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Fast Fish

The only way I’ll ever become a real vegetarian will be if I get sick from eating bad shrimp. More than once. Like, maybe a half-dozen times. Unlike the God of Deuteronomy, I really like shrimp.

I’m no snob about my crustaceans: I like everything from oxymoronic and redundant jumbo shrimp scampi, smothered in garlic and oil, to those tiny ones in the can that are only good for tossing with mayo and chopped celery. Fried shrimp are a comfort food that hearken back to the Christmas eves of my youth — if shrimp can be said to hearken; I know that lobsters kinda scream when you throw them in boiling water but I believe shrimp to be silent on the subject of their demise.

And as long as I’m not giving up shrimp, I figure I may as well continue to enjoy other kinds of seafood. But other than grilling the occasional salmon or indulging in the guiltiest of guilty pleasures — Gorton’s fish sticks — I rarely cook fish at home. Which is why I found myself cruising the boulevard a few nights ago in search of the elusive fast fish. I was so wonderfully surprised to have satisfied my Davy Jones with Taco Bell that I was moved to rate their offering against some of the other underwater fare I’ve sampled.

Long John Silver’s

In my opinion this is the gold standard of fast fish. Super salty, crunchy and never dried-out. I’m not a big fan of their fries which tend to be soggy, nor their cole slaw though I do give points to any fast food place that by default offers an uncooked vegetable with their entrees. I do miss the days when the fish would come on a bed of the little bits of fried batter that got away, but at least there are still hushpuppies — I usually get an extra order because, hey, you can never have enough hushpuppies. If I really want to splurge, I get the fish and shrimp platter — did I mention that I liked shrimp? My only complaint is there isn’t one within an hour’s drive of where I live.

Burger King Big Fish

Even when they offered the more modestly proportioned and thoroughly misnamed Whaler, I’d always preferred BK’s fish sandwich to Mickey D’s. BK’s generous patty is thick and juicy, only lightly tartared and mercifully cheeseless. I usually add tomato and pickle to make this into a seafood equivalent of a whopper but it’s quite satisfying even at its default settings.

McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish Sandwich

Occasionally I find myself forced to eat at Mickey D’s, which offers no veggie burger, leaving me with the options of either their fish sandwich or a salad. I’m never happy about the choice — salads just don’t satisfy my fast food craving. But the filet-o (abbreviating “of” just screams cheap, like those big bags of Malt-O-Meal cereals) patty is thin and chewy, and feels like it’s made from a piece of dried fish that was reconstituted before its final swim in the fryer. To make matters worse, they attempt to camouflage their patty’s pathetic fail with a layer of gelatinous orange cheese-food product and a fistful of tartar sauce, which I’m forced to scrape off when I’m in too big a rush to remember to customize my sandwich.

Arby’s Fish Sandwich

A worthy contender, my main gripe is that this tends to sporadically appear and disappear from Arby’s menu. Why my local Arby’s didn’t even have it during Lent is beyond comprehension. Anyway, the patty is a little bigger than BK’s plus I can get it with Arby’s yummy curly fries.

Taco Bell Shrimp Tacos

I’d never heard of these before but when Arby’s failed me and I was too hungry to drive to the other end of the Boulevard, I stopped into Taco Bell thinking I’d get my standard ration of hippie-chow, aka seven-layer burrito. But I was intrigued by the concept of fast food shrimp, so throwing caution to the winds I ordered two of these petite and (relatively) expensive concoctions. I’m glad I hadn’t read any of the reviews first because I found them to be delightful, somewhere between a declasse fajita and an upscale taco. The only issue I have with them is that, at only 180 calories each, I’d need to eat six of them to get the bellyful satisfaction of a single Big Fish and fries.

IHOP Shrimp Basket

On my last visit to IHOP I was very sad to learn that not only have they discontinued their never-skimpy shrimp basket — they don’t even have a fish sandwich anymore! It’s a shame because I’m a big IHOP fan but sometimes I tire of my usual fare of pancakes, eggs and hash browns and am in the mood for some hot steaming prawn.

Friendly’s Fishamajig

Silly name? Check. Taste successfully hidden under layers of greasy tartar sauce and cheese-related substance? Check. But wait, Friendly’s goes Mickey D’s one better by replacing the bun and instead surrounding their hapless patty with greasy toasted white bread. As far as I can tell, the main effect of this is to move the Fishamajig firmly into the “slow food” category.

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  1. April 2, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    It’s my observation that any fish sandwich with some kind of weird almost fish name, that’s probably a legal maneuver to avoid being sued or ordered to reveal the exact amount of ACTUAL fish in their supposed “fish” food products.

    • April 3, 2010 at 8:46 am

      I got a search engine hit yesterday for “friendlys fishamajig review.” I hope they enjoyed it. The review, that is. I doubt anyone over the age of eight enjoys Fishamajigs.

  2. April 3, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Back where I used to live, there was a place that would do all you can eat shrimp, clams, catfish, or crawfish for like $12. My father in law would also give us tons of fried mullet, and we could get big bags of frozen tilapia dirt cheap. I miss not having to resort to fast fish. I too like the Arby’s fish, but they don’t carry it around here.

    • April 3, 2010 at 3:09 pm

      Yeah I live pretty far inland, where “fresh” and “fish” cannot seriously be uttered without the word “frozen” between them and so I sometimes am envious of those in more seafaring locales. I suppose if I felt like spending closer to that price ($12) I could have hit the local fried fish joint where I would have gotten better quality and whopping portions.

  3. April 4, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Yeah I live pretty far inland, where “fresh” and “fish” cannot seriously be uttered without the word “frozen” between them


  4. May 8, 2010 at 3:42 am

    i was working at taco bell around teh time the shrimp tacos came out and OH MY GOODNESS. I hope they still exist, because i want one. i had the fish filet today. it was good. (mcdonalds.)

  1. April 4, 2010 at 4:56 am

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