Review: Old Bay Filet-O-Fish from McDonald’s

The Filet-O-Fish has been on the menu for 50 years and if you happen to live in Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C., Delaware, or West Virginia, you might come across the new Old Bay Filet-O-Fish which will be available in 700 restaurants on Monday.  I found my Old Bay Filet-O-Fish early and as a native Marylander, I couldn’t pass up a taste and a GrubGrade review.

Old Bay Filet-O-Fish 1The Old Bay Filet-O-Fish is your standard Filet-O-Fish sandwich, but the tartar sauce is flavored with Old Bay seasoning.  So I’ll take the classic Filet-O-Fish description from the McDonald’s website and make the minor change:

Dive right in and enjoy our wild-caught fish from our sustainable fishery, topped with melty American cheese, creamy Old Bay flavored tartar sauce and served on a soft, steamed bun.

Unfamiliar with Old Bay seasoning?  It’s a seasoning mix produced in Maryland that is mainly used on crabs and shrimp… but some people will put it on anything.  

Old Bay Filet-O-Fish 2Plucked from the Old Bay website, this probably says it best:

There are two things you need to know about OLD BAY® Seasoning: 1) it’s great on seafood and 2) it’s great on everything else. For 75 years it’s ruled the spice rack as The Definitive Seafood Spice, with a world-famous blend of 18 herbs and spices. In Chesapeake Bay area, it’s on every dining room table, nestled between the salt and pepper shakers. But it’s more than that. It’s a time-honored tradition. When somebody whips out the little yellow can, you know you’re in for a good time.

To me, Old Bay is synonymous with crabs.  Other than crabs I’ll dabble with Old Bay seasoned potato chips and the occasional summer potato salad.  I’m by no means crazy about Old Bay yet I enjoy it occasionally with the right food and environment.  Taking the traditional taste of a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish and spicing up the tartar sauce with Old Bay made for an entirely different flavor experience.

Old Bay Filet-O-Fish 3Old Bay is so distinctive and pungent that all the ingredients that make up a Filet-O-Fish really take a back seat to the seasoning.  The Filet-O-Fish is simple with tame flavors that will be hard to notice with Old Bay flavored tartar sauce in the picture.  So the bottomline is… how much do you love Old Bay?  The seasoning consists of celery seed, mustard, red pepper flakes, black pepper, bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, paprika, cloves, allspice, ginger, mace… a few others I’m sure… and it all comes together to make a peppery, mildly spicy blend that transforms the creamy tartar sauce to basically creamy Old Bay sauce.

Old Bay Filet-O-Fish 4I guess it’s also appropriate to ask… how much do you love the classic Filet-O-Fish?  Once Old Bay flavored tartar sauce is in the picture, you’ve got an entirely different flavor experience.  For me, while the novelty of a regional style of Filet-O-Fish is cool, I’d much rather be in control of the experience and maybe have an optional Old Bay tartar dipping sauce.  I would definitely be in favor of an Old Bay dipping sauce for fries.  Just like how I mentioned not being too crazy about Old Bay, the same can be said about the Filet-O-Fish.  The breaded square patty isn’t too fishy, decent amount of interior moisture and a very light breading crunch. It’s an average fast food fish sandwich to me and I can’t personally say Old Bay made it any better or worse as it all depends on how much you like the seasoned tartar sauce. The 6.00/10 overall GrubGrade score I gave 6 years ago would have remained unchanged if not for the bad value. The Old Bay Filet-O-Fish and classic Filet-O-Fish are priced the same and it’s not pretty.  Priced at $4.29 for the sandwich alone, and $5.29 if you want a double fish patty.  This is a small sandwich, a grand total of 5 ounces… slightly smaller than the McChicken which is on the Dollar Menu & More menu.

Old Bay Filet-O-Fish 5I enjoy the Filet-O-Fish on occasion if I can find it at a promo price under 2 bucks.  The truth of it is that in comparison to places like Arby’s and Wendy’s, the Filet-O-Fish isn’t anywhere close.  It’s a decent fast food fish sandwich that still gets those nostalgia points, but there are better options out there.  I think regional flavors with limited availability is pretty cool so grab the Old Bay Filet-O-Fish if you’re in the area.  There’s just not enough going on with it to make me want to be a repeat buyer at the current price.

Pros: Unique. Regional McDonald's products available in my neighborhood. The steamed bun. Old Bay tartar sauce dominates the flavor... if you love Old Bay, you'll like it.

Cons: $4.29 for a lightweight fish sandwich is grossly overpriced. If you're a big fan of the original Filet-O-Fish taste, you won't find it here. Half-slice of American cheese is even less effective in the Old Bay version of the Filet-O-Fish.

Taste: 6.25/10
Value: 2.75/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 7.50/10
Price: $4.29

Overall GrubGrade: 5.50/10

More Info:
Nutrition Facts:
420 calories

32 comments on “Review: Old Bay Filet-O-Fish from McDonald’s

  1. Mike N. says:

    I just had the 2/$5 Arby’s fish sandwiches last night; $4.29 is crazy, even given the D.C. area premium. FWIW, I keep Old Bay around to season salmon filets. One can of Old Bay lasts me for years.

  2. Todd says:

    I have to disagree with you again. I have tried the fish sandwiches from Arbys, Wendys, Burger King,etc. None of them compare to McDonalds fish sandwich. I love it. I agree that it is too expensive. With that out of the way when I first saw the picture of the box I thought there was a little container of Old Bay glued to the box so customers could apply to suit their taste.

    • Jay says:

      The old school mcdonalds filet-o-fish was exceptional. Block of frozen fish, freshly fried, on a steamed bun with a caulking gun shot of tarter sauce (hold the cheese please).

      Damn it was good.

      This current bastard of a held product? No thanks. It’s not even close to what it use to be.

      • Todd says:

        Maybe it isn’t what it used to be (although it tastes the same to me), but I still vote for McD over the other fast food places. It is embarrassing how much fast food I eat and I have tried most everything out there once, but I never go back to the other places fish sandwiches. And I swear that Old Bay label looks almost 3D to me. Is it a sticker? or printed on there?

  3. Jay says:

    I do love some old bay seasoning. It reminds me of my youth in the 70’s when we use to go out to back-bay in the sandbridge area of va beach.

    We would get out early with chicken necks tied to strings and wade out into the waters, catching fresh blue crabs as we went until we filled a bushel basket.

    Then back to the house to steam them with a ton of old bay. Toss them onto a picnic table and dig in with the both hands and a nutcracker, enjoying the cooling beverage of your choice to take some of the old bay heat down a notch.

    Those were good times.

    I would eat that sandwich but it’s not worth more then $1.99

  4. MP says:

    Personally, I love the Filet-o-Fish as is, but there’s a reason why I haven’t had one in 12 years – price & inconsistency. In the same bag, I’ve had ones where the breading was thin as paper while another was 1/4″ thick & hard as a rock. It was that combo of that mild tartar sauce, cheese, crunchy breading & soft bun that was delicious. But bites without all of this was generally lackluster. Nobody else has a steamed bun like that or that same tartar sauce (I’m obsessed with tartar sauce & I love McDonald’s version).
    I grew up eating Old Bay in the Midwest from having it on baked fish. I always thought of it as that “salty orange stuff” and sure enough, the first ingredient is celery salt. To me, it tastes like salty paprika.

  5. Sascha says:

    Wow, $4.29 for the worst fish in the business? I can buy 4 Rally’s fish sandwiches for that. I would like to try the Old Bay difference if I lived in a market for it, but again, not for $4.29. I really did kind of like the fish bites McDonald’s had, though.

    • scram says:

      I thought the Fish McBites were awesome. Whereas their Chicken McBites were all breading-no chicken, the Fish McBites were all fish-light breading. It was juicy and flavorful. It was a great product that didn’t catch on.

  6. scram says:

    I love getting a McD’s Fish Filet from time to time. It’s nothing fancy, but I think for what it is, it’s good. I know it’s a small thing, but I like the steamed buns. I’ve tried the other fast food place’s fish sandwich and always came away underwhelmed. None (including Mcdonalds) are spectacular, but I enjoy theirs more, especially since it’s paired with the best fries in the business.

  7. Jonathan Wayne says:

    Full disclosure, I love the McDonald’s fish sandwich, it is one of my guilty pleasures, but I almost never buy it because it is massively overpriced, I don’t even really consider it fish. I will breakdown and buy it about once every 4 months or so or get it on a deal. I think the bun and the sauce are what do it for me, they just work so well together. I love Old Bay also, but not sure how well it would work with this sandwich, I guess I will just have to try it.

  8. Kevin K. says:

    I can understand tradition and all, but I’ve never thought the Filet-O-Fish was that great, even when I worked there in High school and could get them for free. Now that I’m an adult, it’s incomprehensible to me how McDonald’s thinks this sandwich is worth $4+ when (IMO) Wendy’s and Arby’s sell larger and superior fish sandwiches for less. That’s even amplified when you take into account that Arby’s has 2 for $5 fish sandwiches in my area. I even have BOGO Filet-O-Fish coupons, and I think I’d still take the Arby’s deal over that. Just my opinion though.

  9. Justin ST says:

    So, why couldn’t you just pop some Old Bay on your Filet o Fish and be done with it anywhere else?

  10. Steven T says:

    Questions I know that won’t be answered but I will keep wondering about, why is there only a half slice of cheese on it and why is the cheese on the bottom? All promo pictures have it on the top and even on the box it’s on the top. I’m guessing due to somebody messing up in making the instructions the cheese get put there now and nobody dares question it as they want to make the process as routine and robotic as possible.

    • Todd says:

      That is hilarious. I never noticed that. If it was served the way it is pictured it may be more of mess than it currently is. Cheese on the bottom glues the fish to the bread.

  11. Richard says:

    Old Bay Filet-O-Fish which will be available in 700 restaurants on Monday!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

    That should be nationwide.

  12. Ray says:

    Yep, i agree, this sandwich is no more than $1.99.

  13. alek says:

    Why they don’t do the old bay seasoning in the filet itself? I don’t live around the area selling old bay filet-o-fish but old bay is everywhere. I could had taken old bay itself sprinkle on my sandwich and call it a day.

  14. Jaime says:

    I haven’t had a Filet-O-Fish for over 15 years and something like this has me tempted to try one. Now I wouldn’t be too shocked that the price markup comes from the cost of the licensing deal with McCormick to get that Old Bay logo on the box. Full disclosure, I keep a can of old bay in my desk at work, cause you just never know when you may need some.

  15. JJ says:

    What a boring, bland looking overpriced sandwich this is, even with the Old Bay seasoning (whatever that is-west coaster here). Fish sandwiches like this is why Mcdonalds is floundering. Get it? I made a fish joke there.

  16. Mike says:

    What’s all this about the supposedly expensive price? Filet-O-Fish where I live is being sold two for $4.00, not $4.29 for one. And I think personally it’s a great sandwich. (I’m no talking abou the Old Bay version, which is not available in my area.) I know people that would not order anything else at McDonalds but love the Filet-O-Fish. While it would never have occured to me to put American cheese on fried fish, having tried it I think it’s a marriage made in heaven! My only peeve is that it seems like a majority of McDonalds restaurants serve it on regular hamburger buns instead of the special bun that goes so well with it.

  17. patrick says:

    His price must be a typo. They’re offering the Old Bay Fillet-O-Fish for 2 for $4.

  18. Robert says:

    McDonald’s gets a bad rap due to their awful beef. But the McFish absolutely stands with the best fish sandwiches in fast food. The steamed bun, the hint of cheese, and the lightest breading of them all. They’re just too expensive to order with frequency.

    • scram says:

      While I agree with everything you said about the Filet-O-Fish, my tastebuds must disagree with you on your beef assessment, as I’m tearing a Triple Cheesburger a new one as I type this. Bada-bop-bop- bah

  19. Yeats says:

    I will admit that I am a New Englander and I find fast food fish to be repugnant but at least a little more honest about what it is than Red Lobster. But living in LA and having my fried fish options winnowed down to almost nothing else, I have been reduced to feeding the occasional craving with BK, Wendy’s and even Jack in the Box. Tried them all on multiple occasions. I have to tell you, I found all of them far superior to the Filet-o-Fish from McDonald’s. I consider it the bottom of the fast food fish barrel. However, the fact they are testing an Old Bay seasoning option might force me to try it with an open mind.

  20. Mike says:

    So the only thing that separates it from the standard is some Old Bay enhanced sauce? For a higher price, I’d expect the seasoning to be incorporated into the breading of the fish.

    • Mike says:

      I don’t think it is being sold for a higher price than the regular sandwich. It’s just that the price of the sandwich varies from store to store. Where I live they’re running a promotion in which you get two Filet-O-Fish sandwiches for $4.00. There are some stores, apparently, where the Old Bay version is subject to that same deal.

  21. Renee says:

    I tried it today. My location only had it as a double, no single, which is really odd but whatever.

    I love Old Bay so for me the taste is 10\10 honestly. I really wish they had done old bay fries as well but I have my own for that. The price is terrible though. $7.50 for a fast food meal is too damn much for me.

  22. Anthony says:

    The McDonalds near me in San Diego sell Filet o Fish for $1.49 on Fridays. Been doing that for the past year and I love it. Full price, they are over-expensive.

  23. Sharon says:

    Just curious can one get a filet of fish with regular tartar sauce?

  24. Sharon says:

    I personally like McDonalds filet o fish just the way it is.

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