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War on the high seas: The search for the best fast-food fish sandwich

The fast-food fish sandwich is a contentious beast. Beloved by some, maligned by others, it forever occupies a niche spot in menus dominated by the All-American cheeseburger. As such, it is equally marginalized in serious coverage of those same national chains, leading to a situation where the hungry consumer looking for an alternative to a beef patty may not know where to turn for the best options. Almost everyone knows what chain carries their favorite burger, but the fish sandwich has more variables. What kind of fish is it? What comes on the standard sandwich? What type of bun is used? If you have answers to these questions for more than two fast-food locations, you’re far ahead of the curve.

My Homemade McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish burger! An epic fish burger that tastes remarkably similar to the real deal with the added bonus that it’s bigger, you know what goes in it, and it’s healthier ’cause it’s BAKED w/a Fry option! (Though you can totally fry it)I wrote a piece about how I had given up all fast food. Since then, more than a few people have cornered me, demanding to give other chains a chance in recent years to contest my ruling of my homemade Filet-O-Fish as the undisputed champion. My assignment: Try five of the fish sandwiches from McDonald’s top quick-service competitors, and give them all a fair hearing (OK!). Perhaps one would topple my beloved Filet-O-Fish from its perch, pun fully intended. The results are below.

Arby’s Crispy Fish Sandwich

Chain: Arby’s Fish: unknown (Oh Lort!)In arguably the biggest shock of this whole process, Arby’s Crispy Fish Sandwich comes out swinging. It’s not just the sesame seed bun, which already tastes better and less soggy-chewy than the others. And it’s not just that it has retained the rough contours and consistency of a sandwich more successfully than the others. It’s that the fish is actually halfway decent. It has a rough and crunchy exterior that locks in the small hint of fish flavor, something on which all previous sandwiches wholly failed to deliver. With the added lettuce and tartar sauce (no cheese here), the first couple of bites suggest this may be the one to beat. However, it soon becomes apparent that Arby’s is trying a little too hard to deliver a burst of flavor. It layers on the lettuce well, but the tartar is too thick, such that when I get away from the edges, it overpowers everything else, dripping out the back, and generally suffering from an overabundance of itself. It’s the “too much of a good thing” rule: By trying for a sauce that tastes good in and of itself, it functions too powerfully to act as a supplement to the protein. The best fish by far, and a good bun, but the overall sandwich ends up shooting itself in the amphibious foot by trying to please oily Americans’ appetites for hardcore condiment flavor.

Dairy Queen’s Alaskan Pacific Cod Fish Sandwich