These Are the Best (and Worst) Fast-Food Fish Sandwiches


Here Fishy Fishy

Spring is seafood season at fast food restaurants. In addition to any year-round fish sandwich offerings, they roll out all kinds of limited time fish specials. But like all fast food, some choices are worth eating and some are better to skip. Whether you're looking for a fish sandwich because you choose to be meat-free for Lent, or just because you can't get enough seafood, here are the fast food versions you should steer clear of, and ones that deserve a special trip.

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Editor's Note: This story was updated in April 2024.


Worst: McDonald's Filet-o-Fish

Though it was the first non-burger option to be added to the McDonald's menu way back in 1965, the Filet-o-Fish hasn't stood the test of time. It'll always have a nostalgic appeal for some people, but it's hard to get past the cheap fish stick flavor, small size, and slightly gray processed fish. The steamed bun and tartar sauce are top notch, but if you swapped the actual fish out for anything else it would be improved, making this sandwich only good for its retro appeal.

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Long John Silver's Wild Alaska Pollock Sandwich
Long John Silver's

Worst: Long John Silver's Wild Alaska Pollock Sandwich

Weirdly enough, there's only one fish sandwich option at Long John Silver's, despite it being a seafood restaurant. It's made with one piece of the chain's fried pollock, which is battered and crispy but comes in a disconcerting, unnatural, perfect diamond shape. The thing that you'll notice the most on this sandwich are the pickles, of which there are a ton, according to numerous reviewers. So if you'd rather taste pickle than fish, this is the sandwich for you.

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Worst: Sonic Fish Sandwich

Sonic's fish sandwich is only available during Lent, and it feels like the chain just grudgingly brings it back from the dead every year for no good reason at all. The fish patty is a square in Filet-o-Fish fashion, but it does have a panko breading going for it, which stays pretty crispy. The fish inside tends to be pretty mushy and bland, though, and it's topped with generic tartar sauce and limp, watery lettuce, making this a sandwich to skip.

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Burger King
Burger King

Worst: Burger King Big Fish

Burger King is arguably the worst of the big fast food chains, and the fish sandwich does not score any points. Though it's called the Big Fish, the perfectly square fish patty is no thicker or larger than other that chain's, and it suffers from that same insipid flavor that makes you wonder if it's really fish. The toppings don't really help earn its moniker either, unless you count a single pickle or two, a plop of forgettable tartar, and way too much soggy lettuce.

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Wendy's Panko Crispy Fish

So-So: Wendy's Panko Crispy Fish

Wendy's was the chain to start the panko-breaded fish trend, and fast food fish sandwiches are better for it, generally. It also switched from cod to pollock, which is a more sustainable fish — not to mention cheaper. It's yet another perfect square of fish, but the best version you can get at the big burger chains, and it gains points for including cheese, lettuce, pickles, and dill-heavy tartar on the premium sandwich bun by default.

Arby's: Spicy Fish Sandwich

So-So: Arby's Spicy Fish Sandwich

It does not seem like there is a ton of room for innovation in fish sandwiches, but Arby's new Spicy Fish sandwich is one most people seem to love. The fish itself isn't bad, and lacks the overly-processed quality of many fast-food fish patties. It gets a dusting of "fiery seasoning" and a hefty topping of diced jalapenos that end up mixing with the tartar sauce. It's not earth shattering — and if you don't like spicy foods, it's not for you — but it is something unique.

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Captain D's Giant Fish
Captain D's

Best: Captain D's Giant Fish

If you are just plain starving, the Giant Fish at Captain D's is the sandwich for you. True to its name, it's got two pieces of battered fish piled on its bun, though you may have a harder time finding it in some parts of the country since Captain D’s is a Southern and Midwestern seafood chain. And you'll actually want two pieces of this fish, since the batter is light and airy, and the fish is an actual piece of fish devoid of right angles and mystery meat. The only downside is the strategy it takes to eat it without squishing a piece of fish out the other side.


Best: Culver's North Atlantic Cod Filet

Culver's is a chain that started in Wisconsin, the land of year-round fish fries, so it knows its way around fried seafood. The cod sandwich is made from an actual piece of cod, not a preformed patty, and you know it because of the "seafood may contain bones" warning on the menu. It's also battered and fried to order, so it's always crunchy and fresh. This sandwich often takes the top spot in fish sandwich rankings, with reviewers noting the buttered toasted roll, shredded cheddar mixed with the lettuce, and tangy tartar sauce. Bonus: It's available all year.


Best: Arby's King's Hawaiian Fish Deluxe

Besides the Spicy Fish sandwich, Arby's also has a King's Hawaiian Fish Deluxe, its notable grown-up cousin. If there is any sandwich in which the bread makes all the difference, it's this one, with its slightly sweet and pillowy King's Hawaiian bun that pairs beautifully with the pollock filet, according to reviewers. The fish is large and crispy, and it needs to be in order to hold up to the litany of toppings, including sliced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and tartar. That dreamy Hawaiian roll holds everything in, though.

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Popeyes: Flounder Fish Sandwich

Best: Popeye's Spicy Flounder Fish Sandwich

You like Popeye's infamous chicken sandwich, right? Well, the chain's spicy flounder sandwich tastes pretty much like it, just in fish form. It's got the same toasted bun and pickles as the chicken sandwich, and the breading on the flounder is always crunchy and highly seasoned, just like the chicken. The spicy sauce adds a decent amount of heat, but if you can't handle it there's a non-spicy version too. The motto here seems to be if something's not broken, don't fix it, and it's working.

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Best: Culver's Northwoods Walleye Sandwich

Culver's second seafood sandwich, the Northwoods Walleye, is only available during spring, and it's worth making a special stop to grab it. Like the chain's cod sandwich, the walleye is battered and fried fresh, which makes all the difference in the world compared to a pre-breaded fish filet that comes to the store frozen. Because it's battered and not breaded, it's got little wisps of extra crunchy bits, and the walleye is mild, flaky, and tastes like the best lake fish you've ever had. It's a big piece of fish, too, but the oblong, hoagie-shaped toasted bun holds it neatly.

This article was originally published on Cheapism


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