The 12 Absolute Best Fish Sandwiches In The US

As spring marks the return of sunshine, warm weather, and flowers, a just as meaningful return is the return of the fish sandwich for the Lenten season. Arguably the most ubiquitous of fast-food sandwiches is the Filet-O-Fish. First conceptualized in Ohio by Lou Groen, this beer-battered delight was first floated onto the menu to combat low hamburger sales during Lent (via the Smithsonian). Now some 60 years after Groen's initial recipe, this golden battered flaky delight has become much more than a Friday tradition; it is not only sold year-round, but has become a pop culture icon, inspired countless recipes and even good-natured feuds.

Even though fast food restaurants might be the first thing that come to mind when talking about fish sandwiches, there's a vast diversity and tradition to fish sandwiches beyond quick eats. There is no one definition as to what makes a proper fish sandwich, other than say, fish, and bread. With a culinary tradition as large and as creative as that in the States, there is an endless variety of sandwiches and sandwich locales; from the coasts to the interior and the South, from upscale restaurants to diners, delis, and fish shacks and from deep-fried to freshly grilled and glazed. There are certainly many ways to scale a fish and even more ways to enjoy them.

Fried Fish Sandwich at Bridgetown Finer Meats - Cincinnati

There is no better place to start than where it all began. While Ohio was the birthplace of the modern-day Filet-O-Fish, the fish fry is still a major part of the Lenten season in the Buckeye state. Among the sea of Friday fish fries (try saying that three times fast), a good place to hunker down is the Bridgetown Finer Meats in Cincinnati.

Located on its namesake road, Bridgetown comes off very unassumingly: a small one-stop deli for prime meats, fresh produce, and maybe some flowers and wine for a romantic dinner. Don't be fooled, this is all a part of the all-American butcher's charm! According to Yelp, reviewers rave that Bridgetown offers the "MOAF": the mother of all fish sandwiches (via Yelp). 

Fitting to its old-school vibe, Bridgetown offers a classic fish fry: rich beer-battered haddock filet served in a more than generous portion, topped with lettuce, tomato, and pickles and your choice of bread, though you can't go wrong with rye. Be sure to order with Bridgetown's tangy homemade jalapeño tartar sauce and maybe a side of their beloved mac n' cheese. When in town, you can even skip the line and order online! Do be careful though, ever true to tradition, the restaurant only offers its fish fry on Friday; so make sure to order early and come hungry.

Lake Trout Sandwich at Sal and Son's Seafood - Baltimore

Not really trout, not really from the lake, and not even really from Maryland, lake trout sandwiches persist however as a Baltimore staple. Lake trout sandwiches became a Baltimore delicacy in the 1920s, probably at first due to its affordability (via the Baltimore Sun). In the last hundred years, the once cheap sandwich has continued to be enjoyed by many.

A proper lake trout sandwich is prepared by breading a large Atlantic whiting filet in cornmeal or cracker meal and flash-frying it to a golden brown. Hungry customers are served a golden brown filet between two slabs of white bread and often pair it with a generous amount of hot sauce to add a sharp contrast to the otherwise mild flavor.

Back in the day, lake trout sandwiches were predominantly found at mom and pop corner shops and roadside eateries, today, more often than not, you'll find lake trout served in a wide variety of restaurants (via the New York Times). It doesn't get much more fresh though than at the Sal and Son's Seafood, located in Baltimore's historic Broadway Market. Despite the historical location, Sal and Son's remains trendy and opts for a bar-like set-up, where diners can enjoy a relaxed dining setting. This beloved Baltimore establishment is hardly a secret, as many locals happily come back for the fresh seafood and good prices, and of course, hip location (via Yelp).

Blackened Salmon Sandwich at Fred's Meat & Bread - Atlanta

The Atlanta food scene is one of the most dynamic, cutting-edge, and flavorful in the States, it comes as no surprise that a seriously tasty dish from the ATL must be included among the best of the best. Located at the Krog Street Market Food Hall, a trendy take on a classic mall food court, the blackened tuna sandwich from Fred's Meat and Bread is put simply: to die for.

Despite being located amidst countless other hip food stalls, Fred's Meat and Bread is as Bon Appétit described, impossible to not hit up. Fred's Meat and Bread does not try to reinvent the wheel, actually in contrast to the venue's trendy digs, Fred's turns back to high-quality classic sandwiches and even sodas, and then adds a slightly modern twist. 

This method seems to have the magic, as Fred's Meat and Bread has gathered many foodie fans and even amassed well over 16,000 Instagram followers. Though the stall's much raved about the Catfish Po'boy is no longer on the menu, their Blackened Salmon Sandwich offers just as fishy a thrill. ​Served with avocado, red onion, and arugula, this dish is sure to hit the cravings of those who want to as one reviewer suggests, "[...] Get a sandwich. Have an old-fashioned soda. Feel fancy." (via Foursquare).

Catfish Po'Boy at Olde Tyme Grocery - Lafayette, Lousiana

If you are still hankering for a fish po'boy, there's just about no place better than Louisiana. This "poor boy" sandwich, which was first made in the early 20th century to feed strikers, started out in New Orleans and has since taken the state and nation by storm. While there are many good spots to enjoy this tried and true Southern staple, it would be a crime not to mention Olde Tyme Grocery.

Some 135 miles outside of New Orleans in the small city of Lafayette, Olde Tyme Grocery is actually a small roadside joint with a large pull, even receiving a full feature in Southern Living. This two-generation family-run eatery delivers down-home charm with its red and white checkered floors and walls that are dappled with license plates and children's drawings. Olde Tyme is tiny but mighty, and more than doubles its staff and production for Lent, offering poor boys with different seafood fillings to throngs of new and old fans alike. 

When given the chance, be sure to order a catfish poorboy. When a seasoned fried and buttery catfish is paired with Olde Tyme's fresh, crunchy yet soft french bread, it doesn't get more Louisiana than that! Beware, similar to most fish fries Olde Tyme Grocery only offers fried catfish on Fridays.

Tuna Melt at B&H Dairy Kosher Restaurant - New York City

Tuna melts are, according to Taste Cooking, undeniably New York and a staple of American cuisine. For those who are unfamiliar, a tuna melt is a bold and heavy sandwich made from a mix of tuna salad, dill pickles, celery, lettuce, and cheddar and, of course, served warm and gooey. While allegedly first concocted in Charleston, tuna melts have made a home for themselves in chilly New York as the ultimate comfort food.

Unfortunately, since the start of the pandemic, the Big Apple has seen the fall of giants like Odessa diner, which doesn't mean that the city's best tuna melt still isn't out there. In fact, it might have been here for a long time. A little off the beaten path, but whose deep green storefront is impossible to miss, is B&H Dairy Kosher Restaurant

The classic restaurant, which was first opened in 1938, is one of New York City's oldest remaining kosher dairy lunch counters. Though the octogenarian restaurant has opted to keep its classic interior and iconic green storefront, it offers a tuna melt, that looks like it could as well just be served in a hipster café. B&H serves the sandwich with a smoked whitefish salad pressed with gooey cheddar and between two fluffy slices of challah, which makes for an "abundant and joyful and perfect" melt (via Taste). 

Blackened Salmon Sandwich at the Market Grill - Seattle

A haven for fresh seafood, it's not hard to find good saltwater eats in the rainy city. Pike Place Market, with its bright red sign that cuts through the otherwise gray Seattle sky acts as a beacon for seafood connoisseurs from all around. What started out at the turn of the century as a farmer's market is today one of Seattle's biggest attractions. The so-called "soul of Seattle" boasts a bold combination of food stalls that highlight the best of Seattle's vast culinary scene.

Among the market's smorgasbord of goodies, is the Market Grill. First opened in 1996, and as seen on the Travel Channel's "Delicious Destinations", the Market Grill has long been a key addition to the bustling marketplace. Despite its enormous reputation, the grill keeps its goal surprisingly simple: to deliver on the best salmon sandwich that it can. The small food stall hones in on this through one key mantra: to "keep it wild" -– the salmon, that is! Market Grill brings in fresh wild-caught salmon daily and delivers it blackened to hungry foodies with caramelized onions, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and a slight twist with a rosemary mayo. 

Salmon has long been a staple of the Pacific North West and perhaps the key to its success is Market Grills's tunnel-like focus on doing (or in this case, grilling) one thing and doing it well. For a quintessential bite of Seattle, look no further.

Salmon Cheesesteak at the District Fishwife - Washington D.C.

Far outside the classic fish sandwiches is the District Fishwife's innovative salmon cheesesteak, which truly pushes it to a new level. Whoever said fish and cheese don't go together should take a second look and take a second bite. First founded in 2013 by Australian chef Fiona Lewis as a way of combating homesickness for fresh and sustainable seafood (via elevationDC), today the establishment looks to deliver fresh, sustainable, and creative bites. Australian-style cocktails and fresh sea urchins are some of the tamer things behind the counter.

Located in Washington D.C.'s famous Union Market, the District Fishwife is perhaps at its most controversial with its coastal reimagination of the iconic Philly cheesesteak. Toeing the line between heavy and light, the small operation opts to grill its salmon and pair it with a white provolone cheese in lieu of the typical orange cheddar goo that tops a traditional cheesesteak. A light lime crema works to further bridge the pink fish to the cheese and create a delicate, if not refreshing, balancing act. A thick hoagie bun ensures that the gooey sandwich stays put, at least for the most, part. 

No matter how much you change the ingredients, a cheesesteak is going to be a messy undertaking. Despite (or perhaps because?) of the mess, one devoted fan describes the sandwich as "rich, and full of everything you ever dreamed of" (via Yelp).

Walleye Sandwich at the Tavern on Grand - Saint Paul, Minnesota

Minnesota is probably not the first place that comes to mind when thinking of seafood, but the land of 10,000 lakes certainly has its own unique freshwater dishes. Among the local fish, the walleye or yellow pike, remains one of the most beloved Minnesotan catches. A fried walleye sandwich is crucial to Minnesotan cuisine and something that should be enjoyed when given the chance. Similar to other fish sandwiches on the list, walleye sandwiches are prepared by first breading and then pan-frying in bubbling oil. The golden filet is then served on a loaf of French bread with lettuce, tomato, with a smattering of tartar sauce.

It's not hard to find a bar, grill, and fish stand, that serves up this regional sandwich, but the Tavern on Grand is certainly one of the best places to get some walleye. Located in the state capital of St. Paul, this classic pub not only serves up this beloved white fish but almost exclusively only serves up walleye. 

The menu offers walleye in a multitude of forms: battered in coconut, served up on a skillet with egg, as a fishcake, or a taco. The real go-to sandwich here is the walleye sandwich, which is served on ciabatta, grilled, blackened, or fried. Just as a rose by another name is just as sweet, a walleye prepared in either way is just as yummy. 

The O.G. Sandwich at the Big Water Fish Market - Siesta Key, Florida

Florida is a sunny place where there is no shortage of fresh catches. Among the countless fruits of the sea, grouper has remained a touchstone of gulf coast dishes and fittingly claimed space at many Florida barbecues and restaurants alike. Unique to the warm gulf waters, grouper fish have a mild flavor, yet sweet, taste and are often served blackened or grilled.

A great place to enjoy this local delicacy is at Siesta Key's Big Water Fish Market, which is tucked away in a small shopping center on the southern half of the key. Auspiciously opened on 11/11/11 the Big Water Fish Market, which also functions as a retail fish seller, has delighted diners with its no-frill casual dining ever since. Don't get it twisted though, its laid back atmosphere is all a part of the charm! Reviewers find the atmosphere just as fresh and as vibrant as the food (via Yelp).

The Big Water Fish Market actually only offers fresh catches and closes its doors whenever the catches of the day have sold out. But, as long as the open sign is on, fresh seafood is to be enjoyed! Properly listed under the "The O.G. Sandwich", the blackened grouper remains a noted classic and where this whole undertaking began. True to form, the O.G. can be ordered blackened or grilled and is always served on a fluffy brioche roll.

Fried Codfish Sandwich at Bet's Fish Fry - Boothbay, Maine

It's no secret that Maine is a seafood mecca. At the tippy-top of New England, the world is your oyster ... and lobster tail ... and fish chips ... and cod. In fact, cod is served best in any form in Maine, but especially as a fried cod sandwich.

In a state where there's great food around every corner, Bet's Fish Fry is a surprising standout. Just an hour north of the better-known Portland, Maine in the sleepy maritime town of Boothbay is a small shack with a mighty big reputation. Bet's Fish Fry is a small operation whose whimsically painted bright blue murals of fish and mermaids welcome visitors to the shack's laidback vibe. The menu (also a hand-painted sign) focuses on delivering fresh catches and large portions.

Those few (for the time being) who do know about Bet's Fish Fry can only sing its praises. Even those who complain of long lines and little cocktail sauce quickly follow-up saying that the wait was worth the fresh and high-quality fish (via Yelp)! Keep portions in mind, a large sandwich contains about a pound of haddock, so make sure to come with an appetite or someone to enjoy your dish. Unless you want to order a half sandwich, though some still say it's enough to share. Whether alone or together, it's a real treat to take in the shack's bright blue picnic tables and lounge underneath their umbrellas as you chow down.

Snyder's Famous Fish Sandwich at the Snyder's Bonfire - Leechburg, Pennsylvania

Maine isn't the only place where good fish sandwiches can be found. Even in the most off-the-beaten-path of places, there is always good food to be enjoyed. Some 30 miles outside of Pittsburgh lies the Snyder's Bonfire, a restaurant whose reputation precedes it. Serving a fish fry of behemoth proportions, around a pound per order, this sandwich has been praised as well worth the journey (via Tribune Live).

What makes Snyder's sandwich so good? Maybe it's the heftiness of the portions first, indeed it's hard not to notice just how big this fish filet is! But beyond the initial shock, it's the quality of this dish that really keeps devoted diners coming back (via Yelp). Family-owned and operated by the Snyder family, the restaurant has offered hand-breaded cod at affordable prices for over 40 years. Setting it apart from other fried fish sandwiches, the Snyder sandwich is served with a bit of cheese and a homemade sweet pickle spread on a fresh loaf of bread.

The warm atmosphere of Snyder's only adds to the charm: wooden walls adorned with photos, flags, and other Americana as well as large windows that overlook the road, invite patrons to come in and stay a little while.

Nessie at SuperNatural Sandwiches - San Diego

A compilation of the best fish sandwiches would simply be incomplete without mentioning San Diego's SuperNatural Sandwiches. SuperNatural Sandwiches was founded in 2012 with the idea that fresh seafood should not be reserved for special occasions, and should always be served "sea to sandwich". Most dishes strive to combine elements of local seafood with fresh ingredients such as kimchi, bacon, and goat cheese, all of which are also sourced from the San Diego area. To keep up with the joint's one-of-a-kind name, all sandwiches are named after Greek mythology: the Siren and Neptune are only some of their creations. 

Don't be mistaken, SuperNatural does not need a gimmick to sell its sandwiches. From the bread to the add-ons and toppings, everything combines in perfect harmony to create a truly stellar concoction. It's no surprise that SuperNatural has collected accolades like San Diego's Best Sandwich Award. 

A particular standout among the greats? The Nessie: a sandwich that combines the catch of the day with a unique miso-glaze and served on bread. SuperNatural is not a secret though and this eatery which only sells sandwiches is garnering some well-earned attention. It's not so uncommon, especially on the weekends, to see a line going out the door. But, the wait is well worth it to either enjoy these sandwiches inside under the restaurant's mural or under the bright San Diego sun. After all, all good things come to those who wait.