Jollibee: Filipino Fast Food Sensation Comes to Philly

I somehow missed the local media and online buzz when Jollibee opened its first Philadelphia outlet. Fortunately for me, my friend Paul didn’t and texted photos of his food to me as he was making his way through much of their menu. One item in particular, which I’ll address below, stuck out and was the lead reason for my visit.

The Filipino fast food chain has a large international following and has been called ‘the McDonald’s of the Philippines.’ It took a few weeks, but I finally made it to their new spot in Northeast Philly to try out the food for myself. Another friend – Robert – tagged along, which enabled me to photograph a bit more of what they offer than I could have if I’d been alone. 

The first thing that struck me when I pulled into the parking lot of the shopping complex that includes Jollibee is how confusing their outside setup is. I don’t know if what you see in the photo below is a temporary or permanent layout.

Cottman and Bustleton Avenues in Northeast Philly

After driving around the lot and concluding I can’t park next to the restaurant, I found a spot and headed in with Robert.

I liked the old-fashioned roadside charm of their mascot. It reminded me a bit of 20th century favorite, Bob’s Big Boy. 

Jollibee’s mascot
Bob’s Big Boy was a familiar roadside sight in the U.S. during the mid to late 20th century.

While they at least had a polite staff behind the counter to take and, if necessary, guide customers through orders, the interior still had a modern feel to it. Unfortunately, I was asleep at the wheel and didn’t take any shots of the inside other than the ordering area.

While Jollibee may be known as a Filipino fast food chain, most of their menu is as classically American as it gets – fried chicken, burgers and chicken sandwiches, fries, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, and fried peach-mango pies.

Fried chicken seems to be the lead draw at Jollibee.

Robert went with a Cheesy Yumburger minus the house sauce and a side of fries. While my primary reason for visiting Jollibee was to try the peach-mango pie, I was also interested in their spicy fried chicken and ordered a two-piece meal paired with what was probably the most authentically Filipino item on the menu; palabok.

If he had realized how small the patty would be, I think Robert would have gone for a double. Nonetheless, he rated his cheeseburger slightly above those at McDonald’s and Burger King. I tried the fries and they could easily pass for being from one of the major American fast food chains; which is a compliment. 

Small, but it was given a stamp of approval from my dining companion.

While no chain fried chicken is ever going to compare to what I ate during my visits to western Kentucky, I was impressed by the quality of what I had at Jollibee. As I previously alluded to, it comes either mild or spicy, and I opted for the latter. The heat wasn’t intense by any means, but it was there. The crust had a nice, crispy texture and the meat within it was juicy. It also came with a side of gravy for dipping.

Gravy for dipping

The palabok consisted of what appeared to be rice noodles with a fairly thick sauce that included mini-shrimp and small bits of pork, as well as a couple pieces of hard-boiled egg. I can’t say I loved it, but I didn’t dislike it either. I suspect it would be better to try this dish when it’s prepared by a Filipino grandmother.

My fried chicken and palabok combination. The noodles in the palabok are buried beneath the thick sauce.

As much as I enjoyed the chicken, I couldn’t wait to finish it so I could get to the peach-mango pie that had been staring me in the face since I sat down with our tray of food. 

I know I’m not alone in rueing the day in 1992 that McDonald’s dropped fried apple pies from their menu in favor of a baked substitute. From the time the first McDonald’s in our suburban town opened in the early 70s, I loved those pies and almost always finished off a meal there with one. I still recall them costing a quarter;  25 of the best cents I – okay, my parents – spent back in those days. 

When I saw the photo Paul sent of the peach-mango pie from Jollibee, I knew I had to go there. It looked virtually exactly like the old McDonald’s fried apple pies – at least until you break it apart or bite into it. 

The object of my eager anticipation

When I took my first bite, I was immediately hit by a flashback to the taste and textural sensations of the old Mickey-D pie crust. The peach-mango filling was also sensational, with gooey chunks of fruit floating around in warm, sweet syrupy goodness. And I’m not sure I could pick a better fruit combination. I love both and have cited mango as my favorite fruit. 

Yeah, Baby!

There is no doubt I’ll be stopping back there for more of the pies. While I enjoyed and recommend the fried chicken, if I decide to go beyond a pie the next time I visit, a double of the cheeseburger Robert had would be my likely pick just because I am more of a burger guy. Fried chicken only seems to excite me when I have it in parts of the country that specialize in it; especially Kentucky. 

It’s also possible I’ll just stop in for a pie after having lunch somewhere else in Northeast Philly. 

I picked up a rack of spare ribs to smoke on my Weber Smokey Mountain and will likely report on that in my next post. I’ll be trying a new smoking procedure – a barbecue experiment. 

Published by BZ Maestro

I live outside of Philadelphia and have been food-obsessed for as long as I can remember. After toying with the idea of starting a blog for a fairly long time, the extinction of a food-themed message board that I frequented for years prompted me to finally take action. Thank you for taking the time to check out what I've been up to - and eating. If you've enjoyed what you have read and seen, please consider clicking the "like" button and signing up as a follower.

One thought on “Jollibee: Filipino Fast Food Sensation Comes to Philly

  1. Interesting! I’d certainly give Jollibee’s chicken a try at least once (I visit The Colonel a couple of times a year), although it appears I’d have to go to the Chicago area to do so.

    You miss McD’s original apple pies, I miss their original fries.

    Liked by 1 person

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