Round 5: Burger King vs Runza

The tournament so far: Introduction | Local Qualifier | Regional Qualifier | Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4

My apologies for the tardiness of this update. There’s actually a stupidly simple explanation — I keep my notebook in the chest pocket of my winter jacket, the weather has been nice, and so all these times when I think about writing this, I find myself somewhere without my notes.

Before I get into this round too much, I want to talk about a pattern I noticed. Consistently, throughout every round of this tournament, the sandwich I have eaten at lunch has defeated the sandwich I’ve eaten at dinner (with the sort-of-exception of the controversial Round 1, when I ate both sandwiches at lunch, in which case the sandwich I ate first defeated the sandwich I ate second). Bronco’s beat Don & Millie’s; Runza beat Culver’s; Bronco’s beat Burger King; Runza beat Wendy’s; Hardee’s beat McDonald’s; Arby’s beat Long John Silver’s. All of the winners were eaten first.

I’ve come up with some theories as to why this might be.
1. By the second sandwich, I’m sick of fish, and I end up taking it out on whichever sandwich I ate last.
2. All of these fish sandwiches are bad, but I really only know that for a fact based on the sandwich I’m eating at the time. The sandwich from several hours ago has had a chance to sweeten in my memories.
3. I have my subconscious favorites, and since I am more excited about eating those, I go at them first.
4. Total coincidence.

I became aware of this pattern on Friday morning, so I started second-guessing my eating plans. Originally, I was planning on going to Runza for lunch and Burger King for dinner, but I decided to switch it up. For one, based on this pattern, I kind of wanted to deliberately handicap Runza. I feel like it has kind of coasted through the first few rounds. At the same time, Burger King had a terrible first showing that really wasn’t its fault. So since I was aware of the pattern, I felt like putting Burger King first was, at the very least, the more interesting option. The other reasons for switching really had nothing to do with the tournament, but I’ll share anyway so that this doesn’t seem like it was done solely to manipulate the outcome — I like to read over my lunch break, and Burger King has booths while Runza does not. So it’s more comfortable to take your sweet time at BK. I was also heading out of town that evening, and I wanted to make decent time, so sitting in an uncomfortable Runza chair would hopefully ensure that I didn’t dillydally.

The BK Big Fish
I cannot emphasize this enough — do not get the cilantro lime BK Big Fish. It is a disaster of a sandwich. It’s soggy and sloppy and, since I apparently couldn’t figure this out in time, IT’S A FAST FOOD FISH SANDWICH THAT TASTES LIKE CILANTRO AND LIME.

Since I’m on the topic of things that should be obvious based on the sandwich name, the BK Big Fish is so big. It’s also cheap — $3.99 for a combo, which is among the cheapest I’ve found. It’s got nice creamy tartar and a large, square fillet. The tartar makes the sandwich a little slippery — there is definitely some lateral structural deficiency. It’s got a very unique breading about it. It manages to be darker brown and crispy while still seeming light and not overly fried and crustified. I’ve figured out that there seems to be a direct relationship between how superfried something is and the intensity of gutrot. This is unfortunate, as I do enjoy the superfried taste, but I’m learning to be a bit wary of it.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic. The BK Big Fish is a solid sandwich — good taste, well-built, inexpensive — and I really wish I would’ve done this right the first time around.

Runza Fish Sandwich
One thing that I think I’ve failed to mention so far is that I’ve been making an effort to try different locations whenever possible. I don’t want the success of a particular sandwich to be based on one location in the chain that happens to be doing it right if there’s another location elsewhere that’s screwing it up. I consider this to be a fast food fish sandwich version of “Anyone can have a bad day.”

So I mentioned already that I saved Runza for dinner. The Runza nearest to my house closed recently, so I went to the next-closest one on my way out of town. I went to the door to find it locked, and the employee inside pointed to a sign on the door that showed the dining room closes at 5:30. I became annoyed with Runza.

My last chance to get Runza without going out of my way or without delaying the meal was in Nebraska City. By the time I reached Nebraska City, I was in a blizzard, could barely see the road and had 30 miles left. So I stopped and had dinner.

Basically I think what I’m doing here is sharing a lot of useless information because I have run out of ways to say “Runza has a really great fish sandwich.”

The Verdict
Here’s the thing. As I sat down to eat my Runza fish sandwich, I thought about the lunchtime bias. I wondered if Runza would suffer the same fate as all previous dinner sandwiches. And then I took the first bite and immediately remembered why this sandwich has had such an easy time.

When you eat a BK Big Fish, it’s a pretty tasty and satisfying fast food fish sandwich, but each bite ends up as this amalgamation of the layers. It’s some kind of gestalty fish sandwich, in which the whole is no longer recognizable as the sum of its parts.

But that’s not how the Runza Fish Sandwich is. When you bite into that, you taste fluffy bun, sweet tartar, gently melted cheese and lightly fried fish fillet. You taste them each separately. You appreciate the ingredients on their own, and they’re worth appreciating!

Ladies and gentlemen — the first sandwich to qualify for The Last Supper on April 2nd is the Runza Fish Sandwich!

6 Responses to Round 5: Burger King vs Runza

  1. Eric says:

    “The Last Supper. . . .” now that’s funny. Your most captivating post yet.

  2. Julie says:

    So does the Last Supper come before of after Good Friday, Better Art?

    I’ve got to hand it to you, Neal. I don’t know how you aren’t getting sick of fish sandwiches right now.

    neal replied:

    1. The Last Supper will immediately precede Good Friday, Better Art.
    2. I am soooooooooooo sick of fish sandwiches.

    Julie replied:

    I’m telling you, Neal– fish fry tour next year. Think of all the variables– beverages offered, side dishes, length of wait in line, prices, fish quality… it’s a ton of fun.

  3. jxzb says:


  4. [...] Oh yes — Friday, April 2 is also the Last Supper for the Lent 2010 Fast Food Fish Sandwich Tournament. The final round is between Hardee’s, which I’ll have for lunch, and Runza, which [...]

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