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The landing of Jollibee, a Filipino fast food chain, in Woodside, Queens, practically inspired riots of joy. In the first few weeks, lines snaked around the block, as documented on Serious Eats. Jollibee is apparently wildly popular in the Philippines, where there are about a thousand branches (the company also owns Chowking and Delifrance) and you can find Jollibee in six other countries, such as Brunei, China and Vietnam. There are several Jollibees on the West Coast, but this is the first East Coast branch.
Today for lunch the place was pretty crowded, but there wasn’t much of a line. Above, you can see that the freaky little chef-bee was grinning down on a more sedate street scene. Semi-related: the bee’s name is Jollibee, and he/she has his/her own television show in the Philippines.
Jollibee does American-style fast food with a Filipino bent. So: burgers, (one with pineapple), fries, noodles, spaghetti, fried peach-mango pie, fried chicken, rice, etc.
Interestingly, it looks like the Filipino branches offer shaved ice with condensed milk and corn for dessert, while the American branches do the McDonalds-esque fried pie. So any homesick Filipinos looking for the “Ice Craze Special” are out of luck, at least for now.
Also interestingly, (I guess) this Jollibee might be the first one in the world to have to list the calories of all the dishes on the menu board. It’s not pretty.
The food, after the jump.
The one-piece”chickenjoy” and palabok combo ($7.49)
Palabok is a popular Filipino comfort food, apparently one with Chinese origins, tweeked over many years to become the distinctive noodle dish it is now. (I read that palabok is sometimes eaten sandwiched between white bread, which made me think of this.)
The palabok at Jollibee is made with rice noodles, sloshy with a sweet, vaguely tomatoey sauce, topped with ground pork, smoked fish flakes, crushed pork rinds and shrimp. It has a pleasingly junky sticky-starchy-salty-crunchy thing going on. It has a certain charm.
The “chickenjoy” is fine–it tastes like crispy, fast-food fried chicken. Not nearly as good as the best Korean fried chicken chains, though. Maybe the spicy version is more interesting. It did come with a plastic packet (like a ketchup packet) of lemon juice, which was a new one for me.
Ah, the piece de resistance–I can understand why some people crave this dish, but I am not one of those people. The Jollibee spaghetti (tagline: “the spaghettiest!”) is topped with a very sweet tomato sauce, scattered with bits of sausage and cubes of ham–which you distinguish by round or square shape, they both taste like hotdog–and finished with a bunch of melted cheddar. If it sounds good to you, you’ll like it. If not, this is not a dish that will change your mind.
All in all, a fun excursion, but with so many other mind-blowingly delicious options within a short walk of Jollibee, I don’t think I’ll be going back soon.
62-29 Roosevelt Avenue