Icelandic. Wild Alaskan caught. Sustainable. North Pacific Cod. Panko breaded. Housemade tartar sauce.
Really people? We do this every year. You’d think by now we’d just call an apple an apple, and admit that we’ve all got a serious infatuation with the idea of an oversized fish stick.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic. It doesn’t matter if you even like fish. There’s just something about the platonic ideal of a breaded and deep fried fish sandwich this time each
Throw out all the foodieism buzz words and environmental catch phrases you want; heck, even adorn the damn thing with a half-slice of unmelted processed cheese product and call it unique, but no form of MBA level marketing is going to detract from the simple fact that if they’re selling something which once had a flipper and gills, we’re buying it.
Personally, I’m just as guilty of getting caught up in the hype as everyone else. This year is no exception. Actually, it’s probably worse than ever. That’s because my favorite fast food restaurant, Chick-fil-A, decided to release a limited time-only fish sandwich.
Extra pickles? Why yes, please.
There’s something special about a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich. From the slight tang of the pickles to the buttered bun to the succulent sweetness of the pressure cooked and hand-breaded chicken breast in peanut oil, there may be no simpler, nor tasty, burger alternative in the fast food world. That the chain has developed iconic sauces for any fancy (be they sweet, tangy, hot, or salty) doesn’t hurt, and neither does the signature spice blend in the breading. Surely, I thought, if any chain could perfect another fried food and raise the humble yet glorified fish stick to delectable prominence, it would be Chick-fil-A.
Texturally, the fish was everything one could ask for in a fish sandwich. The breading on the two small pieces was light and slightly crispy, thankfully devoid of any excess oil or grease. The inside was flaky and white, with no hollow or blackened spots from spending too long in the fryer. In a word, it was fried perfectly—a rare feat for any fast food fish item.
But it was plain, as I suppose all fish sandwiches have a tendency to be, and left something to be desired. Maybe it was the afterthought packet of cafeteria-style tartar sauce with an overly-viscous nature and AWOL lemony-herb flavor. Or perhaps it was the container of the fish itself, which, unlike the classic Chick-fil-A sandwich, doesn’t come in one of the specially designed bags that steams the bun while also preserving the juicy breast.
But whatever it was, I found the fish sandwich to be remarkably unremarkable when eaten both plain and with the tartar sauce. Mostly, I found myself missing that oddly placed half slice of cheese McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish is so well known for, and missing the bolder spice blend and peanut oil flavor that makes regular Chick-fil-A sandwiches so irresistible.
That said, there’s nothing wrong with the sandwich itself, which unto itself is a victory as far as fast food fish sandwiches go. While the two small pieces of fish make it slightly awkward to eat, the tartar sauce packet does give the sandwich a bit of tangy sweetness (overly runny nature notwithstanding.) But for a chain that is well renowned for its sauces, the tartar sauce feels like a last-minute cop-out. If you’re like me, you might be so inclined to even go back for a different sauce. I recommend the Polynesian Sauce for a sweet and sour Asian flair, or even the Honey Roasted BBQ.
At the end of the day, Chick-fil-A’s fish sandwich harkens to the platonic ideal of the fish sandwich—while still providing that annual reminder for why you don’t eat fish sandwiches all year long. In other words, I don’t think we’ll be seeing the trademark cows parachuting into stadiums with signs saying “Eat More Cod.”
Slightly crispy, none-too-oily, and fried perfectly, it nevertheless misses the “it” factors McDonald’s has going with its Filet-O-Fish, and disappoints with a low-grade packet of tartar sauce that will make your high school cafeteria’s seem “housemade.” Still, in a fast food sea of pretentious fish sandwiches that range from burnt to dry to more oily than the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Chick-fil-A’s version ranks among the top half in the industry, and a worthy catch for those seeking fast food fish sandwiches.
(Nutrition Facts – 400 calories. Full nutrition info not available.)
Item: Chick-fil-A Fish Sandwich
Purchased Price: $3.09
Size: 1 sandwich
Purchased at: Chick-Fil-A (Select Locations for Limited Time Only)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Flaky, tender fish. Not overly greasy or oily. Lightly breaded exterior. Fresh bun. Pickles provide good tang. No limit to sauce requests.
Cons: Not as good as McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish. Excessively plain in terms of flavor. Could have a crisper breading. Tartar sauce given as an afterthought, and overly viscous in texture. On the smaller side. Slightly awkward to eat. A complete overuse of fish puns.