ROUND 1: Jack in the Box vs. Carl’s Jr.
Jack in the Box’s Deluxe fish sandwich offers little in originality or flavor, while Carl’s Jr. provides a hearty piece of fish with a good bun and tasty condiments. Jack’s Deluxe has two quadrangle fish slabs (each with a slice of American cheese), lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce on a lightly toasted bun. Flavor is pretty standard and it set me back $6. Carl’s Beer-Battered offering was cheaper at $3.49, and a slightly less massive sandwich, but their fish appeared to be less processed and came dressed with just lettuce and tartar sauce. I think this helped the flavor profile and I think it was the better sandwich. Win goes to Carl’s Jr.
ROUND 2: Burger King vs. Popeyes
Burger King’s BK Big Fish is their long-running fish sandwich, replacing their superior Whaler sandwich several years ago. It’s a by-the-numbers sandwich, with deep-fried, panko-breaded pollock slab, shredded lettuce, some pickle slices and tartar sauce served in a Whopper bun. Not bad, but nothing too spectacular. It comes in at $6.19 or two for $6. Meanwhile, Popeyes is back with a new fish sandwich which closely mirrors their fantastic chicken sandwich. The Cajun Flounder sandwich is every bit as large as their chicken sandwich, and the seasoned, deep-fried fish slab comes minimally dressed with just pickle and tartar sauce. The Cajun spices and buttery brioche bun set this one apart, and at $4.49 it’s worth every cent. Win goes to Popeyes.
ROUND 3: McDonald’s vs. Slater’s 50/50
McDonald’s might have the oldest fast-food fish game in town, with their Filet-O-Fish turning 60 next year. I don’t think I need to describe the sandwich as I’m sure you’ve had one: a modest square of breaded-and-fried fish, a slice of American cheese, a pump of tartar sauce and a doughy, smooth bun that seems to exist only for this exact sandwich. Not terribly large; I bet I could smash a whole one into my mouth in one bite. They have a two-for-$5 deal, or one for $4.59 (ouch). And in stark contrast is California’s fast-casual chain, Slater’s 50/50, which unveiled their Fish & Chips Burger. This is a giant sandwich, with two Twinkie-sized fried cod portions sitting on a brioche bun, adorned with their housemade tartar sauce, malt vinegar, some waffle-cut fries (?) and a dusting of chopped lettuce and onion. Hefty to say the least, this is a two-hand burger with a distinctive flavor profile that comes with vinegar slaw, plenty of lemon and a heap of fries. Price is a sobering $15 and only available through April 4. You probably know how this match-up is going to play out… but surprise! Thing is, all the places I went to get a sandwich were done either via drive-thru or pick-up to-go. Hashtag pandemic hashtag COVID-19 hashtag contagious. Slater’s insists that you need to place an order online or sit and eat in the restaurant, as they apparently can’t take an order over the phone like every other restaurant in this country. What a goddamn hassle. No, I don’t feel like downloading an app, or giving you my email address, or scanning a QR code— just take my simple-as-F order for your sandwich over the phone and I’ll be there in 10 minutes to pick it up. As it is, I ended up going there in person, wearing my PPE mask, uncomfortably taking a seat in their patio, surrounded by other mask-wearing or mask-not-wearing patrons, and waited for them to bring me my order which I promptly took home to eat. You forfeit. Win to Mickey D’s.
ROUND 4: Long John Silver’s vs. Angelo’s Burgers
In comics, there are sometimes battles/competitions between super-heroes who might have similar powers. In this case, let’s say Superman and the Flash. They have a running contest. Turns out Superman, with all of his super-powers, is just as fast as the Flash. Who wins this race? The Flash, because it’s his one expert thing, the one thing he should be better at than anyone else. So here we have the fish-first, fast-food titan Long John Silver’s and their fish sandwich, an oblong portion of battered-and-fried Alaska pollock, resting on top of pickles and tartar sauce. The batter is seasoned exactly as you’d expect if you’ve ever eaten anything from LJS, and all-in-all it’s a really good sandwich for $4.99. But unfortunately it went up against Angelo’s Burgers, a mini-chain of diverse-menu, drive-thru eateries found in North County. Their fish sandwich sets you back $7.50 but it’s titanic— a thick slab of breaded-and-fried fish, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, pickle and tartar sauce within a seeded bun that seriously was about the size of a kindergartener’s head. (I don’t know what kind of fish they use as their online menu doesn’t sweat the details.) Don’t bother with getting any fries or onion rings— this was a m-e-a-l. I’m sorry, Long John Silver… but Angelo curb-stomped you. Win to Angelo’s.
Next: The Final Four, and the Big Dance!