Website description: "This McDonald's fish sandwich has fish sourced from sustainably managed fisheries, topped with melty American cheese and creamy McDonald's tartar sauce, and served on a soft, steamed bun." A link on the website for users to "learn what kind of fish is in Filet-o-Fish" leads to a 404 error.
First impressions: It looked like a standard Filet-O-Fish, and was packaged in a cardboard box. I had to wait a short time before I received the sandwich, so I assume it was freshly made.
Review: There was nothing bad about this sandwich, but there was not a whole lot exemplary about it either. The fish wasn't soggy, but wasn't super crispy either. The tartar sauce tasted like...tartar sauce. I'm unclear as to why there was half a slice of American cheese on the sandwich, as it was impossible to discern the taste under the tartar sauce. It would have been nice to have pickles or some other vegetable topping as well to add texture and nutritional value to the sandwich. I'm not mad I ate a Filet-O-Fish, but I'm not going to rush back for another one anytime soon.
Pandering: No, this is on the permanent menu, but there must be consideration given to the fact that this was the original "hey, I want Catholics to eat at my restaurant on Fridays" menu item. (We will ignore the Hula Burger.)
Cajun Flounder Sandwich
Website description: "Our all new Flounder Fish Fillet, served on a warm and toasted buttery brioche bun, with crisp barrel cured pickles and tartar sauce."
First impressions: The sandwich I received was wrapped in a foil bag, and had a paper wrapper on the sandwich itself--which I assume was to preserve the structural integrity of the sandwich. The fillet itself spilled out from the bun and was not, contra the sandwiches at Wendy's, Arby's, and McDonald's, a square, making it feel less-processed.
Review: This thing is good. There was a level of spice that was not overpowering, but was an interesting contrast to the brioche and condiments. The bread was able to hold up to the sizable flounder fillet, and the flounder had more of a "meatier" taste to it than the pollock sandwiches of other fast food chains. The pickles were delicious, but my sandwich could have benefited from a bit more tartar sauce. If you live near a Popeyes, this is definitely worth getting--although it is significantly more calorie-dense than other options.
Pandering: Yes, this is limited time only and was introduced the week before Lent.
Wild Caught Alaskan Fish Sandwich
Website description: "Wild caught Alaskan pollock fillet, crunchy panko breading, topped with creamy dill tartar sauce, pickles, lettuce, and American cheese. Proof that ice fishing is actually totally worth it."
First impressions: The sandwich was exactly as the website described it, and it came wrapped in foil. A helpful sticker reading "fish" was placed over the "chicken" print on the foil. I noted that unlike McDonald's, Wendy's puts a whole slice of cheese on their sandwich.
Review: After my first bite I said, out loud, "Well done, Wendy." I did not have super high hopes for Wendy's after my 2017 review (which was, not coincidentally, the last time I had a fish sandwich at Wendy's), but this was actually a pretty solid sandwich. The fish was crispy--there was an audible "crunch" sound when I bit into it. The cheese was not doing much for me, but the pickles and romaine lettuce were a nice touch. The pickles were thick cut and flavorful. I thought the sandwich could have used a smidge more tartar sauce, but this was a solid fish sandwich.
Pandering: Yes, this is a limited time offering and replaced the previous Wild Caught North Pacific Cod Sandwich of years past.
Rating: 🐟🐟🐟🐟 and a half
While I was disappointed to see the Chick-Fil-A fish sandwich go, I must say that I was overall fairly impressed with this year's slate of fried fish in between buns. Wendy's and Popeyes, who had fairly strong showings in 2018, both improved their offerings--which was no easy task. It was interesting to see the embrace of food trends--both Burger King and Wendy's boast about panko breading their sandwiches. (But only Wendy's fillet actually tasted crunchy.) It was also interesting to see how the fish products have shifted over the years--Alaskan pollock seems to be the go-to fish now, as opposed to cod. And I still have no idea what was actually in the Filet-O-Fish.
The improvements in the limited-time offerings showed the glaring deficiencies of the tried-and-true standby at McDonald's. It wouldn't hurt McDonald's to toss on some lettuce or pickles to their Filet-O-Fish, or perhaps add a flavor to the tartar sauce. It would greatly enhance the experience. McDonald's could previously rest on its laurels as the original Catholic-pandering restaurant for Lenten Fridays, but those days may be numbered now.
Best fillet: Wendy's Wild Caught Alaskan Fish Sandwich
Worst fillet: McDonald's Filet-O-Fish
Best bread: Wendy's Wild Caught Alaskan Fish Sandwich
Cheapest option: Arby's Crispy Fish
Priciest option: McDonald's Filet-O-Fish
Fewest calories: McDonald's Filet-O-Fish
Most calories: Popeyes Cajun Flounder Sandwich
Best overall: Popeyes Cajun Flounder Sandwich