The Lenten season requires you to droop your disbelief. Unsure a couple of skinny 33-something dude turning down a loaf of bread after fasting within the wilderness for 40 days? It’s Lent, child! Recover from it! Planning to surrender sugar for six weeks? Certain, okay—Lent! Just a little shaky on hand-washing practices at your parish’s weekly barbeque? Shove it, man—it’s Lent, and something’s doable!
However to a lapsed Protestant like myself, nothing feels fairly so Lenten because the annual parade of the quick fish sandwiches. I’m referring to the two-month-ish interval throughout which almost each main quick meals chain rolls out its limited-time fried fish sandwich, full with a dollop of Catholic-friendly tartar sauce. It’s an excellent event, but additionally one which calls for a sure religion within the unattainable. To begin with, fish merchandise shouldn’t have proper angles, and there’s no approach any of that “Alaskan pollock” is definitely wild-caught. And but for so long as I can bear in mind, I’ve continued my flirtation with the quick meals world’s most doubtful choices.
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Final month, once I was fortunate sufficient to be one of many first to attempt the brand new Popeyes Cajun Flounder Sandwich, I spotted that a lot of you additionally take pleasure in your annual voyage on the batter-dipped, fishy seas. So I got down to attempt each fish sandwich on as we speak’s quick meals market over the course of 10 days or so. A feast of the seven fishes, if you’ll. (Fast be aware: Chick-fil-A’s fish sandwich isn’t coming again this yr, and we solely included nationwide—or largely nationwide—chains in our rating.) Beneath, you’ll discover the sandwiches ranked so as from greatest to worst, with an entire lot of fishy hypothesis in between.
Notice: As of March 12, 2021, this rating has been up to date to incorporate the Culver’s Northwoods Walleye Sandwich on the sturdy urging of Affiliate Editor Aimee Levitt’s mom.
1. Culver’s North Atlantic Cod Fillet Sandwich
After publishing the Popeyes Cajun Flounder overview just a few weeks again, I heard from a number of commenters who insisted that Culver’s positively owned the quick fish sandwich market. Culver’s does every little thing else proper, so I moseyed over to 1 of some Chicago franchises to see for myself. Readers, you’re completely appropriate: you merely can’t beat this factor. In accordance with the chain’s web site, the sandwich is “hand cut, hand battered and cooked to order.” It’s additionally topped with a tangy tartar sauce that includes olives, capers, and candy relish, and there’s slightly Wisconsin cheddar in there as a deal with. Out of all the fish fillets I attempted, this man was the thickest by far, measuring a whopping two inches on the fillet’s thickest level. (I measured every sandwich by hand for posterity/science.) The place different quick fish patties edge into fish stick territory, the Culver’s cod fillet is tender, flaky, and downright buttery in a approach that jogged my memory of the crispy batter you’d see at a bona fide barbeque. And the Lord stated… it was good.
2. Captain D’s Large Fish Sandwich
This one could also be a bit tough to search out as a result of Captain D’s exists solely within the south and sure components of the Midwest. However, hey—it’s Lent, brother! We’re making ready for miracles! We received mini Cadbury eggs! The snow is melting, revealing mounds of canine shit! It is a time of chaos, and Captain D’s tastes similar to candy, candy anarchy. Captain D’s has been on the forefront of the cutting-edge quick seafood market for so long as I’ve been alive, however the chain’s Large Fish Sandwich truly solely debuted in 2019.
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This sandwich is in contrast to different sandwiches just because it incorporates not one, however two items of battered-dipped fish (see above). Different quick meals chains supply fish fillets or fish patties, however Captain D’s stated “to hell with it” and simply slapped two items of fish in a toasted bun. It tastes superior, as a result of Captain D’s batter-dipped fish items are… superior. Like, they’re transcendently good. They’re generously coated within the form of vaguely spiritual batter you’ll discover at Culver’s, providing chunk after chunk of chunky, flaky fish. The one difficulty: you possibly can’t eat this sandwich whereas driving. It is a two-hander, as a result of there are two items of fish in there. To eat this factor, it’s a must to preserve equal stress on either side of the bun. When you squeeze one facet of the sandwich too exhausting, you’re gonna ship at the very least one piece of fish capturing out of the opposite facet. Subsequent factor you understand, you’ve put a close-by nun’s eye out and also you’ve received to endure via three weeks of self-flagellation.
3. Popeyes Cajun Flounder Sandwich
You’ll be able to learn my full overview of this sandwich right here. When you’d moderately not, I’ll sum it up for you: tasty sandwich. Very, excellent sandwich. The Popeyes contender did have a barely thinner flounder patty than I used to be anticipating, and the pickle motion right here is flimsy at greatest. Nonetheless, the buttery bun, spicy seasoning, and white, flaky flounder had me praying to the patron saint of Louisiana. 10/10 would fish once more.
4. Arby’s King’s Hawaiian Fish Deluxe Sandwich
You’ll see two Arby’s contenders on this listing: the King’s Hawaiian Deluxe, which is new, and the chain’s normal Crispy Fish Sandwich. Whereas the Crispy Fish is a reasonably normal decide (extra data on that beneath), the King’s Hawaiian Deluxe is served on a fluffy King’s Hawaiian bun. These issues are my kryptonite. The bun pairs fabulously with the crispy Alaskan pollock, which is generously breaded and massive, protruding of the bun for a number of inches on all sides. I’m positive with that, as a result of the fish is sweet sufficient to face by itself with out bun help. The one factor that knocked this sandwich down just a few slots: it’s form of sloppy. The sandwich is packing a slice of cheese, two slices of tomato, a giant ol’ dollop of tartar sauce on each buns, and an ungodly quantity of shredded lettuce. Total, the additional fixings create a little bit of a moist sandwich.
5. Culver’s Northwoods Walleye Sandwich
After we printed the unique Quick Fish Energy Rating on March 3, we heard from Affiliate Editor Aimee Levitt’s mom a couple of obtrusive omission: the Culver’s Northwoods Walleye Sandwich. Aghast, I hopped in my slime-colored Honda Match and cruised again to Culver’s to offer it a attempt. Culver’s advertises the Northwoods Walleye as “mild and tender,” with every fillet hand-battered and cooked to order, then topped with tartar sauce and shredded lettuce and served on a buttery roll. I’m a sucker for a buttery roll, however I discovered the walleye sandwich to be approach much less flavorful than the cod sandwich. When you’re a newcomer to the realm of quick fish (are available in, the water’s positive!), the walleye could be a milder, extra approachable possibility. However finally, I believe the cod fillet is way thicker, crispier, and all-around tastier.
6. Dairy Queen Wild Alaskan Fish Sandwich
I’m at all times pleasantly stunned once I swing by a DQ for one thing aside from a blizzard. It’s by no means high of thoughts, however each time I go to I’m reminded that the Queen has a severe knack for fries and dishes out a few of the greatest hen tenders on the quick meals market. Whereas others might balk on the concept of consuming seafood peddled by dairy royalty, I’m glad I finished by on the behest of a Takeout commenter. The Wild Alaskan Fish Sandwich presents a crunchy exterior, a flaky Alaskan Pollock fillet, and one of many tangier tartar sauces I’ve encountered throughout this fish quest. This sandwich didn’t crack my high 5, largely as a result of the breadcrumb presence was slightly overwhelming. However I’d most likely eat it once more, and it definitely packed extra taste than Burger King and Wendy’s mixed. However finally, one of the best half was the lore surrounding the sandwich, which you’ll find on the DQ web site:
“Imagine this: You wake up at the crack of dawn, grab your fishing pole and tackle box from the shed, and head to your favorite fishing hole. You spend the morning absorbing the peaceful tranquility of your surroundings as the sun floats up over the tree line. You cast and reel, cast and reel, cast and reel, but get no bites. That’s okay, though. Fishing really isn’t about catching fish for you. It’s about reconnecting with nature and reconnecting with yourself.”
Stunning. Simply stunning.
7. White Citadel Panko Breaded Fish Slider
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I’ve received a tender spot for White Citadel, as a result of the sliders remind me of college lunch hamburgers. Like, they’re definitely not one of the best burger you’ll get on the quick meals circuit, however they style fairly good and are additionally orderly. White Citadel’s Panko Breaded Fish Slider is not any exception. The sliders are teeny little guys, served within the chain’s signature slider containers with a slice of American cheese and crispy panko breading. It is a no-fuss sandwich, however the breading is stable, the cheese is a pleasant contact, and the factor’s simply so dang cute. From right here on out, I’ll discuss with this sandwich as My Little Child Boy.
8. Lengthy John Silver’s Traditional Battered Alaskan Pollock Sandwich
Image this: you’re an extraterrestrial and also you’ve simply landed on Earth. You’re strolling via CVS on the lookout for slightly alien snack, and also you hear somebody speaking about fish. You’ve by no means seen a fish, however it sounds cool and floppy. You go throughout the road to a Lengthy John Silver’s and order a fish sandwich. The sandwich arrives. Contained in the bun, you see one thing breaded and completely diamond-shaped. You level to it, asking: “Fish?” The cashier nods solemnly. Your understanding of fish is ruined ceaselessly, and also you return to your house planet with a haunted look in your eyes.
That is all to say: I’m probably not a fan of Lengthy John Silver’s. Like I discussed, the chain’s fillets are completely diamond-shaped, which is a bizarre selection in itself. I additionally discover this sandwich to be fairly lackluster—too many pickles, not sufficient tartar sauce, and verging too far into fish stick territory for my style.
9. McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish
Talking of fish sticks: Takeout editor-in-chief Marnie Shure posited that Filet-O-Fish devotees love the sandwich as a result of it reminds them of fish sticks. I truly had my first-ever Filet-O-Fish in preparation for this text, and I wasn’t impressed—till I spotted that the sandwich wasn’t the issue. My expectations had been the issue. I nonetheless don’t love the Filet-O-Fish, however I believe it’s higher to consider the sandwich as a giant, flat fish stick inside two items of bread. That being stated: I get the nostalgia issue, however this sandwich simply makes it actually exhausting for me to droop my disbelief in how a lot you all adore it. (It is a good time to level out that the hyperlink on the McDonald’s web site inviting you to “ Learn what kind of fish is in Filet-O-Fish!” is, poetically, damaged.) However rattling, I do love McDonald’s buns.
10. Arby’s Crispy Fish Sandwich
Like I discussed above, Arby’s just lately upgraded its fish sandwich choices. The Crispy Fish Sandwich has been round for some time and, just like the Hawaiian Deluxe, serves up a really beneficiant slab of fish. Sadly, this one’s additionally only a bit moist for my liking. Sea shanties apart, the sandwich additionally seems a bit foolish to me—nearly like slightly man carrying slightly wide-brimmed hat. How am I purported to eat that?
11. Burger King Huge Fish
The Huge Fish is… a sandwich. Whereas the bun is good and buttery, the patty is barely about half an inch thick by my measurements, and there’s approach, approach an excessive amount of lettuce. The Huge Fish additionally doesn’t have a lot crunch, so that you’re pressured to reckon with the generic meat contained in the patty. Is it fish? Is it hen? Is it hen of the ocean? Or fish of the land? Both approach, it’s a little bit of a multitude.
12. Wendy’s Crispy Panko Fish Sandwich
Wendy’s actually leans into the entire Meat With Proper Angles factor, which makes me uneasy throughout one of the best of instances. Whereas the model did swap from cod to “wild Alaskan pollock” from a licensed sustainable fishery, this sandwich nonetheless was simply not good. The Crispy Panko Fish wasn’t particularly crispy; it additionally wasn’t particularly fishy. Truthfully, it didn’t style like a lot of something, forcing me to manually unfold the tartar sauce out WITH MY TONGUE in an try and salvage a smidge of taste. Total, the Wendy’s contender was fairly interchangeable with The Huge Fish from BK. BK’s better-than-average bun set it aside in the long run, leaving Wendy’s alone in the back of the pack (or college?). Bland, bland, bland.
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