What do you get when you cross a freshly fried catch with a deliciously soft bun? A fish sandwich, is what. Though we can't say for certain who the first human was who had the idea to slip a filet between two pieces of sliced bread, we can tell you that a large portion of the dish's popularity -- at least in the United States -- can be attributed to the fast food behemoth known as McDonald's.
One of the first truly popular fast food fish sandwiches in America came out of the fast food chain after it introduced the Filet-O-Fish, which was developed in the 1960s as an alternative for Catholic consumers who wanted to avoid consuming meat on Fridays as part of their religious practice. But the experimental seafood sandwich unexpectedly took off, becoming not only a staple on the McDonald's menu after its nationwide release in 1965 but also on the menus of many other sit-down and fast food restaurants.
While the McDonald's take on this popular menu item remains perhaps the most well-known of the fish sandwich picks across the U.S., it has sometimes generated mixed reviews when it comes to taste, texture, and quality. Other chain restaurants, however, maintain near-universal approval among eaters for their fish sandwiches. Here are some chain restaurants that serve the highest quality fish sandwiches, according to customers.
The Wisconsin-based burger chain known as Culver's is recognized primarily for its Butterburgers and frozen custard. When it comes to its sandwiches, though, the franchise promises that nothing is ever frozen. Every slab of meat gets placed on the grill only after it is ordered by a customer. While this approach usually means there are a few extra minutes between ordering and when the dish makes it to the table, it's well worth the wait according to those who've had the pleasure of eating there. This is especially true for its fish sandwiches, according to satisfied customers.
The chain's North Atlantic Cod Sandwich features a tartar sauce made from a proprietary recipe, lettuce, sprinkled Wisconsin cheddar cheese, and a crispy filet of breaded, flavorful cod. It's nothing less than "the best fast food fish sandwich," according to a Reddit user. "Number 1 in my book," confirmed another. "After eating their (Culver's) fish sandwich, I can't even look at a Filet-o-fish." This glowing attitude was reflected on virtually every platform we could find. So, the next time you're craving some fish on a hoagie, you might want to consider heading to your nearest Culver's to see what all the freshly caught buzz is about.
The fast food franchise known as Arby's began in 1964. The world currently has over 3,500 Arby's locations in nine countries, with the chain having become the second-largest quick-service sandwich brand on the planet. While you may attribute this success to the chain's sizzling beef burgers or its sliced roast beef and cheese creations, you may want to stop for a moment. Consider placing the restaurant's multiple fish sandwich variants in the running, too.
One of these is the King's Hawaiian Fish Deluxe Sandwich, which utilizes a sweet King's Hawaiian bun. Another is the Crispy Fish Sandwich, which includes a crunchy fried filet and tartar sauce as its star components. And finally, a third sandwich, known as the Spicy Fish Sandwich, is very similar to the original Crispy Fish in its components, except for the addition of fire-roasted jalapeños on top. Although all three differ slightly in their flavor profiles, each of these fishy dishes has given way to some overwhelmingly positive reviews.
But there is some slightly bad news: these fish-based sandwiches currently only appear at Arby's for a limited time each year. Similar to the original McDonald's move, Arby's fish sandwich releases often fall in line with the annual Catholic observance of Lent. Quite frankly, we're pretty sure these fish-forward morsels would get snatched up quickly regardless of the time of year.
Frisch's Big Boy
Frisch's Big Boy, an Ohio-based fast food franchise, is named for the gigantic double-decker beef burger that put the chain on the map when it first hit the menu in 1946. Now, in 2023, the restaurant not only still offers its signature mouthwatering burgers with tartar sauce, but it also sells soups, turkey clubs, all-day pancake breakfasts, and an Alaskan Cod sandwich that is more than worthy of a mention.
Frisch's take on a fish sandwich sports some seriously positive reviews across virtually all online platforms. "Frisch's Big Boy has the best fish sandwich," said a Reddit user. "It was so good, McDonalds had to invent the filet-o-fish to compete." Another Tripadvisor user titled their review "My favorite fish sandwich" before going on to praise the morsel's ratios of bun, lettuce, and fish, as well as a unique, delectable tartar sauce. Also on Tripadvisor, one consumer, in particular, pointed out the fact that Frisch's sandwich gives the eater a large piece of actual fish as opposed to just a mass of thick outer breading that they've had in other fish sandwiches. Whatever aspect you choose to dote on, Frisch's Big Boy's fish sandwich is a definite prize catch.
Ivar's Seafood Bar
The seafood chain known as Ivar's began in the 1930s with a man named Ivar Haglund who first worked out of Washington state. He opened up his very own aquarium in the seaside city of Seattle and, soon enough, began selling bowls of hot chowder and fried fish cutlets to hungry visitors. The food was an undisputed hit, leading to the successful regional seafood franchise that Washingtonians know and celebrate today.
And while plates full of fish n' chips, seared salmon, or hearty fish tacos made from fresh seafood are easily found on the menu at any Ivar's Seafood Bar, there is another crunchy, breaded, flaky bite to be found in the form of one very delicious sandwich that might just steal the spotlight. That would be the chain's Panko Fish Sandwich, which is an apparent triumph, going by the bevy of customer praise. "Was craving a fish sandwich today," said a Yelp reviewer, "and Ivar's exceeded my expectations. $10.29 for a perfectly crisp and juicy Panko crusted cod sandwich on a Hawaiian bun!!! Makes me never want a filet-o-fish again." Confirmed another consumer on Reddit: "It really is a good sandwich and I highly recommend it if you're ever in Washington."
It's safe to say that when one thinks about Hooters, the sports bar chain that first opened in Clearwater Beach, Florida, its orange-clad serving staff and famous breaded wings are generally the first things to come to mind. But for those consumers who have tasted the chain restaurant's seafood sandwich to learn that it's a juicy, whopping dish constructed from a massive filet of fried cod, fish has joined the Hooters mental association forever.
Though you've probably never even heard of the Hooters Big Fish Sandwich until now, it is evidently heaven on a hoagie roll. One giant piece of cod fish is either grilled or battered and fried (depending on the customer's preference), before being finished off with a simple layer of tartar sauce. The seemingly basic recipe is exactly what makes it so marvelous by not taking away from the fish itself.
"The one place I would really love to see on here is Hooters," said a Reddit user on a post ranking restaurant seafood sandwiches. "It's been a while, but ever since I was young I've always ordered the 'Big Fish Sandwich' and it's excellent. You get a giant piece of fried white fish and it's delicious." The next time you find yourself looking to deviate from your usual order of wings the next time you're perusing a Hooters menu, we recommend looking no further than the chain's fish-forward hoagie creation.
Nashville, Tennessee may be known as the country music capital, but it also happens to be the birthplace of one of the nation's most celebrated seafood restaurant joints. Captain D's, which began as Mr. D's Seafood and Hamburgers, opened in 1969, bringing a lower price tag on delicious, higher-quality fishy dishes for the masses. And while you're almost certainly destined to find taste bud happiness through virtually any of the picks from the successful chain, it is the Giant Fish Sandwich, according to consumers, that is well and truly noteworthy.
What makes this Captain D's sandwich stand out from the crowd at first glance is its sheer size. Customers receive not one, but two fish filets on a toasted bun, finished off with lettuce and a dollop of tartar sauce. While looks aren't always everything, people confirm that the gigantic masterpiece delivers on taste. However, constructing fried fish perfection takes time, so if you go into a Captain D's expecting the speed of a McDonald's, be sure to adjust your expectations, as one Redditor cautioned. Though your giant Captain D's sandwich may not come out as quickly as some other fast-casual restaurants might do, happy customers argue that the bite is more than worth the wait.
There's just something to love about Whataburger. Perhaps it's the classic diner feel one gets after stepping through the doors at any of its nearly 950 locations. Since the chain opened in the 1950s, it has maintained that nostalgic aura as well as its menu of incredible burgers for which it originally became famous. However, many consumers are so focused on the beef coming from the Whataburger kitchens that they forget about the fish. Cue the Whatacatch, a sandwich that more than lives up to its name, going by the many satisfied customers.
The Whatacatch is a combination of lettuce, tomato, sauce, and an Alaskan pollock filet coated in bread crumbs and then fried. It's all served together on a soft, toasty bun. "Oh Whataburger, you've done it again..." posted a user on Reddit. "Finally tried it tonight. Heaven on a bun. Giant tasty piece of battered fish, light sauce some lettuce and a tomato slice. Its perfection [...] I don't know how I'll survive if I ever move to a state without Whataburger." High praise indeed, which we found to be shared across the board.
Sadly, the Whatacatch is only offered for a limited time each year. In 2023, it preceded the Lenten season, dropping on February 20. So, it seems, we may be getting closer to its release with the new year just around the corner. Keep your eyes open, and don't miss hooking one of these savory treats while it lasts.
The very first Popeyes Louisiana Chicken opened up in New Orleans in 1972 and has since become one of the most celebrated fast food chicken chains in the world. Featuring many of the unique and notable Cajun flavors associated with The Big Easy in much of its fare, the franchise is heralded for its fantastic fried chicken, shrimp poppers, and sandwiches. One of these is called the Flounder Fish Sandwich and though it currently only graces us with its presence once a year, according to consumers, it is definitely worth the effort of reeling it in.
"Popeye's, hands down. No more questions" said a Redditor on a post debating the best fast-service fish sandwiches. "This is the best fish sandwich in all of fast food," declared another Reddit user. "It's really good and I recommend it." The creation itself presents a crusted filet with Cajun seasonings as its star, a thick spread of tartar sauce, and -- differentiating itself from the majority of fish sandwich takes -- a layer of sliced pickles all served together on a brioche bun.
This dreamy dish last dropped in February 2023. So, as we get closer to the start of our next trip around the sun, be on the lookout for news of its expected release yet again. You don't want to miss your chance to go fishing for this one.
Wendy's is one of those burger restaurants committed to fresh beef -- none of its foods, the chain insists, are ever frozen. The chain's commitment to better quality fast food seems to extend to its widely-celebrated Crispy Panko Fish Sandwich, which takes breaded wild Alaskan pollock, dill tartar sauce, pickles, and the unique addition of a slice of melty American cheese to finish things off. The result is a savory, flaky, flavorful mouthful with every bite ... and one that consumers gobble up happily in February when it is usually released on a limited-time basis.
However, there seems to be some confusion surrounding the sandwich's seasonal status. According to consumers and employees on various platforms, when it hits menus seems to vary greatly by region. For some locations, there might not be such a time at all. "I was just informed by my manager that we aren't getting a fish sandwich," reported an alleged employee on Reddit. "Does this depend on location?" The conversation that followed made it clear that it very much does, with another alleged Wendy's worker claiming that, if the sandwich underperforms one year at a particular store, it may not be ordered in the subsequent one.
Yet, on the same thread, multiple employees reported that their stores offered the fish sandwich year-round. So, despite the seemingly arbitrary rules surrounding this particular Wendy's sandwich availability, you're still in for a treat as long as you're lucky enough to catch one.
Checkers & Rally's
The story of the Checkers & Rally's fast food chain is an interesting one. The two are virtually the exact same restaurant with the exact same owners. The only real difference between the two is that they go by different names depending on region. In both the South and the Eastern states, the chain is known as Checkers, while in the Midwest, the restaurant is Rally's. Whatever you call it, you can't deny the truth that the burger joint offers up some pretty delicious staples on its menu, including the Crispy Fish Sandwich.
Though it isn't clear exactly which type of fish is used here, it doesn't seem to matter to many customers. Whatever the catch is, it is downright delicious, they say. "The fish was hot, cooked properly, and I was very pleased," said a happy reviewer writing on Tripadvisor. These positive reviews keep rolling in whether you're on Reddit or TikTok, prompting us to add the Checkers (or Rally's) fishy, saucy, cheesy, and chopped lettuce-bedecked sandwich to our list.
With a name like Bonefish Grill, you'd expect a restaurant that knows what it's doing when it comes to constructing delicious fish-based sandwiches. Thankfully, you won't be disappointed at the sit-down chain of more than 170 locations in the U.S. as of 2023. While the celebrated seafood restaurant's menu includes dishes like grilled rainbow trout, crab cakes, and poke bowls crafted with tuna, the blackened fish sandwiches can easily steal the show.
The BFG Fish Sandwich reportedly looks a bit different at every location, changing in accordance with what's available that day. But one thing's for certain: whatever type of fish filet is on offer is cooked to perfection and coated in the restaurant's signature Bang Bang sauce and nestled in a toasted bun. It's sure to be memorable. Excellent, superb, and delicious are just a few of the glowing terms used by eaters across a bevy of online platforms to describe the blackened fish sandwich at Bonefish Grill. Their words, combined with photographs that make the food look all the more irresistible, make this catch a hard one to throw back. We're willing to bet that, once you get a bite, you'll be just as hooked as the rest of us.
Read the original article on Mashed.