Friday Fast-Food Fishtacular— Long John Silver’s Fish Sandwich

I can’t believe I forgot this chain… it’s like forgetting Taco Bell when writing a round-up of chalupas.

Long John Silver's logo

For some reason, I can vividly remember locations of many other Long John Silver’s restaurants, including Westminster, Calif. and Sparks, Nev. But I’m hard-pressed to remember that any exist here in San Diego. The closest was in Chula Vista so I cruised on down to South Bay for their Fish Sandwich. (PRO TIP: Some Long John Silver’s shops are stitched together with a KFC — important because those hybrid shops don’t sell fish sandwiches.)

Long John Silver's Chula Vista

This particular sandwich is built with a soft, unseeded bun with a moderate amount of tartar sauce and a handful of pickles. The Alaskan pollock is fried-to-order (I assume), golden on the outside and flaky inside. The portions are pretty large and it jutted from both sides of the bun.

Long John Silver's Inhand

Flavor-wise, it’s like this: If you’ve ever eaten any of LJS’s fish — whether it was last week or in the 1970s — you know exactly what flavor profile you’re in for. LJS has a particular taste, and I haven’t eaten there enough to know if it’s the breading/batter, the oil or both. If you like that flavor on your fried fish, then you’re going to love this sandwich. Personally, I though it was maybe the second-most-distinctive fish sandwich flavor, right after Wendy’s. Maybe even better than Wendy’s.

Long John Silver's bite

According to their website, the Long John Silver’s Crispy Fish Sandwich has 400 calories with 140 of them coming from fat. (In the restaurant it reads 490 calories, but it also shows pickles on the sandwich instead of shredded lettuce.) It also has 16 fat grams and a whopping 1230mgs of sodium. On the plus side, 14 grams of protein, which is pretty hardy. Price is $3.99 plus tax.

Read other Friday fast food fishtacular posts here.

Friday Fast-Food Fishtacular— Freddy’s Fish Sandwich

San Diego recently became the home of another beloved Midwest fast-food chain: Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. That name is a mouthful, and since I’d rather have a mouthful of their fish sandwich, from here on I’ll refer to them as Freddy’s.

freddyslogo

Freddy’s has two San Diego County locations at this writing— San Marcos and National City. I was recently in National City for another food-related pilgrimage (rhymes with “Blunkin’ Blonuts”) and spotted their seasonal, participation-may-vary window dressing for their fish & chips basket or sandwich. It’s my solemn duty and privilege to report on fish sandwiches for my better half, so $5.50 later I had me a new sandwich to try.

freddysplate

Their sandwich is a bit of an odd duck. Rather than the usual solitary breaded-and-deep-fried quadrangle slab of Alaskan cod, it’s actually two triangles (think elementary school lunch) with a melty slice of American cheese and some “Freddy’s Sauce” in a toasted bun. It comes with a couple of packets of Heinz tartar sauce, which I think is pretty low on the scale of tasty tartar sauces.

Overall it was OK, not really a standout either way. I didn’t mind the fish planks; they flaked apart easily so they weren’t over-fried or dry. I can’t determine what made the sandwich so sweet, though. Might have been the tartar sauce, or the Freddy’s sauce… maybe a combination of the two.

freddysinrestaurant

I wish I could give you a round-up of calories, sodium and fat grams, but Freddy’s doesn’t have any nutritional information for this sandwich or their basket on their website (the basket comes with shoestring fries).

Read other Friday fast food fishtacular posts here.

Friday Fast-Food Fishtacular — Arby’s Fish Sandwich Trio

Arbysx3

Closing off this season’s Friday Fast-Food Fishtaculars is a round up of Arby’s three fish sandwiches (the only chain I’m aware of that has three fish sandwiches on the menu simultaneously). I figured the best way to prevent redundant critiques on flavors, portions and prices was to go with a chart. Click on the image to maximize your experience.

Read other Friday Fast Food Fishtacular posts here.

Friday Fast-Food Fishtacular — Arctic Circle Halibut Sandwich

ArcticCircleLogo

Last year, I found myself driving through Utah on a road trip and somewhere south of Salt Lake City I got the hungries. I hadn’t eaten at an Arctic Circle before so I checked it out.

exterior

This wasn’t the first Arctic Circle I saw on the trip, but every one I did see was in Utah. Waiting for my turn in the drive-thru, I did a quick Wikipedia query and found out it’s a Utah-based chain with nearly 70 locations across seven Western states.

drivethru

From the menu, my takeaway is that Arctic Circle must be the offspring of Carl’s Jr. and Sonic Drive-In. Their burgers and other sandwiches look huge (and expensive) and they also have a head-spinning assortment of shakes and sundaes. I saw they had a fish sandwich and figured I better not pass up this opportunity.

inhand

As advertised, it’s Alaskan halibut all right… possibly even caught IN THE ARCTIC CIRCLE! The breading (beer-batter?) was a nice change of pace from other fast-food chains, as was the egg bun. Its heft was comparable to the Carl’s Jr. Carl’s Catch Fish Sandwich I tried a few years back.

bite

They don’t skimp on the tartar sauce, as you can see from the two photos. They give it a smear on both side of the fish. In all, the sandwich experience was a good one. I don’t know if it was worth six-and-a-half-bucks but otherwise, no regrets.

The Halibut Sandwich rings up at $6.29— the most-expensive sandwich I’ve reviewed by far. According to their website, we’re looking at 451 calories, 16 grams of fat and a staggering 1029mg of sodium. Delicious as it may be, their bun accounts for 200 of those calories.

Read other Friday Fast Food Fishtacular posts here.

Friday Fast-Food Fishtacular — Green Burrito’s Fish Tacos

greenburrito

I shouldn’t even be writing this. Not because I don’t like doing fast-food fish sandwich reviews for Darlene, but because this will give Green Burrito a tiny amount of attention. More than it deserves, certainly, as its Beer-Battered Cod Fish Taco is one of the worst entries in my fishtacular roundups.

2191advertised“They’re back!” Is that an exclamation of joy or a dire warning?

Green Burrito — the Mexican fast-food chain found parasitically attached to the side of host burger chain Carl’s Jr. — is touting a “two fish tacos for $3.99” deal. Price-wise, that’s no deal (San Diegans can easily find any number of worthwhile fish tacos in the buck-to-buck-fifty range), but curiosity got the better of me. Perhaps it was visions of near-nude models erotically chowing on gigantic, sloppy fish tacos while washing their Ford Mustang in slo-mo or something.

2196inhand

Well, here’s the skinny (and I do mean skinny): Waiting for my order, I watched the Green Burrito taco-maker take a generous slab of deep-fried Atlantic cod to the open-faced tortillas, and I thought, “That’s a good-sized slab of—” AND THEN SHE CHOPPED IT IN HALF. So each taco got a skimpy, mutilated half-portion of fish.

2199pathetic

This picture shows the travesty better (sorry about the missing bites). Even if my fish taco was as loaded with fish as the advertisement showed, it wouldn’t have mattered. There was no flavor outside of the corn tortillas and overpowering salsa. In fact, they could have forgotten the fish altogether and it would’ve tasted the same. When I singled out the fish for a solo bite, it was thin and bland. Not even their Santa Fe sauce could help it.

The Beer-Battered Fish Taco is two for $3.99, which puts it in the same price point as many other fast-food fish sandwiches. Each one clocks in at 340 calories, 19g of fat and 480mg of sodium… which also puts it in the running with other fish sandwiches. But when you double it, ugh. No bueno.

I’m a bad San Diegan for even considering Mexican fast food; let this experience serve as both punishment and a cautionary tale for others.

Read other Friday Fast Food Fishtacular posts here.

Friday Fast-Food Fishtacular — Burger King’s Spicy Big Fish

What happens when a ubiquitous fast-food chain swaps out tartar sauce for “spicy sauce” on their fish sandwich?

You get a happy customer.

BKlogo

Burger King‘s Spicy Big Fish Sandwich is their latest deep-fried ichthological offering. It appears to be roughly the same build as their Big Fish Sandwich (which I reviewed here), so for sake of brevity, I’ll just give the highlights.

BKFish

The slab of panko-crusted white Alaskan pollock comes with pickles, lettuce and a “spicy sauce,” all within a “brioche-style” bun. Not a true brioche, apparently. The sandwich experience is largely the same as their Big Fish, with one exception.

BKFish_inside

The “spicy sauce” replaces the tartar, and it’s a welcome change. Though not as spicy as their “Zesty Sauce” (the condiment-of-choice for their onion rings), it did change the overall flavor profile to something better — and more memorable — than tartar sauce. Which, in the world of fast-food fish sandwiches, is a good thing.

The Spicy Big Fish is $3.89. The Big Fish was $3.59 in 2013, so I don’t know if this is just a regular price increase or a $0.20 upsell for the spicy sauce. It also clocks in at 470 calories, 24g of fat and 1150mg of sodium — all lower than the Big Fish (and significantly lower than 2013’s Big Fish).

Not bad, Burger King — perhaps the tide is turning in your favor?

Read other Friday Fast Food Fishtacular posts here.

Friday Fast-Food Fishtacular — AM/PM’s Fish Sandwich

ampmlogo

It’s been a while since my last Friday Fast Food Fishtacular, mainly because I’ve exhausted all the fast-food fish sandwich offerings in the tri-county area. In fact, I was considering a series of critiques on fish tacos/fish burritos, but that could escalate into shrimp po’boys or tuna melts. No, fish sandwiches are my jam. Last week, I was completely taken off guard by a new fish sandwich from a most unlikely chain — AM/PM.

ampmbannerad

Actually it was Darlene who spotted the banner ad as we were waiting for a green light, and I was instantly intrigued. First: How did AM/PM crack the fish sandwich code that fast-food chains held in complete secrecy for half a century? Second: How fresh/tasty could these sandwiches possibly be, in the absence of a deep-fryer or skilled fishmonger? Third: Is AM/PM considered “fast food?” I figured $1.99 (+ tax) would give me some answers.

ampmexpiration

Of course the fish sandwich was served in a foil hotbag in their self-serve heatlamp box (where their burgers, dogs etc. reside). It had a cryptic expiration time on the bag, which said “Enjoy by 1:30” but “5:00” was circled on the clock. Seeing as how this was about half-past noon, I had no idea what any of this meant. I applaud that they try to make these as fresh as possible, but the problem is right in front of me: are we talking AM or PM? Was it made at 1:30 AM? Would I die if I ate it after 5:00 PM? And isn’t 5:00 PM technically before 1:30 AM the following day?? It’s the Gremlins Paradox: Don’t feed Gizmo after midnight… but isn’t 8:00 AM after midnight? WHAT DO I DO??

ampmbitebag

From the initial reveal, it certainly looked like a fish sandwich, probably not too far off from what you’d get at the university’s dining commons. According to the bag, it’s a deep-fried slab of Alaska pollock with a slice of processed cheddar cheese. What it DIDN’T have was a fat blanket of tartar sauce or a beautiful bed of lettuce (see banner ad photo up top for reference). Maybe I missed the lettuce bin and the tartar sauce pump bucket?

ampmpockets

What it DID have was a curious case of shrinkage. In the above photo I highlighted two areas of the fish patty where the fish actually shrunk within its deep-fried coat of breading. Weird. Your results may vary.

ampmcrispy

Onto the eating experience itself — it was not as horrible as I imagined. (AM/PM, if you’re reading this, feel free to use that sentence as a testimonial in future ad campaigns. You’re welcome.) The geometric fish slab was crispy and tasted fine, the bun was soft and not stale/dried out from the hotbag and the pasteurized and processed cheese tasted as you’d expect from its description on the back. A week later, I’d say the takeaway was a cheese-flavored sandwich with some fish essence. Certainly not worth two bucks or whatever regrets you’d have afterward.

The AM/PM Fish Sandwich has 357 calories and 8 grams of fat. Surprisingly, that’s fewer calories and fat than the Jack in the Box fish sandwich, but that apparently reflects the absence of tartar sauce.

The ball’s in your court, 7-Eleven.

Read other Friday Fast Food Fishtacular posts here.

Friday Fast-Food Fishtacular — McDonald’s “Big Filet-O-Fish” Hack Job

The Easter season is coming to a close, and many fast food establishments will start to take their seasonal fish sandwiches off their menus. But you can always count on a few restaurants — McDonald’s in particular — to always have a fish option on their permanent menu. I’ve avoided giving a review of the Filet-o-Fish because it’s so… moot? Hasn’t everyone had one by now? The Filet-O-Fish is the industry standard fast food fish sandwich (it turned 50 last year) and I was at a loss as to how to produce an interesting review.

McDonaldslogo

Working off an idea from Serious Eats San Diego correspondent and friend Erin Jackson, I decided to build a Franken-fish sandwich/burger mash-up. I first tried to assemble one myself after ordering one Big Mac and one Filet-O-Fish. That not only didn’t work but it left me with discarded beef patties, buns and weird condiment mixtures. Plus, it cost more than $8 for the two sandwiches. I could only take two bites before pushing it away. Darlene suggested we have McDonald’s build it for us behind the counter… but would they do it?

Big Mac Filet first attempt

“Give me a Big Mac without the beef patties but replaced with fish patties. Instead of the special sauce, use tartar sauce. Got it?”

Well, they did it. The cashier seemed confident I could get a Big Mac with fish instead of beef, and tartar sauce instead of special sauce. The manager came over to key in the price changes and customize the order for the kitchen crew. And a couple minutes later, I had a monstrosity that would’ve made Carl’s Jr. blush.

Big Filet-O-Fish

I figured out what was removed, replaced and added to this sandwich, which I call the Big Filet-O-Fish. Here’s a graphic showing all the ingredients.

BigMac-FiletoFish

First thing worth mentioning: The Big Mac sesame seed bun was either too weak or too stale to hold this behemoth together and it crumbled throughout the eating process. Flavor-wise, it was like a supreme Filet-O-Fish. It tasted exactly like you’d expect — a jumbo Filet-o-Fish with Big Mac notes, or a Big Mac with fish and tartar sauce. Regardless, I liked the added lettuce and pickle. Two fish patties in one sandwich were pretty difficult to eat; if you can split this monster sandwich with someone, do so.

Big Filet-O-Fish receipt

This sandwich clocked in at $7.77 (I was charged full price for the Big Mac, plus $1.20 per fish quadrangle). I think that’s bogus, considering the $4.79 Big Mac had lost all its meat. But whatever. Also, if you try this yourself, price-compare various McDonald’s first. There’s an $0.80 Big Mac price discrepancy between two local McDonald’s (this one was at the more expensive one).

I think the best solution to replicate this experience would be to ask for lettuce and pickles on your Filet-O-Fish. It probably won’t cost you a dime, and if you go on a Friday, the Filet-O-Fishes are $1.49.

Read other Friday Fast Food Fishtacular posts here.

Friday’s Fast-Food Fishtacular! – Jack in the Box NEW Fish Sandwich

Jack in the Box logo

The last time I had a Jack in the Box fish sandwich was for this blog. I thought it was average and unmemorable so I never went back. Sitting at a red light I spied a Jack in the Box window poster touting a “new” fish sandwich. I decided to pay another visit. After all, I did with Wendy’s and Carl’s Jr.  Would their new fish sandwich be an improvement, another disappointment or “new” in name only?

JBX Fish Sandwich

Upon trying their most-recent offering, I was surprised at how large the sandwich was. Contained within the standard Jumbo Jack bun was a sizeable slab of breaded Alaska pollock and shredded lettuce held in place — for the most part — with a large splat of tartar sauce. The breading looked more like the kind you’d get with fish ‘n chips than the typical deep-fried fast food breadcrumbs/panko.

JBX Fish sandwich

Maybe Jack listens to feedback because this sandwich is a big improvement. Finally, the fish tastes like it came from Jack in the Box — I don’t know if it’s their seasoning, breading or even the oil, but it’s a close cousin to their chicken sandwiches/nuggets. The tartar sauce stands out (to me); it’s one of my favorites. The shredded lettuce was plentiful and crisp, and the bun did its job to keep everything together (worth mentioning, because a few sandwiches I’ve tried suffered from “bun breakapart syndrome”). I think this just took one of the top spots, certainly leaving Wendy’s in its wake.

The Fish Sandwich has 387 calories (their previous sandwich was 466 calories) and 15 grams of fat. It’s $2.49 every day except Friday, when it’s only $1.00. For an additional $0.30 you can get a slice of cheese on it, but I think that’s unnecessary.

Bravo, JBX. You’ve made one of the best fish sandwiches for the drive-thru lunch crowd AND the cheapest (if you get one on Friday).

Read other Friday Fast Food Fishtacular posts here.

Friday Fast-Food Fishtacular— Del Taco’s Beer-Battered Fish Tacos

It’s a slippery slope.

That’s what I told Darlene when she suggested I do a Friday fast-food fish sandwich review of Del Taco. See, Del Taco serves tacos, not fish sandwiches. But that logic was my own undoing when I reviewed the McDonald’s Fish McBites last month. Fish balls does not equal fish sandwiches. So to Del Taco I went.

deltacologo

First off, I should acknowledge there are probably dozens of Mexican fast-food chains with fish tacos on the menu. San Diego’s very own Rubio’s used to sport “fish tacos” in its name, for example. Also, there are probably hundreds upon hundreds of little taco shops in Southern California, and many (most?) have fish tacos. And I don’t do well with salsa fresca, pico de gallo or hot sauces in general. To prevent the slippery slope from becoming a full-on waterpark ride, this will likely be the only non-fish-sandwich Mexican fast food I’ll review. (Yet if Taco Bell conjures up a fish taco, I’ll be there in line.)

Del Taco Fish wrapped

OK. Onto the fish tacos. Del Taco sells its Beer-Battered Fish Tacos for $1.99, or two for $3. I figured they’d be pretty small so I doubled up. I was right: it’s a “street style” double-corn-tortilla taco with shredded cabbage, a version of tartar sauce/white sauce (soybean oil, egg yolk, water and vinegar) and what amounts to a medium-size pollock fish stick. I ordered mine with salsa on the side — otherwise, that would be on there, too. The lime wedge was a nice touch.

Del Taco Fish 2

After the first bite, all I could taste was the tortilla and lime. So I added some salsa and took another bite. All I could taste was tortilla, lime and salsa. Then I added some mild hot sauce. And, you guessed it, I still couldn’t really taste the fish. I know they said it was “beer-battered,” but frankly I just couldn’t find any flavor.

This might be the easiest recipe to reverse engineer and duplicate at home. All you’d need would be some corn tortillas, a box of Mrs. Paul’s, some tartar sauce, a jar of your favorite salsa and some shredded cabbage. No deep fryer, no toasted honey wheat bun, no trip to the fishmonger, no special seasoning in the bread crumbs.

One taco weighs in at 300 calories and 17 fat grams, which seems like a lot for its size.

Folks, if you’ve got the time, please try a fish taco from a Mom & Pop joint. I can think of a few where a fish taco is less than a buck and tastes much better.

Read other Friday Fast Food Fishtacular posts here.

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