A good two years ago when I was still blogging on myspace, I set up my own personal goal for Lent: To go around Long Island and try the Fish Sandwiches at every Fast Food chain. For those of you are are NOT Gentiles or simply don't know what the hell Lent is (I have a loose grasp of it myself), is that in the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday & Easter, you can't eat meat on Fridays, and everyone usually eats fish instead. Unless they forget.
Basically when this season rolls around, many of the meat favoring fast food chains deck out special Fish sandwiches that are only available during this brief window of time. The only three ingredients of a fast food fish sandwich is the fish itself (usually haddock of something), tartar sauce (a nice compliment), lettuce (gotta have your greens), and sometimes cheese (just 'cause).
Fortunately, my dear readers, I managed to complete this quest in the alotted time, with a week to spare! Here, in my rewritten original words, is how they all weighed in (w/pics borrowed from Flickr):
1) McDonald's - Filet-o-Fish (regular & Double)
We start the list off with the reason why fish sandwiches are around in the first place: McD's Filet-O-Fish. Created for the Lent season after the failure of the Hula Burger (a slice of pineapple sandwich with cheese), it is one of the most popular sandwiches McDs has to offer. It's also the one sandwich I've eaten at the most. Taste-wise, it's alright, you can really taste the fish, the cheese as well as the globs of tartar sauce on it.
Through some whim, I've also once eaten the Double that they offered at the time, and it's basically the same, but with another patty. It's one of my favorites, and it doesn't give me that "I'm gonna die!" feeling that most of the other stuff McDs offers gives me. Strangely, it's one of 2 Fish Sandwiches that did not come with lettuce and came with cheese (the other is White Castle's)
2) Wendy's - Fish Sandwich
This is the sandwich that inspired me to create this challenge in the first place. Taste-wise, its OK, it was crispy, and the lettuce that was on it was a bit limp and moist, but it was OK, but not as good as the Filet-o-Fish.
3) White Castle - Fish w/Cheese
Ah yes, the Legendary White Castle. The smallest (1/2 the size of an index card), and the cheapest ($1.25). I've told several people that White Castle is an acquired taste, and this one could either be the best sandwich, or the grossest. Fortunately, I'm in the party that loves this, and I thought that it was great. Besides being one of 2 sandwiches that includes cheese and does not have lettuce, it also does not include tartar sauce (you have to put it on yourself). It has good taste, and you're better off eating it if it's the first in a series of WC sandwiches you get (impossible to have just one, as I mentioned before).
4) KFC - Fish Snacker
Ah, another newcomer to the fast food world, the KFC Fish Snacker! Depending on which KFC you go, the price can range from 99 cents to 1.50 (saw it in NYC) I, getting it in a mall, had to pay $1.39 for it. There's a reason why it's called the "Snacker", since the sandwich in the pic above is the actual size. I'm just kidding, but it is small, roughly the size of 3 White Castle burgers. I have to say, it was alright, not the best, not to worst (I'll get to that one in a moment), but I can see why The Pope wouldn't bless it.
5) Burger King - Spicy Big Fish
Here we come to one of Burger King's 2 fish sandwich offerings of the BK Big Fish. I had the spicy version, and man...BK is evil. They do mean that it is the "Big" Fish, as it is the biggest regular-sized sandwich that I had on the whole quest. They trick you into thinking that when you're eating it that it's OK to eat it, and that it tastes OK with the lettuce & spicy tartar sauce. And then the aftertaste...ick, I can still taste the low tide feeling in my mouth now. You know how some saltwater places like a bay or the ocean smells during low tide? Well, that's how the Big Fish sandwich tasted and it made me nauseous for the rest of the day and it almost derailed my quest just a week into officially doing it.
6) Long John Silvers - Classic Fish Sandwich
Ugh, I gotta cleanse the palate a little bit. Now we come to a rarity in these parts, a Long John Silvers! The one I went to, pictured above was only non co-branded one on Long Island, and coincidentally, it was directly on the other side of Sunrise Highway of my college, St. Joseph's in Patchogue. All my life, I kept wondering how that place stayed in business, only to have it close roughly six months after eating there.
If I can say this about LJS: It's something worth trying once. When I ate it, I thought it was pretty good, top tier, but not the best. Size-wise, it's the 3rd smallest, if this sandwich's lenght was measured in White Castle Bugers, this would be 4 WCs long.
7) Checkers (Fish Sandwich & Deep Sea Double)
Now we come to what I think is the best of the bunch: Checkers! There's the regular fish sandwich and there's the Deep Sea Double, the version pictured above. Hmm, I don't remember there being cheese on it, but then again, I did have that them a few weeks ago...freaking glamour shots, discombobulating me. Either way, both of them have the same stuff, tartar sauce, lettuce, (possibly cheese), and the sandwich overall tastes great. And the Double is...double good? (Edit: Turns out that this pic is indeed the Deep Sea Double and yes, I do remember Cheese being on it. Still awesome, though)
8) Checkers - Fish Screamer
Hmm, yes, it seems that Checkers made a 3rd Fish Sandwich at the time, the Fish Screamer to compliment their Chicken version for their montly promotion. There is actually a difference between the ones I just reviewed: The fish patty itself is great as always, and besides lettuce, it actually has mayo, onions, and pickles. Taste-wise..same good patty, but with all the fixin's, its taste eerily resembles the Filet-o-Fish.
9) Nathans - Fish Sandwich
(No obtainable pic found)
Here's an oversight I never noticed: Nathan's offers a fish sandwich too. I'll also admit, I cheated a bit and found it not on LI, but in Penn Station. Sure, I have yet to go to a Nathans in recent memory that was NOT co-branded with an Arthur Treacher's (I'll get to that in a bit), but I know they're out there. Very peculiar, as it is Triangular shaped, but nonetheless, it was pretty average compared to the rest. Since it was in Penn Station, It was also the only sandwich that I had access to the legendary Roy Rogers Fixin's Bar, despite already being served with lettuce, tartar sauce, and a tomato slice. It was good already, but with the fixins, it was made better. I can see why not many Nathans carry this, the ones that are co-branded would make having this seem redundant.
10) Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips - Fish Sandwich
Another obscure chain, this primarily Fish & Chips fast food place had recently been absorbed by Nathan's and are usually co-branded with them (I've heard stories about one co-branded with a Pudgies. Freaky). Look-wise, it's not much different from Nathan's, it's triangular shaped, but there is the difference that it was fried with batter, instead of being breaded like Nathan's is. There's tartar sauce & lettuce here, and it made the sandwich taste good, but the fish itself could barely be tasted on account of all the sauce on it. I know this is making you hungry reading this, right? Didn't think so.
And we come to our conclusion. There were also A&W and Roy Rogers chains on the Island, but they weren't covered, and I offer this explanation to you: I tried, I really did.
I searched the only A&W within driving distance of myself to find that is was co-branded with KFC, so it basically meant no Fish Sandwich, or anything else A&W-related for matter save for the root beer from a tap of all things. I did manage to read the website, which stated it was only going to be offered at "Select Locations" which I guess didn't mean the ones on LI, but rather an actual full-blooded A&W place, which around here...there are none. Roy Rogers, on the other hand, I managed to find 3: 2 in Penn Plaza in NYC, and one out in Shirley. None of them had the Fish Sandwich, or any evidence of ever having it. The only time I ever saw them mention it was as a news blurb on their poorly-designed website. (clicking on anything leads you to a blank page)
Still, with 11 different sandwiches in the span of around a month, I considered the quest a success, and I'm probably not going to ever eat at many of these places again.
If I had to rank them, they would be this:
1) Checkers (Fish Sandwich & Deep Sea Double)
2) Checkers (Fish Screamer)
3) McDs (Regular & Double Filet-O-Fish)
4) Long John Silvers,White Castle, Wendy's
5) KFC, Nathan's
6) Arthur Treacher's
Last) Burger King. Yes, it's that bad, don't go there. Period. Colon: Exclamation Mark!