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).

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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.

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Friday Fast-Food Fishtacular—Wendy’s Premium Cod Fillet Sandwich

This is just a quick update: I noticed Wendy’s had a differently named seasonal fish sandwich so a return trip was in order. Was it a superficial name change or was it a complete overhaul? I had to investigate!

Wendys

Ever been faked out by your own taste expectations? Like when you want a Coke, you order a Coke, you’re expecting a Coke but when you take a sip you realize it’s iced tea? That’s what the fish sandwich from Wendy’s was like. I remember how the previous Wendy’s fish was battered and fried with either the same seasoning or oil as their chicken sandwiches/nuggets. It was distinctive — it tasted like it came from Wendy’s. But when I took a bite of their Premium Cod Fillet Sandwich, I wondered if I had picked up a fish sandwich from a local high school.

Wendy's Premium Fish Sandwich

With its newly unseasoned, deep-fried quadrangle of Panko-coated North Pacific cod, Wendy’s falls to the back of the fast-food pack. There was nothing in this fish sandwich that differentiated it from the likes of Jack in the Box, Sonic, A&W or any random greasy spoon you’d see on a road trip through the middle of nowhere. I lost interest in the sandwich so quickly that I didn’t even bother taking a second photo of it.

Whatever memories you may have of Wendy’s Premium Fish Fillet Sandwich, cherish them… because this sandwich is not the same. Even the bun has been downgraded to a boring, toasted roll. 510 calories, 26 grams of fat, $3.49.

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Friday Fast-Food Fishtacular— Carl’s Charbroiled Atlantic Cod Fish Sandwich

As I was running errands a few days ago, I noticed that Carl’s Jr. was advertising a new fish offering: the Carl’s Charbroiled Atlantic Cod Fish Sandwich. Did someone say “charbroiled?” Not breaded? Not deep-fried? I already tried their sub-sea behemoth, the Carl’s Catch, a few years ago… would this new sandwich be a contender? A return to Carl’s Jr. — aka Hardee’s if you’re reading this from the other side of the Rockies — was in order!

Carls jr Logo

This sandwich is a far cry from their previous deep-fried fish option, the Carl’s Catch. First, it’s grilled. Second, it’s served in a tasty honey wheat bun. The rest of the sandwich are de rigueur — lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce — and no real change from the Carl’s Catch, except the sandwich builder went a little overboard with the lettuce. But back to the fish.

Carl's Charfish

The grilled Atlantic cod portion was robust and lightly seasoned. It tasted very much like a sandwich you could replicate with little effort, opposed to breading and deep-frying a fish patty by hand at home. This gave it more of a “comfort food” feeling than any previously reviewed fast-food fish sandwich. The only drawback I found was that the charbroiled fish somewhat flaked apart while eating (whereas fried fish keeps itself together). The engineers at Carl’s Jr. foresaw this and wraps their sandwich much like In-N-Out does.

Carl's Charfishbite

I’m surprised to say this, but Carl’s Jr. has nudged its way toward the top of the list of fast-food fish offerings. It certainly tasted better and was more memorable than all but a couple other franchise sandwiches. For $3.99 it was a filling, though smaller, sandwich than Carl’s Catch. The Charbroiled Atlantic Cod has 420 calories and 15 fat grams, clocking in far below Carl’s Catch (710 calories/38 fat grams).

Good job, Carl. You reeled me in as a repeat customer.

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Our Man Horn

Friday Fast-Food Fishtacular — Burger King’s Premium Alaskan Fish Sandwich

As I mentioned in my previous Friday Fast-Food Fishtacular post, I avoided reviewing Burger King’s BK Big Fish simply because it’s a pale imitation of the long-since-retired Whaler. But since I gave McDonald’s some attention, I figured I should give equal time to Burger King. But I was too late to the party — I discovered Burger King retired their BK Big Fish!

BKlogo

In its place is their new (?) nautical offering they call the Premium Alaskan Fish Sandwich. Huh. Even better reason to try it out.

Burger King fish sandwich

When you only have six LEGO bricks to play with, there are only a few ways to stack the pieces. That’s how I see fish sandwiches. You’re going to have a top bun, a portion of fish, some sort of tartar sauce, and the bottom bun (preferably in that stacking order). Other items like lettuce, tomato, cheese etc. may or may not be part of the equation. Burger King’s new fish sandwich doesn’t really bring anything new to the table… but maybe that’s OK.

Burger King fish sandwich

What we have is a four-cornered, half-inch-thick slab of fried white fish, using (I think) the same breading and/or fry oil as their chicken sandwiches. On top of the fish is a small handful of butter lettuce and some awkwardly sliced pickles. The bun is new to me (a bakery-style roll) and both the top and bottom were buttered with tartar sauce.

Flavor-wise, the Premium Alaskan Fish Sandwich is average. As mentioned above, the fish itself had the aftertaste of their chicken sandwiches. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Wendy’s has the same affliction and the take-away is that makes the flavor a bit more memorable (opposed to Jack in the Box, A&W, Sonic, etc.). The tartar sauce was semi-translucent, which kind of makes my stomach turn. The bun was fine and well-proportioned in hand (opposed to their product photos which make it look like a desert tortoise). It’s a bigger sandwich than some, though smaller than Carl’s Jr. or Arby’s. If memory serves, it seems smaller than their old Whaler sandwich.

On the Burger King website, I learned the standard sandwich has 590 calories with 31 fat grams and 1,480 mg of sodium. You can customize your sandwich with an online calculator, so a five-patty sandwich racks up 1,450 calories. Which I guess is convenient if you want five sandwiches but not all that extra bread.

The Premium Alaskan Fish Sandwich is $3.59 and is a regular menu item, not seasonal.

Side note: I ordered this via the drive-thru. I asked for the “fish sandwich only, please.” (This was to differentiate it from the meal combo.) I was asked to repeat it. So I said “FISH. SANDWICH. AND. SANDWICH. ONLY. PLEASE.” Then a different person came on and asked what I wanted. Holy crap. So I then said “I WANT THE SANDWICH MADE FROM FISH PLEASE.” Then there was radio silence. I pulled ahead and when I got the order from the window, I was asked if I wanted ketchup. *thousand-mile stare*

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Friday’s Fast-Food Fishtacular! – McDonald’s Fish McBites

I’ve been doing Friday fast-food fishtacular reviews for a few years now, trying my best to give an honest opinion about various fish sandwiches from ubiquitous fast-food franchises. All the while, I’ve avoided The Big Two: McDonald’s and Burger King. My reasoning was that their fish sandwiches are year-round menu staples (opposed to some other chains which offer them seasonally around this time of year). Also, probably everyone has had a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish by now (they’ve been around for a half-century) and, well, I don’t really have a good reason for avoiding Burger King’s BK Big Fish except that I remember (and prefer) The Whaler. Well, McDonald’s went ahead and debuted a new fish product — the Fish McBites.

McDonaldslogo

Not a “fish sandwich” at all, Fish McBites are more like Chicken McNuggets. They come in three sizes and come with tartar sauce pack(s).

Fish McBites twosizes

The first thing I notice is the carton itself — the lid opens like double doors, and one door doubles as a sauce holder. Ingenious! Since I haven’t had Chicken McNuggets since the days of styrofoam containers, I don’t know if all sauce-friendly foods from McDonald’s do this… but I thought it was handy. In fact, if you’re wondering what to do with the sauce-pack foil lid, just stick it on the other door.

Fish McBites twoshotsofbox

The fish itself is pretty good. The Alaskan pollock is somehow portioned into nickel-sized spheres and covered in a seasoned breading that’s different from the Filet-O-Fish. Darlene and I each tried a Snack-size Fish McBites (10 fish balls, $2.29) from two different McDonald’s and she described her experience as having an oily aftertaste. I thought mine were fine, if boring. Should they be paired with a sandwich, salad, soda or shake? I don’t know. But it was refreshing to eat fish from McDonald’s without a tarp of oddly melted American cheese draped over it. Ten McBites didn’t conquer my hunger, so I guess it truly was a “snack.”

Fish McBites detail

A few days later I tried the Regular portion (15 fish balls, $3.39) from another McDonald’s. My experience was identical to the Snack except it came with two tartar sauce packs. I recommend this route, as you get a better ball-to-sauce ratio than the Snack size.

Fish McBites threemcbites

In all, I can’t really find any problem with the food. They tasted fine and the calorie count was not bad (250 calories for the snack size, 370 for regular). I have yet to order the $5.59 “Shareable” size, but judging by its calorie count of 740, I assume it’s 30 fish balls and would come with four tartar sauces. Total fat on a Regular order is 20g and sodium is 630mg, which weighs in a tiny bit more than a Filet-O-Fish, though the McBites’ calorie count is less.

An afterthought — I would recommend using a fork because it’s pretty easy to get your fingers sauced up during the dipping (plus, one order came to me piping hot from the fryer).

Ba-da-bop-bap-baaa… I’m almost lovin’ it. McBites are available in San Diego; check your local McDonald’s for availability.

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Friday’s Fast-Food Fishtacular! – A&W Fish Sandwich

A&W logo

I was driving around Reno this time last week on a business trip (by “business” I mean “cartooning-related”) and found myself approaching the intersection of Plumb and Kietzke lanes. The marquee of the corner A&W caught my eye: “BEST FISH SANDWICHES IN TOWN!” That sounded like a boastful challenge, so I decided to take them up on their claim.

Reno is the former home of not only me but the world’s largest A&W drive-in (its Kietzke Lane location was closed down in the 1990s and is now a used car lot I think). San Diego bid farewell to its last two A&Ws over the last couple of years. Sad to see them leave, but I guess it’s just as well since they were symbiotically fused with KFCs. All you could order were the basics: burgers, hot dogs, fries and root beer.

A&W board

Fortunately for me, this Reno location had a full menu. That means the full spectrum of burgers (incl. the Papa burger), dogs, chicken tenders, fries, floats, freezes and a bunch of other ice cream-related offerings that would give Dairy Queen a run for its money. I haven’t ever had a fish sandwich from A&W so I ponied up $2.99 plus tax and gave it a shot.

A&W Fish Sandwich
Actually, I haven’t ever had an A&W burger either, but I assume the fish sandwich uses the same bun. It was lightly toasted and soft. The geometric quadrangle of deep-fried fish was adorned with a slice of American cheese, shredded lettuce and pickles. I have no idea what kind of fish they used nor its calorie count (their official web site does not contain fish sandwich information), but I guess it doesn’t really matter because it tasted pretty average. I’d rate it around the same as ones you’d find at Sonic Drive-In or Jack in the Box. The pickles were a nice touch, although in one bite I think I got all of them (startling flavor blast, I tell you).

As far as A&W’s claim of having the best fish sandwich in town? Meh. Only if all the area Wendy’s pulled theirs from their menus.

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Friday’s Fast-Food Fishtacular! – White Castle Fish w/Cheese

I chill at White Castle ’cause it’s the best / But I’m fly at Fatburger when I’m way out West—Beastie Boys

White Castle logo

True to the song, White Castle restaurants are not available out West. In fact, White Castle is only found in a cluster of 11 Midwest and Eastern states. So when Darlene and I happened upon one in central Ohio last month, we simply HAD to stop in. And as luck would have it, they had a fish sandwich. Huzzah! Another taste test!

White Castle near Columbus

As you may or may not know, White Castle specializes in their miniature steamed hamburgers, affectionately called “sliders” by their loyal fan base. I’ve had their sliders and they’re actually pretty good (for the price). So when I ordered a fish sandwich (a “Double Fish Slider w/Cheese,” actually), I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. And you know what? It was ai’ight.

White Castle

Like their burgers, the fish sandwich was a geometric primitive, i.e. a four-cornered slab with a bun to match. Once it cooled off a bit, I dove in.
It was a pretty good offering. The fish-plus-tartar sauce-plus-cheese is nothing groundbreaking; McDonald’s has been doing that since forever. But the bun was a standout. It’s the same soft, almost Hawaiian bread-style bun that blankets their sliders. So it looked, handled and tasted like a White Castle product. Pretty good for $2.98 plus tax.

Double stacker fish sandwich

But here’s the bad news: According to their online nutrition guide, I pulled in 610 calories (430 fat calories) and 48 fat grams. Whoolf! That’s 74% of your daily value right there. That’s almost like sucking down two cans of corned beef hash. If there’s anything that makes these figures more palatable, you do get 92% of your daily fiber from one of those sandwiches.
White Castle’s tagline is “THE CRAVE.” Well, that’s one craving I’m luckily able to surpress.
P.Ho
Barq's Red Creme soda
ps Red Creme Barq’s? On tap? INSANE!

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Friday’s Fast-Food Fishtacular! – Roy Rogers Fish Sandwich

When I decided to critique the fish sandwiches from the myriad of area fast food chains, I deliberately omitted McDonald’s and Burger King. They’ve had fish sandwiches ever since I can remember, and they’re largely known by anyone who’s ever gone to those joints. But I realized that over the course of a couple months, I pretty much covered every chain you can find in the San Diego area. *please don’t make me go to McDonald’s please don’t make me go to Burger King*

Roy Rogers logo

Luckily, my recent trip through the Eastern Time Zone brought me to a never-before-visited chain: Roy Rogers.

RR on the Pennsylvania Turnpike

This particular Roy Rogers — a Western-themed chain that specializes in chicken — was located on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Half-joking, I checked to see if they had a fish sandwich… and they did. One fish sandwich, please.

Toppings bar

It took a while to make; they fry up your fish after you place your order. While waiting, I took a look around. One thing that makes Roy Rogers stand out was their “Fixin’s Bar,” where you could dress up a burger or a chicken sandwich with as much lettuce, tomato, pickle and condiments as you like. So when my order came up, I added some lettuce and tomato.

RR Fish sandwich

Having never eaten at a Roy Rogers before, I don’t know how the rest of their fried food tastes (I’m looking at you, Wendy’s, with your similarly seasoned fish and chicken patties). But this slab of Icelandic cod was plenty fish for my appetite. And at $4.39, it wasn’t the worst bang-for-the-buck, either (the extra lettuce and tomato helped me get my money’s worth). As far as the eating experience is concerned, the fish was hot but was tender and flaky inside the breading. The bun was soft and the tartar sauce was standard. I’m ambivalent whether my fish sandwich comes with a cheese single or not (this one does). I’d like to give some stats about its fat and calorie numbers, but the Roy Rogers website keeps its fish information a secret.

(An aside: Some fast food chain needs to make a fish sandwich out of perch! >sigh< Luckily, there’s no shortage of places to get perch back east, and I had my fill over the course of several days.)

P.Ho

Editors note: This was Paul’s second fish sandwich of the day. The first was consumed at the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. Paul loves his fish! -D

Friday’s Fast-Food Fishtacular! – SONIC Fish Sandwich

SONIC logo

I don’t know what it is about SONIC. It’s not their prices (not bad, by the way). It’s not their amusing commercials. It’s certainly not their food. Perhaps it’s that SONIC fills the void left by A&W, an American institution that — like the drive-in theater — has largely become a dwindling relic of two generations past.

But I loves me some SONIC.

For years, the closest SONIC was in Anaheim, about 90 miles north on I-5. It was just far enough away to never be a sole reason for a jaunt to the OC, but close enough that we (San Diegans) would see their commercials. A couple years ago, Santee (east of San Diego by a few minutes) got their own SONIC, and by all accounts it’s the most popular thing in that town. Sorry to break the news, Kragen Auto Parts.

I remember having a fish sandwich at the Anaheim SONIC so I drove out to Santee to sample theirs. Thing is, they don’t have it. WHAT? I guess it’s a “specialty” menu item that isn’t universally offered at every drive-in. Well, crap — that’s ONE wasted trip to Santee. But as luck would have it, a couple weeks later I found myself driving to Phoenix and I spotted a SONIC billboard in Yuma, AZ. Camera in hand, low on fuel (both car and my stomach) and making good time, I took the opportunity.

My sandwich experience was fairly mundane, made exciting only by the 20oz. of Cherry Limeade that promised to quench my thirst. The first thing about the sandwich is that it must’ve been fried to order, because A) it took nearly 10 minutes to arrive at the drive-thru window, and B) it was insanely hot. In fact, I popped over to a Circle K, filled up the tank and by time I returned to the sandwich, it was still almost too hot to eat.

Sonic Fish Sandwich nom
OMG! SO HOT!

And here’s my review: yep, it’s a $2.99 fish sandwich all right.

I wish it was more exciting than that. The fish was good, the tomato was fine (this is high praise from me considering I’m not a person that consumes tomatoes on a regular basis) the bun was soft and the tartar sauce was typical. But that’s what you get at SONIC — average food, awesome drinks and a little bit of modernized mid-20th century nostalgia. Sadly, I did their drive-thru… not even experiencing their rollerskating carhops.

Since I’m reluctant to go back to Yuma for some further research, I jumped online. Like Church’s Chicken, SONIC seems to hide its fish sandwich from its main menu. It was only after downloading SONIC’s full menu .pdf that I found it (under “SNACKS AND SIDES,” which speaks to the gluttony of Americans. “I’ll have a triple SONIC cheeseburger with a side of fish sandwich”). At 650 calories — double that of a Church’s fish sandwich — it’s hardly a “side.”

I guess it’s just as well; if their burgers and fish sandwiches matched the flavor of their drinks and shakes, I’d be road-trippin’ to Santee far too often. Maybe even justifying more road trips to AZ.

Our Man Horn