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Beef Over Fish: Jeopardy question sparks Cincinnati fish sandwich debate

CINCINNATI, OH (WKRC) – It’s the first day of Lent and, later this week, thousands of people across the Tri-State will be heading to fish frys.

Or maybe you get your sandwich from someplace else. Questions like "Which is best?" and "Who made it first?" have put Cincinnati at the forefront of a national debate.

Tuesday’s Final Jeopardy just might have sparked the decades-old debate again. The question stated: "This sandwich was first sold in 1962 as an attempt to give the many Catholics of Cincinnati something to eat on Fridays during Lent."

The response from all three contestants: the Filet-O-Fish from McDonald's.

That response didn’t sit well with one "big boy" in Cincinnati. Frisch’s fired off a tweet at Jeopardy: "What is Cincinnati’s own Frisch’s Big Boy, who created the Fish Sandwich in 1947?"

The tweet got social media talking.

“We just want to have a little fun, kind of self-correct Jeopardy as smart people as they are. We want to let them know we’re doing a little fact-checking on our end,” said Frisch’s president and CEO, Jason Vaughn. "We just wanted everyone to know where it started, where the best one is and make everybody aware of it. "

Yes, Frisch’s was first. Sixteen years later, Lou Groen, the owner of the McDonald's in Monfort Heights, made one of his own.

"Frisch's had a fish sandwich on Fridays that was loved in the area, and, of course, my grandfather was losing his shirt on Fridays, so he went up to Chicago and met with Ray Kroc,” said Erica Shadoin.

Shadoin is the granddaughter of Groen. Today, she and the family still own and operate 24 McDonald’s locations.

The sandwich was a hit on the west side and it the fried fish patty, steamed bun, half slice of cheese and tartar sauce became a hit internationally.

"The Filet-O-Fish is an iconic sandwich,” said Shadoin. "Westsiders in Cincinnati really appreciate it with all the history, you know, having Catholic roots. But it’s become an iconic sandwich not just in Cincinnati or the west side, but all over the world."

Today, both restaurants highlight their fish sandwiches during Lent. There are other chains that have fish sandwiches too, but let's be honest, no one else is reeling in guests for the filet like these two.

"We sell close to 40,000 every week during Lent. So, it’s a lot of fish,” said Vaughn.

Frisch’s is also introducing a plant-based sandwich this Lent called the Impossible Big Boy and shrimp and grits.


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