catholicnewsagency.com – Lent is here, and in addition to the traditional observances of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, there’s also the relatively new “tradition” of fast-food restaurants pandering to Catholic customers with new fish products. CNA’s own Jonah McKeown, Mary Rezac and Christine Rousselle decided to investigate which fast-food fish sandwiches are worth your money on Lenten Fridays.
Note: For the purpose of this review, we are sticking solely to fish sandwiches, which we are defining as a piece of fried fish and other accouterments in between bread. All items were ordered as on the menu with no modifications. All ratings will be out of a five “🐟” scale. A “pandering” bonus will be awarded to limited-time offerings just for Lent.
Ahh, the Filet-o-Fish. The tried-and-true Lenten Friday standard is a piece of fried Alaskan pollock on a plain bun, topped with a piece of American cheese and tartar sauce.
Price: $2, using a coupon in the McDonald’s app.
Pros: Fish was fine, bun was very soft. Sandwich tastes the same virtually everywhere. The Filet-o-Fish was invented in 1962 because of meatless Fridays, so eating one is basically a tradition at this point.
Cons: The Filet-o-Fish in desperate need of something like lettuce or hot sauce to jazz it up. Mine came a bit overloaded with tartar sauce. It’s just very…meh. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but it’s just so boring.
Pandering?: Nope, the Filet-o-Fish is available year round, but the timely coupons are nice.
Chick-Fil-A: Fish Sandwich
Two pieces of fried cod on white bun, served with pickles. Like all Chick-fil-A sandwiches, it comes sauceless, but this sandwich comes with a side of tartar sauce by default. I put tartar sauce and a drizzle of hot sauce on half and Chick-fil-A sauce on half. This sandwich also comes in “deluxe,” topped with lettuce, tomato, and cheese.
Price: $7.25 for a combo with waffle fries and a drink. (The item wasn’t listed on any menu in the store and it’s not showing up on the mobile app either.)
Pros: Fish was delightful and had a nice crisp breading. Ability to control the amount of tartar sauce was a definite plus. Bun was great. Pickles were standard Chick-Fil-A pickles, and added a nice zing to the sandwich.
Cons: Available only in select locations. Not listed on the menu, so each one is made to order and you’ll have to wait a bit. Eating at the restaurant means having to watch people eat Chick-fil-A’s amazing chicken while you’re abstaining from meat.
Pandering?: Yup, this one’s a Lenten exclusive and a limited-time offering.
Wendy’s: Premium North Pacific Cod Fillet Sandwich
Wendy’s “Premium North Pacific Cod Fillet Sandwich” is a mouthful, in both name and in sandwich quality. It comes with a piece of “North Pacific” cod that has been breaded and fried, topped with two dill pickles, lettuce, and a dill tartar sauce. When I ordered, I was asked if I wanted it with cheese, but the picture of the sandwich online and in-store didn’t have cheese on it, so I declined.
Pros: Fish was properly fried with a nice crunch, and was very flaky. The addition of lettuce was a solid touch and added some texture.
Cons: The dill pickles and dill tartar sauce was just a dill overload, and the tartar sauce wasn’t nearly as chunky as the ones used by McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A, and seemed like more of an aioli. The bun was really tough and overpowered the fish fillet. I went in to this with high hopes for Wendy’s, but I was a bit let down.
Pandering?: Yes, this is a limited-time offering.
Burger King: BK Big Fish
The Burger King “Big Fish Sandwich” is 100% breaded white Alaskan pollock, topped with sweet tartar sauce and pickles on a bun. It comes with the option of cheese, which I opted for, in order to most closely compare it to the McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish, which is the Gold Standard of fast food fish sandwiches, IMHO.
Pros: The sandwich overall had better structural integrity than the standard McD’s fish sandwich. The bun held its shape, the breaded fish had a nice crunch to it. The amount of tartar sauce and pickles was proportionate to the rest of the sandwich.
Cons: While the bun had more structural integrity, its mass was also kind of overwhelming. The bun-fish ratio was very much bun-heavy, and I also didn’t like how sweet the tartar sauce and pickles were. I definitely prefer a much more salty/dill flavor to both.
Pandering?: The Big Fish is on the permanent menu. There were no special deals or coupons.
Rating:🐟and a half
Popeyes: Seafood Po’boy
Popeyes catchy jingle might be “love that chicken from Popeyes,” but don’t sleep on its cajun fish. The Seafood Po’Boy consists of a piece of fried whitefish, spiced “Cajun style,” topped with lettuce and pickles, served on French bread. Tartar sauce comes on the side. This sandwich also comes in popcorn shrimp and chicken varieties.
Pros: The use of French bread was a great choice and complemented the fish well without overpowering it. The fish had a slight kick to it, which made the sandwich interesting. The piece of fish was fried well, and had a nice crunch breading.
Cons: The lettuce was kind of slimy (and boy was there a lot of it), and the tartar sauce was unremarkable. Most of their side options–even the ones that sound vegetarian, like green beans or mashed potatoes–contain meat, so be careful if you decide to head to Popeyes on a Friday.
Pandering?: No, you can get this year-round. Popeyes also serves other shrimp and fish dishes, including a limited-time shrimp special.
Rating:🐟🐟🐟🐟 and a half.
The Bojangler is a piece of spiced, fried Alaskan pollock on a toasted bun, topped with a slice of American cheese and tartar sauce.
Pros: The fish was pleasantly crispy on the outside and was spicy and peppery. The Cajun flavors were evident, and it was definitely a more flavorful piece of fish than other fast-food options. The tartar sauce complemented the fish well without being overpowering.
Cons: Each sandwich is made to order, so be prepared to wait. (On the plus side, each sandwich is fresh.) I would have liked to have some lettuce and/or tomato on the sandwich to enhance both the nutritional value and taste. Considering nearly all of the chicken sandwiches on the menu have lettuce and tomato, it seems like a weird omission on this sandwich. The bun was only average.
Pandering?: Yes, this is just for Lent.
Rating:🐟🐟🐟 and a half.
- Burger King
Overall: We were big fans of both Chick-Fil-A and Popeyes’ fish offerings. Popeyes is more widely available nationwide, and the seafood options are available at most locations. Comparably, I had to call several Chick-Fil-A restaurants before I found one that even had the fish sandwich, and even then there was zero indication in the store that the sandwich was even available. We were also impressed with Bojangles’ “Bojangler,” which by far has the best name of any option. Popeyes certainly was pricier, but I think the price was worth it compared to some of the cheaper options. And while the Filet-o-Fish certainly isn’t bad, there are many better options out there. (But we suggest asking nicely to add lettuce and pickles if you’re stuck at a McDonald’s on a Friday.) Have a blessed Lenten season!
I have definitely had the Popeye’s seafood po’boy and it’s fantastic but I need to find this Chick-Fil-A fish sandwich. I had no idea it was even a thing but if it comes from there I know it has to be a quality sandwich. Also put some respect on the Filet-O-Fish name, when it’s made fresh it’s always good money.