During Lent, many Catholics give up meat on Fridays, which explains the sudden flood of fish sandwich commercials on TV.
I’m not Catholic, but recently I ditched my fear of tartar sauce and sampled 10 fish sandwiches. The binge took me to a fish market in KCK, a new bakery cafe in Westport and a parking lot in De Soto, where I tried my first Filet-O-Fish — and found out that tartar sauce isn’t so bad after all.
Read on to find out which fish sandwich is this season’s best catch.
• Filet-O-Fish at McDonald’s
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I like Big Macs and I cannot lie, so until a couple of weeks ago, I’d never had a Filet-O-Fish. The sandwich ($3.49) consists of a perfectly square, tender patty of fried pollock topped with melty American cheese and a generous squirt of pickle-y tartar sauce. The best part for me was the freshly steamed bun, which made for a soft, pillowy sandwich.
4 out of 5 fish hooks
• Salmon BLT at Baked, 706 Westport Road
For a gourmet twist, go to Baked and order the Salmon BLT ($10), which starts with a perfectly pan-seared salmon fillet. Toppings include smoky bacon strips (leave those off if you’re going meat-free), fresh pesto, lettuce and tomato. The star of the sandwich is the fresh-baked, herbed focaccia bread it’s served on.Suggested pairing:
Mac and cheeseRating:
4.5 out of 5 fish hooks
• Reel Big Fillet fish sandwich at Arby’s
Like McDonald’s, Arby’s uses pollock in its signature fish sandwich. But Arby’s really broke the mold with its Reel Big Fillet ($2.50). The massive triangle-shaped patty juts out from a teensy butter-toasted sesame seed bun. The patty’s interior is flaky, with nice, big hunks of white pollock.Suggested pairing:
3 out of 5 fish hooks
• Premium Cod Fillet sandwich at Wendy’s
Select Wendy’s serve a spicy version of the Premium Cod Fillet ( $3.69) that comes with pepper jack cheese and lots of Sriracha sauce. Unlike the Reel Big Fillet and Filet-O-Fish, this sandwich uses a whole piece of fish, so the texture is more meaty than minced. Panko breading adds a crispier texture to the batter coating. If you’re not big on tartar sauce or fish sandwiches in general, the spicy Premium Cod Fillet is for you because it tastes almost exactly like a spicy chicken sandwich.Suggested pairing:
3.5 out of 5 fish hooks
• Basa special at City Fish and More, 2704 State Ave. in Kansas City, Kan.
Looking for a feast? Head to City Fish for the $6.99 basa special, which gets you a huge heap of crunchy, fried basa strips (basa has a slightly milder flavor than catfish), plus two slices of bread, a side and a drink. Unless you’re a competitive eater, it’s enough for two meals.Suggested pairing:
Hot sauce and hush puppiesRating:
4 out of 5 fish hooks
• Charbroiled Atlantic Cod Fish sandwich at Hardee’s
In a sea of fried fish sandwiches, Hardee’s Charbroiled Atlantic Cod version ($4.60) is a welcome change. The blackened fish has a deliciously smoky flavor and crispy-at-the-edges texture that makes it taste like it’s fresh from the grill. The nutty-tasting honey wheat bun is also a nice touch.Suggested pairing:
4 out of 5 fish hooks• Po’ Jack Catfillet on bread at Mad Jack’s Fresh Fish Market and Restaurant, 1318 State Ave. in Kansas City, Kan.
When there’s a 6-foot tall catfish standing outside the restaurant, you know the fish sandwich is legit. This play on the Cajun po’ boy sandwich comes on sliced white or wheat bread instead of the traditional French — but it doesn’t matter, because it’s all about the catfish. The fresh Mississippi pond-raised fish is sliced into strips, coated in Mad Jack’s own salty seasoned breading, and fried until it’s melt-in-your-mouth tender.Suggested pairing:
4.5 out of 5 fish hooks
• Northwoods walleye sandwich at Culver’s
How cute is that jaunty pickle chip on top of Culver’s Northwoods walleye sandwich ($5.49)? I’m calling it a crown, because this fish sandwich rules. The fish is fall-apart tender and coated in a halo of golden batter. The lettuce is fresh and crisp, the hoagie is evenly toasted, and the tartar sauce situation is under control.Suggested pairing:
Cashew caramel sundaeRating:
5 out of 5 fish hooks• North Atlantic cod sandwich at Runza (locations in Lawrence and Mission)
I loved the juxtaposition between the steaming snow-white fish and its crispy-crunchy batter coating, the same stuff that makes Runza’s onion rings so crunchy and addictive. This sandwich ($4.19) gets bonus points for heftiness — it feels as heavy as a double cheeseburger.Suggested pairing:
3 out of 5 fish hooks• Catfish sandwich at Kitty’s Cafe, 810 E. 31st St.
Bow down, fishes: The catfish sandwich at Kitty’s Cafe will bring you to your knees. Picture three thinly sliced catfish fillets coated in a light tempura batter, fried to crispy perfection, and stacked with lettuce, onion and tomato on a golden bun. This sandwich will make you give up pork tenderloins for good.Suggested pairing:
5 out of 5 fish hooks