but still manages to be delicious, the Filet-O-Fish really can’t be evaluated as a “fish sandwich.” Here in Maine, there are plenty of “fish sandwiches” around, made with crunchy, golden-fried haddock, served with a touch of tartar sauce on a fresh potato bun. This, quite simply, ain’t that. The Filet-O-Fish manages to be something else entirely, a tiny taste of crispy fried fish served with a quart of warm tartar sauce on the softest whisper of steamed bun, the only sandwich in the McDonald’s lineup that isn’t served on a griddled bun. It may not win any prizes for purity of ingredients, but if you can score a freshly made, piping hot Filet-O-Fish, its power is hard to deny.

More important, though, is that the Filet-O-Fish hasn’t forgotten what it most essentially is. It’s fast food that remembers what fast food is supposed to be. It’s not competing for your chain restaurant dollars, it’s not hoping to convince you that a yellow rainslicker-wearing fisherman caught the fish in your sandwich anywhere nearby (or even within thousands of miles), and it’s not trying to make you think that eating a fried fish sandwich in your car is the same thing as eating a fried fish sandwich in a restaurant. With the Filet-O-Fish, the pendulum sings the other way altogether. On special, these diminutive little sandwiches set you back about a buck and a half a piece. For that price, it’s hard to imagine a convenience food that delivers more completely as a satisfying snack except for, I dunno, fruit. The Filet-O-Fish doesn’t apologize. It delights. And, if I am somehow ever capable of ever ordering a fast food fish sandwich ever again after all of this, it is the Filet-O-Fish that I will be returning for.

Comments

  1. Betty says

    THe fish at McDonald’s comes from Gorton’s. My friend’s daughter used to work there and handled the account. This has been my favorite for a while. But it has to be fresh – to fool them you ask for the tartar sauce on the side so they have to make it fresh. It may take a couple minutes but worth the wait.

    • Malcolm says

      Thanks for writing, Betty! Our favorable impressions of the Filet-O-Fish definitely had a lot to do with how hot and fresh the sandwich was. Differences between individual ingredients aside, hot + fresh + steamy will always win.

  2. says

    The Filet-O-Fish is a classic. It is, quite simply, a fishstick on a bun, and I always go ketchup with it. But it helps to stick potato chips on top, especially malted chips. I was never involved in the GrubGrade ranking of fish sandwiches, but I’ll take the Filet-O-Fish or Arby’s sandwich anyday, provided they are running a 2-for-3 or 2-for-4 special. I think fish sandwiches are more of an older people and regional thing. We practicing Catholics who grew up after Vatican II and not in the Great Lakes Region of the country could care less about fried fish just so long as we’re not eating meat on Fridays.

  3. Mom says

    So, wait, you mean all those crucifixes and rosaries hanging around the house didn’t have any effect on you? I can’t believe it.
    Pass the grapes…
    WONDERFUL writing, as per.

  4. says

    You need to try Sonic’s out, by far the best one, but they ONLY serve it during Lent (mental note, get to Sonic).
    I’m wondering if you have a bunk Wendy’s because (last year at least) it was my second favorite. I’m still disappointed every time by the fillet o fish.

  5. says

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post! Fish filet sandwiches sadly remind me of bad junior high cafeteria lunches from my past – so I never, ever try them. We do have a terrific fish fry restaurant chain in Central new York, if you ever make it that way – Doug’s Fish Fry

    http://dougsfishfry.com

    No – I’m not affiliated with them in any way – but their fried fish sandwich is delectable!

  6. says

    Thanks for taking one for the team. My boss anxiously awaits Lent every year then immediately drives to whatever fast food joint he can to get a fish sandwich. It’s a little bizarre. But, now I will be able to give him some pointers when he asks where he should get his sandwich for lunch (at least its not the normal ‘what’s for lunch debate’ that can take hours).

  7. Taylor says

    My fave is the Carl’s Catch Fish Sandwich at Carl’s Jr. The Filet-O-Fish is just sad in comparison. However, if I recall, neither Carl’s Jr. or their clone restaurant Hardee’s can be found on the East Coast. Anyways, if you ever find yourself in a Carl’s Jr., you should try it out.

    • says

      There are Hardees in the midwest (around here (Northeast Ohio) I can think of two), but my general experience with them can only be described as disappointing. I, too, wonder if you had an atypically bad experience with Arby’s, as I prefer them to almost anything else out there, fastfood- and fish-wise.

      There used to be a ff place called Rax — they had the BEST fish I ever had; no tartar sauce and a lemon wedge …

  8. Adil says

    A couple of years ago I went to dubai and walked into a KFC and tried the Fish Zinger which they had. Up until that point the Fillet O Fish from McDonalds was my favourite fish burger having previously also tried the Burger King Oceana burger (which was not very good) as those are the only 2 fish burgers availabe in the UK via the fast food chains discussed above. Anyways one bite of the Fish Zinger from KFC and it in my opionion just blew the Fillet O Fish of McDonalds out of the water. I had found a new favourite fish burger except annoyingly they don’t sell it in UK KFC’s :o(

    For me the tartar sauce used by McDonalds is what makes the burger really special and I didnt think i’d eat a better fish burger than the Fish Fillet but the spicy coating used in the KFC fish Zinger I think jsut pushes it over the top. The coating is so tasty I think i prefer it to the tartar sauce in the Fillet O Fish of McDonlds. What would happen if you mated the Fish Zinger with McDonalds Tartar sauce? A pipe dream for now…… lol

  9. Harry says

    Really? Filet-O-Crap over BK? No way. I’d drive past 23 McDonald’s for a BK Big Fish. The only caveat I have is I ask for the Whopper bun instead of the artisan bread.

    Sheesh.

  10. Yummy says

    The original McD’s fish sandwich from Cincinnati was nothing like the square fish thing they serve today. The original filet-o-fish from Lou Groen’s McD restaurants contained two 3″ perfectly fried logs of halibut with a little shredded lettuce and tarter sauce for 39 cents (back in the mid 1960’s). If you wanted a slice of cheese, they added 5 cents. The McD hamburger was 15 cents. Back then, the main competitor in Cincy was Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants. They had a fish sandwich that, in essence, Groen copied – only with smaller “logs” of halibut, and for less money. They were both extremely good…especially after Friday night high school football games with fried, a small coke, and your date.

  11. Jim says

    The best fish sandwich in St. Louis, mo. Is the grouper Reuben at the Social House in Soulard, fish is served on grilled marble rye topped with coleslaw and thousand island dressing. Servers are topless and painted. Yum!!

  12. dave says

    Are you kidding me the McDonald’s Filet O Fish sandwich is the absolute worst fish sandwich you can eat. It is so small I compare it to a White Castle burger. There is so much bread and almost no Filet O Fish. If memory serves me right this sandwich has shrunk considerably over the years. It might just be my childhood imagination but I recall the sandwich being much larger than it currently is. Most other review web sites rate McDonald’s last.

  13. Rick DeLano says

    The Arby’s fish sandwich is massively superior to the Filet o’ Mystery Fish.

    Better deal too.

    Love to try the Wendy’s but none around.

    • Malcolm Bedell says

      The Arby’s fish sandwich is good. The McDonald’s Filet o’ Fish is more satisfying. Especially if you can score two of them for $3.33.

      • Rose says

        The Fish Filet is the ONLY thing I’ll eat from McDonald’s – HOWEVER – I can promise you, down here in the South, you are NOT EVER going to buy these fish sandwiches 2/$3.33. They NEVER run a special on them not even during Lent. We pay $3.69 – $3.89 for EACH fish sandwich depending on the location. Sure wish they would pass that Northern price down our way. While I don’t care much for lettuce on my fish, I prefer onion & tarter sauce…. the piece of cheese McDonald’s puts on the sandwiches is a joke – about 1/3 of a slice of cheese (not half) for which they charge about $1.00 extra. My opinion is McDonald’s taste okay – but it is not the best fish sandwich in the South OR the best value/price for my money. Arbey’s has them beat.

        • EcurbTheProphet says

          Rose is right.

          Arby’s better fish sandwich, and no, you won’t find the fish on sale in the south… they go too fast, no reason to discount.

          But Rose… come on… in Italy… even the pizza con frutti di Mare (fruit of the sea)… NO cheese with fish… NO CHEESE with fish… not done. Take off the cheese, cut the filet a little thicker… actually make it a filet, as opposed to sliced minced fish cake.

          Now, Rose… you gotta agree with me on this one.

  14. Margaret says

    I ended up eating the Arby’s fish filet alone and dipping it in catsup and it was very, very good. I am not a tartar sauce fan and the limp lettuce was unappealing and I was avoiding the bread so I was delightfully surprised.

  15. Kaye says

    I’ve known about McDonald’s fish sandwiches for a loooong time. I have never understood putting lettuce on a fish sandwich anyway and have them leave off the tartar sauce. It is one of my favorite sandwiches.

  16. Maria says

    Excellent post! And, of course I knew who the winner was going to be! Any practicing Catholic will tell you, you never give up McDees filet-o-s during Lent !! :-) They are yummy.

  17. Miriam says

    I really like the broiled cod (real fish fillet) at Carl’s Jr.

    I order it without the bun and they serve it on a plate. With a lemon slice and tarter sauce on the side.

    Their tarter sauce has no discernible taste so generally I skip that.

  18. Proteios1 says

    If you are interested in adding a culvers fish sandwich to the list, considering they are a small but growing chain, I would give it at most a five. But not behind Wendy’s. i agree McDonalds is the taste winner. Uff Da!

  19. James Andrews says

    I’ve eaten all the sandwiches reviewed by the author, more than once. My favorite remains, and has been since a small child in the mid-1960’s, the Filet-O-Fish. It must be requested “fresh made” for best results. If eaten fresh, the piping hot fish and tartar sauce, cheese and steamed bun are good comfort food. I didn’t know they were two for one right now – I will eat some on the way to Mass tonight.

    Thanks for the review!

  20. Baconsmom says

    When I was pregnant with my daughter the only thing I craved was McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwiches. Still love them.

  21. Tapestry says

    .Good grief, Mc Donalds? give me a break!
    The only thing good is the McRib and that seems to be seasonal.
    Give me Burger King, stop raving about the ‘hot lettuce and tartar sauce’
    because you can have it YOUR way without sauce..without lettuce Which takes tons of calories off the sandwich,that swims rings around the rest of fastfood eateries.

    I will agree with Howard that CaptainDs has awesome fish everything!!
    But there is only a couple that is non-mid west.. but oh mi its the best!!

    • Malcolm Bedell says

      The fish sandwich from Burger King was the most disappointing offering from any of the major chains we tested. Also, taking off the lettuce is going to offer very little in the way of caloric savings.

  22. Max Scalett says

    Dude, you are nuts! The fish at McDonalds is so processed and gross. You can’t really get good fish at any of these places but Wendy’s beats out McDonalds

  23. Brian says

    If they have it, the walleye at Culver’s can’t be beat. Haven’t tried Arby’s, but Whataburger’s Whatacatch is much better than McD.

    • Luci says

      I tried a fish sandwich from Culver’s a couple years ago, and I thought it was quite a letdown. The taste was SOOO fishy, like they’d just snagged it from the water, I almost threw up.

  24. Luci says

    McD’s Filet-O-Fish is always a great alternative for when you’re in the mood for something a little different. No complaints here. Tried Arby’s fish sandwich a while back. I really liked it, but didn’t like the tarter sauce that they used quite as much as I like the tarter at McD’s. Have never tried a Wendy’s fish sandwich, and probably never will, seeing as that I just don’t like Wendy’s much in general and have no reason to go there. Haven’t had a BK Big Fish since probably the late ’90s or so. It’s been so long, I can’t say I remember one way or another how it tasted. It must’ve been fine, because I’d think if it were terrible, I’d remember. I seem to vaguely recall cheese on BK’s fish sandwich at one time… maybe I’m wrong on that. In all honesty, it sounds to me like a lot of the reason behind the person’s low rating here has more to do with poor preparation from this particular restaurant than what BK intends their Big Fish to taste like. Meanwhile, I read a pretty good BK Big Fish review elsewhere. So I think I may have to give it another try sometime. ;-)

  25. says

    the filet o’ fish sandwich has magical healing powers. whenever i have surgery, my husband brings me one and instantly i feel better. he told that to a friend of his and the friend added that his wife felt the same way about the sandwiches. true fact.

    regarding the cincinnati frisch’s v. mc d’s fish sandwich. taste wise, frisch’s wins. magical healing powers, it is the filet o’fish all the way.

  26. Bruce says

    Just had BK Alaskan premium fish sandwich when I asked the manager what kind of fish they used she told me Haddock I’m a commercial Fisherman in Alaska and have fished th Bering Sea for 25 years never seen a haddock up there their caught off the coast of Washington and Oregon I’m calling BS on this can anybody say false advertising

  27. Brittany g says

    I completely agree that the Filet-o-fish is the best. The bun and sauce are amazing. I haven’t tried the Arby’s one but the BK sandwich is incredibly greasy and I can’t standdd Wendy’s butter toasted buns. Yuck. Micky D’s got it right by keeping it simple.

  28. Jason J says

    This review is a joke. A fish sandwich is pretty speculative because all tastes different, but you seriously expect us to believe that McD scores higher than any other fish sandwich? I understand there are other variables involved as well, like how good the chain is in your area, how often they receive their shipments, etc. The McD in my area are terrible. No matter what you order the food is just above room temperature, the bread is hard and the ingredients are certainly not fresh. Your McD may be “better”, but there is no way on earth my McD fish sandwich is at the top of the list of all fast food chain sandwiches, in fact, there is the bottom of the list and the Filet-o-fish is under that. The BK Alaskan fish sandwich from my local restaurant is in fact the best I have tasted. Another really good sandwich, right under the Alaskan is the Checkers fish sandwich and Wendy’s below that one. I haven’t tried the Arby’s or Hardee’s fish sandwich but I will and I am sure they will score high marks above that pressed, fried, block thing that McD tries to pass off as fish. You are either being paid by McD to write this jaded review or you literally have no taste and should quit reviewing food all together.

  29. Rose says

    I was checking this website/review out because my husband keeps telling me & everyone else, that he saw
    on the History Channel that the absolutely WORST and most UNHEALTHY fast food sandwich you could eat is the McDonald’s Fish Sandwich. I beg to differ w/him but he stands his ground on the fact that the information came from the History Channel so it has to be correct.. I do find that the nutritional information varies on this sandwich from 360 – 470 calories. How can there be that much variation from one website of nutritional information to the other????? Sodium content is also a big variable from 540 – 750.

  30. EcurbTheProphet says

    A paid advertisement – that’s all I can say.

    That’s what this article was – a paid advertisement, in much the same way that Motor Trend Magazine issues their “Car of the Year” awards… by highest bidder.

    Clearly, this person has no taste.

    McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish has cheddar CHEESE on it (cheese on fish?), WAY too much tartar sauce (purposely to disguise the minced fish taste), sits under a heat lamp, and is mostly breading. (Where’s the fish?)

    It is MY favorite McDonald’s sandwich, but that’s not saying much.

    Arby’s is the clear taste winner – which could be concluded with more than a single visit on which to base your decision. On any one occasion something could go wrong. So, you make several trips in order to mitigate those things that could (and do) go wrong at a fast-food place.

    Wendy’s is second.

    BK… I have yet to find a BK with the fish sandwich on their menu – not all restaurants have all items on their menu.

    AS WELL… due to unpopular demand, both Arby’s and Wendy’s restaurants are intermittent about offering their fish sandwiches – saying it is either, “seasonal,” or simply, “discontinued.”

    I guess Americans just don’t like fish sandwiches.

    So it is only by DEFAULT that McDonald’s wins this competition… and that saddens me greatly.

    There are no more Long John Silvers… all the Skippers are closing… Arby’s and Wendy’s are discontinuing their fish sandwiches, Burger King can’t decide if it brings back the Whaler or not. (The Whaler… now THAT was a fish sandwich!)

    All we are left with is the Filet-O-Fish.

    So… Mickey D… could you do us all a favor… take off the cheese and half the tarter sauce, improve the breading, slice your (minced fish cake) “filet” a little bit thicker, and DEEP FRY them to order – in oil that is ONLY used for fish.

    We FISH SANDWICH lovers will absolutely wait for one… we will. We WILL wait. Which means… no, you can’t sell them in the drive-through.

    Well, I guess we found the problem.

    It’s not that Americans don’t like fish sandwiches… Americans won’t get their fat butts out of their cars and waddle up to the counter, AND WAIT, for a good sandwich. They’ll just take the swill that gets put in the trough as they drive by.

    Geez… what’s next… moving troughs? (Hmmm… I may be on to something!)

  31. Mark says

    In the spring when the fast food restaurants (and others) push their fish sandwiches (and some only have them then) I do a taste test of my own. Although sandwiches vary from restaurant to restaurant even within the same chain Wendy’s or Arby’s usually win. McDonald’s is always low in the standings. One year it beat out only Kroger’s (not fast food but included that year) and the vending machine fish sandwiches at work). Maybe the fast food help in your area are less competent than here. I don’t know. I seriously can’t believe that anyone who likes fish likes McDonalds fish sandwich. I can’t say that any are outstanding. It’s fast food after all. Long John Silvers sandwich is better than McDonalds and it is resoundingly mediocre. Just sayin’.

  32. Bob Lambert says

    After reading Malcolm’s article I knew I had to try the McD’s fish sandwich. I was very disappointed. It came in a small cardboard box and upon opening it I saw this very small bun. I said this can not be my fillet of fish sandwich, it’s to small. It must be a child’s burger. When I opened it I saw this small square of fish that was the size of a credit card that had been cut in half. This was the smallest fish sandwich I have ever seen. To top it all off it WAS NOT TWO FOR $3.33 . IT WAS ONE FOR $3.89. WHAT A RIP OFF. To be fair the mouthful i ate was very good…..

  33. Jim says

    Great little post and comparison of sandwiches! Yes, taste is subjective and one mans favorite may be another ladies least tasteful. Still, I have to admit my personal is the McDonalds, puny cheese slice and all. The problem is I live in the South and these are NEVER on sale. So when feeding the family we often will make another selection based simply on economics. The Arby deal is the winner this year…

    Maybe this could be expanded next year and include some of the sit down joints mentioned, like Captain D’s and Long John Silvers (they still in business) along with some the lesser know purveyors of Lenten Fish like Popeyes, Carls, Hardee’s and a few others. Have you thought about maybe offering a survey on your site to put this argument up for a vote??

  34. says

    Raised in Cincinnati where we REALLY like/eat fish sandwiches and during lent we eagerly hit all the fish fries at Catholic churches, fire departments, etc. McDonald’s still does it best for the money. Just order it with NO cheese or lettuce and light tarter sauce and it will be made fresh. Frisches, using cod on rye buns, used to be the best but not now and they charge over $4.00. Arby’s is okay, nice sized portion, but the treat there is that since they sell reubens, you can order their fish on rye like we were raised on here. Forget Wendy’s for anything except their overpriced salads and maybe the chili. I can eat the fish at Long John’s and like it at Captn D’s but neither put out a good sandwich. Yes indeedy, Malcom nailed it.

    • Malcolm Bedell says

      Thanks, Victoria! It’s nice to meet someone who’s thinking about fish sandwiches as much as I am!

  35. Anne says

    I agree. Hands down- McDonald’s Filet O Fish sandwich is the best fish sandwich out there. There was one year, back in 1997-1998 when they went on sale- 2 sandwiches for 2 dollars in the South. That was the only time I have ever seen them on sale. It was awesome! Now, I have to pay almost 5 bucks for just the sandwich (no meal) on the West Coast, but it’s still worth every dime. I always get mine with no tartar sauce and love just the melted cheese and light fluffy bun with the fried white fish filet. McDonald’s now uses sustainably caught Pollock from Alaska for the sandwich, which makes it even better in my opinion.

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