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The Filet-O-Fish Virgin

In junior high my best friend gave up watching “Simpsons” for the entire Catholic season of Lent. Translate this to 12-year-old speak and you get “Michael, for the entire month we will have nothing to talk about.” In addition to cartoon shows he was also restricted from eating meat on Friday’s, which had me even happier to be a non-Kosher keeping Jew.

Hot on the heels of religious tradition fast food chains took note and jumped into action. Taco Bell is the most popular with just about every other burger flipping fast food chain—from Arby’s to Sonic’s—following in line. However the grand fried filet of them would have to be the Filet-O-Fish sandwich at Mcdonald’s. It’s always been there hidden between more notable offerings just waiting until this time of year to take center stage. I’ve always known it was there but it didn’t interest me, until today. After all these years I just had to know what a “Filet-O-Fish” experience would be like. Call it masochism or morbid curiosity—or even just the fact that it was now seasonally discounted—but on this dreary day I walked over to a local McDonald’s thinking that by walking I was doing this the “healthy” way.

Standing outside McDonald’s starring at an oversized image of what I was about to eat—a Filet-O-Fish overflowing with waves of tartar sauce and unnecessary cheese—made me queasy.

Seriously if the folks over at Tum’s are thinking of a way to push more product just steal this poster and replace all the text with the word “TUM’S.” Tartar sauce is for dipping not for slathering, and melted cheese on fried fish rubs me the wrong way.

At the register the cashier took my order and handed over fate in a pale blue box. In hand I oddly missed being able to unwrap a sandwich from McDonald’s. There was always something about the wrapping process and the crinkling sound of paper to reveal your burger that felt special. It was like unwrapping a present made just for me. Though I’m sure at McDonald’s this “present” was intended for anyone crazy enough to ask for it.

Sitting down I opened the box slowly. There it sat looking pathetic. A fish filet careless tossed on a bun, a puff of tartar sauce seeping out of one side, and no cheese was anywhere to be seen. I lifted the top and saw only what reminded me of baby vomit. Had they forgotten the cheese? Lifting the bun I found it; a half slice over-melted to the point of crustiness. What gives McDonald’s? Too cheap to give me a whole slice?

Why I continued to lift it and eat it I have no idea. I had to pretend I was about to eat a tasty éclair to fool myself into doing so.

The entire sandwich from top to bottom tasted awful. The bun was generically boring, the tartar sauce was mostly relish and mayo, the cheese was absolutely flavorless, and the fish was cold and tasted faintly like fried cardboard. If the container hadn’t remained on the table I probably would have thought I accidentally picked that up and ate it.

I poked at the rest of the sandwich, wiped off most of the tartar sauce, left half the bun in the box, and just ate the fish for protein. Then I went home and made dinner to wash away the growing sway of seasickness.

For years I’ve wondered how the Filet-O-Fish tasted and now I know; like the box. Can I interest you in some TUM’S?

Famished L.A. (for Article and Photos)

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  1. Silly boy! You have to order it without cheese -- you get a freshly made one that way. Then over to the condiments stand to get a straw (unless you order fries) to facilitate scraping off approx 1/2 the tartar sauce and spread the rest evenly over the f-o-f. Now sit back and enjoy -- yum!!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Sarah

      I thought of asking for something to be added or taken off knowing that I'd get a freshly made one, but I wanted an "as is" version. If it came with cheese so be it.

      As for your straw/tartar sauce advice clearly you are well versed in Filet-O-Fish land. Still, I'd only partake in those messy waters again if I even liked the taste of the fish, which I did not.

      1. re: ReelMike84

        The key to the filet-O-fish is that you order it with extra tartar sauce so they make it when you order it instead of letting it sit under a heat lamp..
        I do think if you have gotten this far in life without having one, you were probably better off being that virgin.
        I think that Jack in the Box tacos and filet-O-fish are similar that in things you ate in your youth and have clinged to the notion that they are frigging the best but in reality, they blow.

        1. re: Beach Chick

          Funny you should mention the tacos. That was another one of those fast food things I'd never order--I was a Sourdough Jack man--but have started to wonder about.

    2. I like them......Friday is Filet O' Fish day $1.29 each.

      4 Replies
      1. re: monku

        I grew up eating FoF and also like them...no. I *crave* them. I guess a lot goes back to childhood and that definition of comfort food specific to each of us.

        {Monku: Some San Diego Restaurants have FoF Fridays all year, not just Lent.}

        1. re: Cathy

          Exactly what Cathy said. If I had my first Filet o' Fish now, I would probably feel the same way as the OP. But there's something about that childhood comfort that still makes it oh so good.

          1. re: Melanie

            I love trashy food as much as the next person, but even spanking-fresh preparation can't redeem the current FoF. I used to eat them, and I remember when the thing at least had slightly more fish than breading--enough, at least, that I could dig out a few flakes to share with my cat. Now I'll just make myself a fried crumb, tartar sauce and velveeta sandwich on a cheap, gummy bun at home if I start craving one.

            1. re: Emm

              OK, well, truth be told, I haven't actually had a filet o' fish since I was about 16 (10 years ago), save one time about a year ago at 3am after a few too many cocktails. I wasn't aware it had changed...that's a shame.

      2. Since I've got a good dialogue going from a Filet-O-Fish fanbase I'm hoping you guys can answer some questions. Here they are:

        1) Has McDonald's always used only half a slice of cheese? If so, how come?
        2) Did McDonald's change the fish they use? My girlfriend was convinced they did.
        3) Has anyone noticed a difference in the breading in recent Filet experiencing? Meaning a much thinner less crispy exterior?
        4) So the crazy amount of tartar sauce is normal?
        5) According to the box they lightly steam the bun. If they did so I could tell NO difference. Do they really steam the bun or are they just all talk?
        6) What do you do to your Filet to make it edible?

        5 Replies
        1. re: ReelMike84

          1)Yes, 1/2 slice of cheese (Dairy prices are still high)
          (they don't have the dollar double cheeseburger anymore, called the "McDouble Burger" with only one slice of cheese)http://apps.mcdonalds.com/usa/food/do...
          2) Fish is pollack (more sustainable)and one time is was cod.
          3) ?
          4) They say its one ounce of tarter sauce.
          5) Bun is supposed to be steamed
          6) I like them.

          Nutritional Information.

          1. re: monku

            i had a FOF for the first time in 15 years last weekend. the crust sucks. it's thin and uncrispy. very disappointing. i got the 2 for $3 deal. i ate 1 and threw the 2nd away.

            1. re: FattyDumplin

              15 years ago you probably weren't thrilled with it either if you waited this long to try it again.
              15 years ago it was probably cod.

              1. re: monku

                haha. nah, just started eating healthier 15 years ago because i was a porky kid. but i used to love the mcdonalds line-up: sausage egg mcmuffin, cheeseburger, fish fillet, mcnuggets, soft serve.

                going back and retrying those, the egg mcmuffin is still great, although i never realized how greasy it is and they don't toast their muffins like they used to, which is a critical element. the cheeseburger still rocks. i love shake shack but for some reason somehow i still love mcd's cheese burgers. mcnuggets - still good, love the sauces although the honey mustard is more sweet now and less tangy. softserve - way too sweet.

          2. re: ReelMike84

            Re Question 6: Ask for pickles and Big Mac sauce rather than tartar, hold the cheese. I haven't had one in a few years but when I forgot to brown-bag lunch during my days as a letter carrier, McD was one of the only authorzed lunch stops on my route and I found the fish less objectionable than the other choices.

          3. Maybe the MCD FOF isn't your thing.
            Just read a review of the Wendy's Premium Fish Filet Sandwich

            Wendy's Premium Fish Filet sandwich is made with cod encrusted with panko.
            $3.79 vs MCD FOF at $2.99 (Hartford, CT


            That's why MCD FOF Fridays is a deal at $1.29.

            1. Well written, very entertaining.

              But I grew up on them in college and still love a F-o-F once in a while.

              1 Reply
              1. re: yankeefan

                It's a familiar stand-by. I don't even associate it with fish; it's almost in a separate category, like an enlarged fish stick. It's not memorable, it's not fine dining but it's found its was into my DNA.

                Now if you're looking for actual "fish" Culver's makes a fine cod sandwich.

              2. I confess that my standard McDonald's order is a Quarter Pounder w/ Cheese and a Filet-o-Fish. They're both wonderful and horrible at the same time. Every one I've ever ordered at my local McDonald's appears to be freshly made is is always hot, juicy and the bun steamed.

                Whew....I feel better having made that confession.

                1. I haven't had one in three or four years, but, I had my own special version. I'd order two, and scrape off as much cheese as possible, and most of the tartar sauce, discard two of the bun halves, and make a "double" out of the two remaining bun halves, two fish "fillets", tartar sauce, and a minimal amount of cheese. I could of ordered a couple without cheese, but if I'm going to a fast food place, I don't wan't to wait around.

                  1. As long back as the early 80's, when I worked the grill at McDonalds, the FoF has always had the 1/2 slice. I remember cutting a stack of American cheese in half for the fish sandwiches. And there was a specialized bun steamer, which I don't know if McDonald's even has, since everything's microwaved now. I just know that the last FoF sandwich I had was disappointing compared to the memories of my youth.

                    1. Is this one of those threads where the OP attempts to somehow make people feel bad about enjoying a food item (usually fast food..or american cheese) ? (You know pretending to not know about a certain item..but really know they have disdain and guise their inquiries in a disingenuous manner).
                      Why don't you instead tell us a fish sandwich you enjoy and we can compare notes.
                      I'm not as FOF lover, but a liker. I find it a terrible value ( 3 something bucks ?)for what you get size wise and taste wise. (it's OK..not knock your socks off)
                      But I tried one recently for the new lenten price. It's a good value because usually the sandwich is not worth the regular price.
                      If I had a dollar for anytime someone said they took a bite out of item X and threw it out, couldn't finish it etc. Psst it's McDonald's. Too me it falls under.."even bad pizza is usually OK." Something to that effect. I can't remember the last time I threw something out that I was somewhat familiar of. (poor english I know).
                      I get it..seafood is not supposed to have cheese..but ever hear of a tuna melt ? It's quite popular and tasty and breaks the no/cheese rule, so don't get so worked up.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: rochfood

                        I wasn't trying to make anyone feel bad. If you like the "Filet-O-Fish" power to ya. As I said in a reply to someone else I like the "Sourdough Jack" which I know other people loathe.

                        I can honestly say I have never had a Filet-O-Fish before this experience. My write-up was merely a reflection on my first encounter with the sandwich. As for the fish sandwiches at other fast food places I've never tried them, but I'm making the rounds so I'll let you know which is my favorite when I find it. Next up will probably be Wendy's.

                        Ok, and to your last comment, about me saying "seafood is not supposed to have cheese." I didn't say that. What I said was cheese on "fried fish" rubs me the wrong way. Whether or not it's supposed to is a personal choice.

                        Yes I have heard of a tuna melt. Whenever I've encountered the sandwich though it's not heavily fried. Usually it's been grilled into a compact patty in replacement of burger meats.

                        1. re: ReelMike84


                          I LOVE the Filet o Fish, but could not agree with you more. That is my biggest pet peeve of all, fish and cheese. Should not happen. EVER.


                        2. re: rochfood

                          I was in NYC a while back for work and needed a break so I went to the nearest no-name pizza place to the hotel that was still open at midnight and grabbed a couple of slices. An elderly man entered the elevator and saw the pizza. He asked if that was a good place for pizza and I answered that I'd never had it before so I really had no idea. He smiled and said "pizza is like sex; even when it's bad it's good."

                          Pretty much sums it up.

                        3. I absolutely adore the Filet-O-Fish.

                          I once trained for a marathon by eating 5 Filet-O-Fish sandwiches a day. I was very sad when the day of the marathon arrived -- it meant no more Filet-O-Fish sandwiches ...

                          1. Here's my true story, which i posted here last year:
                            "Hi... Another true F'o F story: Scene: my rock band at Spring Break in Daytona Beach, circa 1983. One night after a gig, I passed out in my hotel bed, my face plastered to a filet 'o fish sandwich. Sometime in the middle of the night, I tugged my face free from the bed linen, with the sandwich still adhering to my face. Upon fingering the congealed fish/mass on my face and realizing that it was not a horrible disfigurement, I proceeded to peel the sandwich free from my cheek and enjoyed a pre-dawn breakfast of compressed grease and sauce sweeter than the morning dew..."