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Photo by Keith MayIf you catch yourself with a fish fetish past midnight, your options are limited. Your best bet is fast food, and you should put all of your money on McDonald's Filet O' Fish. It's a Cadillac of a sandwich in a world of fast-food fish Edsels. For 35 years, the Filet O' Fish has been the fish sandwich all other fast-food fish sandwiches are measured by. The patty is tucked between a comforting layer of Cheddar cheese and tartar sauce prepared with a little more lemon and pickle than usual, making it much tartarier than its imitators. The patty is tender, juicy and just a bit flaky—and at $1.99, it'll help you unload the 99 pennies that have accumulated in the console of your Trans Am.
A close runner-up is Carl's Jr.'s Carl's Catch Fish Sandwich. The same price as the Filet O' Fish, the Carl's version comes with an added luxury —a layer of lettuce and an extra layer of tartar sauce, which, unfortunately, drowns out the taste of the fish. The fish patty also just doesn't have the rich flavor of the McDonald's cod creation.
Not to be left out in the cod, the Burger King Big Fish is massive, which may explain why it's also one of the more expensive fast-food fish sandwiches (at $2.59). The problem: the bun—hands down the largest—is prone to sogginess. The last thing you want when eating fish is a wet bun. Meanwhile, what's alleged to be tartar sauce tastes like plain mayonnaise. If you want to try to spice up the sandwich with a fresh layer of Cheddar, you can, but that's gonna cost you an additional 40 cents, bringing the total cost to a whopping $2.89.
If you feel daring, sample Long John Silver's Fish Sandwich or Supreme Fish Sandwich. Differences between the two are astounding. At $1.49, the Fish Sandwich is on a French roll with tartar sauce that has no pickles in it (so it tastes more like ripe mayo—and not in a good way), a smidgen of lettuce and a filet that is more breading than fish. According to the fine people at Long John Silver's, the word "supreme" means they've added pickles (but way too many pickles) and a slice of provolone cheese—for which you'll be charged an additional 40 cents.
Test conclusion: stick with the Filet O' Fish.McDonald's, countywide; Carl's Jr., countywide; Burger King, countywide; Long John Silver's, 3095 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, (714) 549-3402.