The Truth About Chick-Fil-A's Seasonal Fish Sandwich

Seasonal offerings from fast food chains are nothing new, but for many practicing Christians and fish fanatics, the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday is cause for celebration. Every year, select chains release special fish-based menu items to cater to the dietary restrictions the Lenten season places upon Christians. 

NPR suggests the reason Christians (and Catholics especially) give up meat on Fridays during this time is because they believe Jesus died on a Friday and they should honor that sacrifice by fasting. This practice of fasting can be traced as far back as the first century. During the reign of King Edward VI, who became king after the death of his infamous father King Henry VIII in 1547, fasting days became legally mandated. This was put into place by a law that read, "for worldly and civil policy, to spare flesh, and use fish, for the benefit of the commonwealth, where many be fishers, and use the trade of living." 

Many fishermen had been hurting financially, as eating fish and fasting had fallen out of vogue during King Henry VIII's reign due to the monarch's split with the Roman Catholic Church and establishment of the Church of England. Another reason for abstaining from meat also dates back to those early days of the Catholic Church, since as meat was considered a luxury at the time, going without was an act of self-discipline (via Washington Post). 

How the fish-based fast food trend got started

In an article published well before the introduction of Chick-fil-A's fish-based menu items, USA Today reported that the seasonal fish sandwich trend originated in 1962 at a McDonald's near Cincinnati, Ohio. The owner, Lou Groen, was facing slumping sales during the Lenten season due to the high number of Roman Catholics living in the area his franchise was located. Back in this time period, many Catholics abstained from eating meat every Friday of the year, and went meat-free for the entire 40-day period of Lent.

Groen saw how well another local chain, Frisch's, did with its fish sandwich during this season. He went to McDonald's chief Ray Kroc with his idea to market this sandwich, and the rest is history. Groen told the outlet, "My fish sandwich was the first addition ever to McDonald's original menu, it saved my franchise."

What goes into a Chick-fil-A fish sandwich?

According to Chick-fil-A's blog, The Chicken Wire, Chick-fil-A will offer fish on the menu at select restaurants from Wednesday, February 26 through Saturday, April 11. The article even provides a handy list of every location the sandwich and other fish-based meals will be available, so you can check to see if your local chain will have it on hand before heading over. Chick-fil-A says you can also order ahead through their app to pick up in store. 

Blog Brand Eating states that select Chick-fil-A restaurants offer two variations of the fish-based sandwich — the Traditional Fish Sandwich and the Deluxe Fish Sandwich. The Traditional Fish Sandwich contains two pieces of breaded and fried cod with tartar sauce and dill pickles on a buttered and toasted bun, and the Deluxe Fish Sandwich upgrades this with slices of tomato, lettuce, and American cheese.

Chick-fil-A notes you can also purchase the fish fillets in orders of two or three, along with a side of waffle fries. Business Insider reports the Traditional Fish Sandwich contains 370 calories, while the Deluxe Fish Sandwich has 430, with the filet two- or three-packs coming in at 190 calories for two fillets or 280 for three. The fish sandwich could be a healthier option for eaters than the traditional Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich, which Chick-fil-A's nutritional guide lists as containing 440 calories.

Chick-fil-A's fish sandwich might just be the best fish sandwich available — if you can find it

Last year, USA Today reported the price of the Traditional Fish Sandwich began at $3.35, the Deluxe Fish Sandwich at $4.15. The box meals started at $3.09 for two fillets with waffle fries, or $4.59 for three plus waffle fries. The brand joined other fast food companies offering fish options for the first time in 2016, joking that the news of a seasonal menu for it's customers looking for an alternative to chicken is "fin-tastic". Chick-fil-A's fish sandwich is getting great reviews, with Catholic News Agency claiming the only cons are that the fish offerings are not available at every location and that they are made to order, which means they are very fresh but you also have to wait a bit longer than when placing an order for a chicken dish.

The Catholic News Agency also ranked Chick-fil-A No. 1 among the fast food chains offering fish during lent, and gave the Traditional Fish Sandwich 5 out of 5 fishes.