Filipino Fast Food Frenzy
Strolling under the 7 train along Roosevelt Avenue, a long line of anxious customers queue up along 63rd Street the same way giddy teenagers might for Justin Bieber if he were to appear on MTV’s TRL in Times Square. Fortunately, the Bieber-TRL scenario will never unfold—but the hoards of hungry customers in Woodside was—and occasionally still is—a reality. The draw is not a pop star, but rather a pop restaurant from the Philippines known as Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC).
Jollibee has been a popular fast food chain since its inception in Quezon City, Philippines in 1978. It now has a total of over 2,500 stores worldwide, including 27 in the United States. American Jollibees can be found in California, Nevada, Hawaii, Washington, as well as one location in Jersey City, and one NYC location in Woodside, Queens.
Now four years old and marked by a cartoon statue of a jolly bee just outside the entrance, the lines have somewhat simmered down, but the dining room is almost always packed. The most popular dish is the ‘Chickenjoy’ fried chicken, although they serve several Filipino-inspired dishes.
A $1 spam sandwich looks like a little old man sticking its tongue out at you, but goes down like a perfectly tasty ham and mayo slider. Two kinds of pasta are also popular, especially with kids. The ‘Jollibee Spaghetti’ is served in a sweet tomato sauce filled with bits of ground beef, sliced hot dogs, and topped with cheddar. It is admittedly far more enjoyable than it might sound. The ‘Palabok Fiesta’ is one of the most interesting and unique dishes—a serving of bihon ‘glass noodles’ with a garlicky shrimp palabok sauce, pork cracklings, tinapa (smoked fish flakes), ground pork, shrimp, and sliced hard-boiled eggs.
One of the tastiest snacks on the menu are the lumpia—crispy shanghai spring rolls filled with spiced pork sausage. For $3 you get six, served with a sweet and sour sauce for dipping.
Burgers are served in four size variations from ‘Yum’ to ‘Amazing Aloha’ which is topped with grilled pineapple. Meats are also available served bunless with rice, including several breakfast items—like milkfish belly with rice and sliced egg.
Desserts include bubble teas and tropical fruit filled ‘pies’, but the ‘Halo-Halo’ is the one not to miss. A plastic cup is filled with crushed ice and sweetened milk, coconut shavings, red beans, chickpeas, and Jell-O cubes, all capped with violet taro ice cream and a slice of flan.
Stare as you might at the tie-dye-slushee-custard dessert, you will be the only customer seemingly baffled by the oddly beautiful ice treat. Everyone around you in the dining room at Jollibee knows and loves it well as plain, old-fashioned comfort food.
Jollibee | 62-29 Roosevelt Ave, Woodside | (718) 426-4445 | Open 7AM-11PM daily