There actually aren’t that many more fish in the sea, at least when we’re talking the Sea of Lunch. McDonald’s has had the Filet-o-Fish since the dawn of fish itself, but besides that, only a few national chains have dipped their toe in the water.
Now Wendy’s dives in with its new Premium Fish Fillet Sandwich. Did it get us hook, line and sinker?
Chris: Tom, we’ve both loved the classic Filet-o-Fish for a long time. But I’ll admit, the last few times I’ve ordered it, I had to fill out my meal with a Snack Wrap and a Yogurt Parfait. Otherwise, the F-o-F on its own is just a little fish that should be thrown back into the water.
That’s where Wendy’s new fish sandwich earns its "premium" name.
Its thick, squarish cut of "North Pacific cod" is to the Filet-o-Fish’s little rectangle what the Wendy’s 1/4-pound Single is to a McDonald’s cheeseburger.
The breading seemed lighter and crisper, hugging a piece of fish that wasn’t at all fishy — just the way I like my seafood.
Where this sandwich falls short to the McDonald’s original is the lack of cheese and the skimpy tartar sauce. Sure, I got a leaf-o-lettuce instead, and some may argue that slathering on the sauce is just a way to mask the taste of inferior fish. I hear you, and you’re wrong.
Cheese is a welcome incongruous condiment here just like it is on apple pie. I see it as a must. Slap on a slice and — gasp! — I’ll be catching a new fish.
Tom: I wouldn’t go that far, Chris. Just because you have Tom Brady as your quarterback doesn’t mean you are going to win the Super Bowl. So while Wendy’s has a player on its hands with its bigger, better fish patty, the rest of the team doesn’t stack up.
The fancy billowy bun overwhelms the fish fillet — every bite tastes like bread. The tartar sauce is hardly more than glorified mayonnaise. I think the lettuce is a nice touch for crunch but ads nothing to the taste.
Of course as you point out, you can’t discuss the Premium Fish Fillet without referencing McDonalds Filet-o-Fish. Both fish patties seem like something out of your grocer’s freezer with McDonald’s being the budget brand and Wendy’s the Swanson’s Hungry Man version. But at least the rest of McDonald’s fish sandwich has flavor. Its combination of cheese, tartar and small bun make the F-o-F a winner. Teamwork!
Chris: I don’t agree. In fact I feel like such a traitor turning my back on my beloved Filet-o-Fish. And yet, some healthy (or unhealthy) competition may be good for the old standby. Let the fish wars begin!
Tom: I can’t think of a reason to get this sandwich unless you’re the Pope stuck at Wendy’s on a Friday. The only thing Wendy’s Premium Fish Fillet has going for it is that it’s always served fresh out of the fryer. The downside to that is you have to wait four minutes for them to cook it. By then, it may be Saturday.
Tom James and Chris Tauber are freelance writers.