The tell tale signs of Lent: purple vestments, penance services, and fish sandwiches everywhere. This time of year, nearly every fast food chain has a featured fish sandwich. With so many choices, how are you to decide which are worthy of a Friday night meal? We did the dirty work of eating and reviewing the major fast food chains’ offerings. Welcome to our comprehensive review.
A few things to keep in mind before we get started:
- We visited only one location of each chain, but due to the nature of the franchise system, which by its nature aims to ensure consistency across the chain, we are confident that our test sandwiches and experiences are indicative of all locations. Any abnormalities that affect the review are the responsibility of that chain and their franchisee.
- Prices are based on the Denver Metro Market and do not include tax.
- When possible, sandwich descriptions are taken straight from the chain, but may be edited for brevity and/or clarity.
- Sandwiches were scored on appearance, taste, and overall quality on a scale of 1-5 fish heads, 1 fish head being bad, 5 fish heads being excellent.
- Overall quality scores are not averages of the appearance and taste ratings.
- Each sandwich was individually reviewed by our four tasters. Their scores were averaged to the nearest 1/4 fish head for this published review.
- In the case of an overall score tie, we went with the unrounded average to determine placement in the list.
Can’t go wrong with these.
1. Wendy’s Premium North Pacific Cod Sandwich
North Pacific Cod, hand-cut from a whole fillet, lightly coated in a crispy, panko breading and topped with a creamy, dill tartar sauce and crunchy dill pickles.
$3.69 (2¢ above average)
Our reviews found Wendy’s sandwich to be a looker. “Pretty much looks as advertised, and that’s a real accomplishment.” The North Pacific Cod Sandwich features the Wendy’s new (introduced in Feb 2016) “bakery-style bun – not pictured above) and it’s great.
Our reviewers found this sandwich to have a “good fish taste without being too strong,” and enjoyed the sauce: “and that dill tartar sauce – oh my my.” We were pleased with the fish, which was “fresh and crispy, shreds easily.” The “bun complemented the rest of the sandwich very well.”
Our overall winner. All around tasty and satisfying, and the bill tartar sauce is a delight. “Overall, this is everything you hope a fish sandwich to be.”
Tip: Don’t bother paying 30 cents to add cheese; it only distracts from everything else this sandwich has going for it.
2. Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s Redhook® Beer Battered Cod Fish Tacos
Atlantic cod made with Redhook® beer batter and topped with shredded lettuce, salsa, cheese and Santa Fe sauce on a corn tortilla.
$3.99 for 2 (32¢ above average)
While this one didn’t look as advertised, and the “tortillas are falling apart a bit,” our reviewers still liked it, saying “looks fresh,” “the fish looks crispy,” and “I want to eat this.”
The strength of this taco is that it’s not another fish sandwich. Our reviewers found that it was “a nice change of pace,” and “won’t feel like a brick in my stomach like some sandwiches.” They also enjoyed the fresh taste of the salsa and the “decent kick” from the Santa Fe sauce.
Based on our sampling, you won’t go wrong ordering the Beer Battered Cod Fish Sandwich this Friday, especially if you’d had a few fish sandwiches already this Lent.
3. Chick-Fil-A Fish Sandwich
Two pieces of breaded fried fish accompanied by pickle slices on the classic buttered Chick-Fil-A bun. Tartar (or other) sauce available on the side.
$3.29 (38¢ below average)
Our reviewers were happy with the look of this one, noting that it “Looks the same as the advertised photo,” and was “not squished,” two attributes we didn’t find in most of the other sandwiches. The two pieces of fish looked “thick and juicy.”
It turns out that the simple approach is one of the best. This sandwich may not be very flashy or get much attention from it’s chain, but it scored very well with our reviewers. “Overall, this is everything you hope a fish sandwich to be.”
Be sure to call your local Chick-Fil-A to see if they have the fish sandwich, as it’s up to the individual operator of each location to decide if they’ll carry it.
4. Sonic Fish Sandwich
A fried fish fillet on a bun, accompanied by lettuce and tartar sauce.
$3.69 (2¢ above average)
Every reviewer commented that the thing was smashed. Aside from that, it came in a nice foil wrapper and there was a mint in the bag. “I guess they don’t want us to have fish breath.”
An above average fish sandwich. “Wow, didn’t see that coming.” This was by far the crispiest fish we tasted, and the fish-to-bun-to-sauce-to-lettuce proportions were pretty spot on. Impressive.
This is our sleeper pick. We were pleasantly surprised by the taste and quality of this sandwich. Definitely better than many of the bigger players in the fast food scene. As one of our reviewers put it: “Good sandwich – plus you can eat it in your car!”
You could do better.
5. McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish
Wild-caught Alaskan Pollock, topped with melty American cheese, creamy tartar sauce and served on a soft, steamed bun.
$4.19 (52¢ above average), but many locations have deals on Fridays. Our location offered 2 sandwiches for $5.00.
“Pretty standard Mickey D’s.” The sandwich we reviewed wasn’t put together very carefully; more cheese was hanging off the sandwich than was in it, and overall, it just didn’t look very appealing.
The classic. A solidly average choice. Our reviewers like the sauce: “They nailed the tartar sauce.” And the steamed bun (unique to this sandwich) worked well with the rest of the sandwich, and “wasn’t a distraction” to the other components.
This is the sandwich that created the fast food fish sandwich product category. It seems that over the years this sandwich has been tweaked for mass appeal, landing it’s average, though classic presence smack dab in the middle of our list. “You know what you’re going to get. Not great, but still a tasty fish sandwich.”
6. Burger King Extra Long Fish Sandwich
100% White Alaskan Pollock, breaded with crispy panko breading, fresh iceberg lettuce, and topped with sweet tartar sauce, tangy pickles, all on top of a on a warm toasted hoagie bun.
$3.89 (22¢ above average) or 2 for $5.00
We weren’t terribly impressed with the looks of BK’s revamped fish sandwich. All our reviewers thought the bun looked “smooshed,” and were not impressed with the pale iceburg lettuce. The bun on our sandwich was a little too “toasted.”
All tasters found this sandwich “chewy,” and while the flavors are mostly balanced, they overall “bland,” and merely “okay.” The Extra Long Fish Sandwich’s chance at a higher ranking was spoiled by it’s thoroughly chewy mouthfeel.
It’s “not the worst” sandwich out there, but it is a bit of a let down. One of our reviewers summed it up this way: “It’s a shame Burger King replaced the Spicy Big Fish with this. The extra long shape increased the breading to fish ratio, and the predominant “flavor” of this sandwich is ‘chewy.'”
Don’t say we didn’t warn you…
7. Arby’s Crispy Fish Flatbread
Wild-caught Alaskan Pollock crispy-fried to golden-brown perfection and topped with tartar sauce and shredded lettuce and wraped it in a fluffy flatbread.
$2.99 (68¢ below average) or 2 for $5.00
The new take on a fish sandwich was appreciated, however the “excessive” amount of tartar sauce “oozing” out of the sandwich was off-putting. The fish looked crispy and the flatbread was inviting.
The “soft” flatbread let the “crispy” fish take the forefront on the texture front. Unfortunately, the “sub-par” tartar sauce was sandwich’s the dominant flavor. It should be noted that while the components of the flatbread sandwich are the same as Arby’s Classic Fish Sandwich (except, of course, for the bun) it lacked the off-flavors of the Classic Fish.
The Crispy Fish Flatbread is the “best Arby’s has to offer,” however it’s still “not a wow.” The flatbread “brings a new flavor and texture to the fish sandwich segment, but it’s not enough to compensate for the bland (but crispy) fish and subpar tartar sauce.” There was some disagreement among our reviewers if this sandwich belonged in the “passable” or “avoid” categories. When paired with curly fries, the flatbread sandwich is probably “passable,” but it’s just not strong enough to hold that distinction on it’s own.
8. Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s Redhook® Beer Battered Cod Fish Sandwich
Atlantic cod made with Redhook® beer batter and topped with Lettuce, Tomato, Tartar Sauce and a Sesame Seed Bun.
$3.99 (32¢ above average)
This is a BIG sandwich. Numerous reviews commented on the size, however it was “smashed,” and “looked like it was at the bottom of the bag,” even though it came on a tray. The sesame seed bun was very well received.
The tasters were not impressed with this one. The fish gets lost in the copious iceburg lettuce and the sandwich is a little “soggy” (the tomoatoes? the sauce?) The sauce was “bland.”
Quantity over quality. We would have preferred a smaller but tastier sandwich. If you just need to fill up, try this sandwich, but otherwise, we can’t recommend it. If you find yourself at Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s, do yourself a favor and order the tacos.
9. Arby’s King’s Hawaiian® Fish Deluxe
“Sweet, fluffy buns from Hawaii and crispy, wild-caught Alaskan Pollock combine to make a fish sandwich that earns the name Deluxe.” Also Includes cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and tartar sauce.
$3.99 (32¢ above average)
“It may look like they just threw some stuff together, but boy did they throw some stuff together!” This is a big sandwich; the bun, the fish, it’s all pretty big.
“There are a lot of flavors going on” in this sandwich, and they don’t really come together. The King’s Hawaiian bun is an improvement on the bun of the Classic sandwich, but doesn’t quite fit. Like it’s brother, it’s “drowning in tartar sauce.”
We cannot recommend this sandwich. Too much is going on and none of it is very tasty. While it’s better than the Arby’s Classic Fish Sandwich, that’s the only sandwich it’s better than. Load up on curly fries or go somewhere else.
10. Arby’s Classic Fish
Wild-caught Alaskan Pollock crispy-fried to golden-brown perfection. Topped with tartar sauce and green-leaf lettuce.
$2.99 (68¢ below average) or 2 for $5.00
While our reviewers were impressed by the sesame seed bun and size of the fish fillet, our review sandwich was “slapped together” with loads of lettuce (looks like iceburg to us) and tartar sauce “oozing everywhere.”
The fish was “very bland,” and the reviewers didn’t like the taste of or the quantity of tartar sauce. The bun tasted “like it looks, a big hunk of white bread.”
Do not eat this sandwich. If you’re forced to go to Arby’s on a Friday, pay the extra dollar to get the “Deluxe” sandwich or load up on curly fries instead.
There you have it, our guide to which sandwiches to eat and avoid in 2015. Have you had any of these? What did you think? We’re looking forward all your fishy insight in the comments!