What's on the menu at Jollibee

The “McDonalds of the Philippines” is currently conquering the USA - that's how unusual the food is

A Filipino fast food giant is now shifting up a gear to conquer the United States.

It seems like there is a jollibee on every corner in the Philippines. Strictly speaking, this is one of the few fast food chains that has managed to remain the market leader in its own country despite strong competition from McDonalds. Although McDonalds is currently expanding into Asia, Jollibee is still holding its own in the Philippines with around twice as many branches as the American fast food giant.

But not only that: Now Jollibee also wants to assert itself in the home market of McDonalds, namely in the USA. The Filipino chain already has more than 30 branches there and also has a majority stake in the American burger chain Smashburger. Jollibee also announces considerable expansion plans for 2018: Hundreds of new restaurants are to be opened worldwide, with the aim of reaching a total of 4,200 restaurants around the world by the end of the year. At the end of 2017, the number of restaurants was 3797 branches.

Last Friday, Jollibee also announced plans to invest $ 12.4 million in Tortas Frontera, Chef Rick Bayless' fast-casual chain. This is what the magazine "Restaurant Business" reports. This would give the Filipino company a 47 percent stake.

Jollibee holds a special place in the hearts of many Filipino expats. Jian DeLeon writes on his blog “First We Feast” that the fast food chain has “a nostalgic taste of home at a price that most of us can afford”.

We, on the other hand, are not Filipino food experts, but two fast-food-loving New Yorkers who are excited to see how the growing chain fares against the competition:

The “McDonalds of the Philippines” is currently conquering the USA - that's how unusual the food is

The “McDonalds of the Philippines” is currently conquering the USA - that's how unusual the food is

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  • Jollibee currently has more than 30 stores in the US - most of them in California. Fortunately, there's also one in the Woodside, Queens borough of New York, right next to the subway station.

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  • The place was full when we arrived around 1pm. The food frenzy was in full swing and finding a spot was proving to be quite difficult. Fortunately, a member of staff let us know when two places were available.

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  • Ordering was a breeze, although we were a little confused by the menu choices. Although we are real fast food connoisseurs, we had never encountered the combination of spaghetti, fried chicken and burgers in other American fast food chains. Despite everything, the cashier was also very friendly and accommodating, despite the fact that we came back twice to order something we had previously forgotten.

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  • We ordered a lot there.

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  • Anyone looking for a classic Italian-American spaghetti spectacle will be surprised by Jollibee's version. As usual in the Philippines, the sauce is sweeter than savory. While it wasn't quite our taste, it still did what Jollibee's marketing promised. The sauce is full to the brim with minced meat, pieces of ham and pieces of sausage. Overall, it's a better, sweeter take on the classic school canteen version - strangely comforting.

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  • One of Jollibee's specialties is the fried chicken “Chickenjoy”, which we ordered as a combination with the spaghetti. In terms of taste, it is roughly comparable to the fried chicken from the Churchs fast food chain. It's quite tender, but the breading isn't really crispy and lacks seasoning.

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  • The chicken can be ordered either boned or boneless, with Jollibee referring to both as "dippers". The meat is of good quality overall, although it could be spicier and crispy here too.

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  • However, the Fiesta Palabok noodles are noteworthy. This is a fast food version of a traditional Filipino noodle dish made from rice noodles that are refined with a garlic sauce. It also contains pork rind, shrimp, parsley and hard-boiled egg.

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  • The dish is definitely every garlic lover's dream. It's tasty, and it's not even heavy on the stomach. This fact is very atypical for fast food dishes, especially for the American chains such as McDonalds, which clearly speaks in favor of a visit to Jollibee.

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  • Another dish you wouldn't find at McDonalds is the burger steak. It's essentially a minced steak with steamed rice on the side. It is also served in a brown sauce and with rather tasteless mushrooms. The dish is a bland, but promising option for a fast food menu - there are already fried burger cutlets, so why not serve with sauce and rice?

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  • We prefer the meatball in a form that is more familiar to American fast food fans. Jollibees Aloha Burger combines the best elements of the Whopper and the Big Mac, while still giving the whole thing its own note: with pineapple.

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  • The meatball is well fried, spicy and juicy and is a competition for the grilled Whopper. The burger is also refined with a sauce that is reminiscent of the iconic Big Mac sauce, but is a little sweeter. Bacon and pineapple also make for a delicious interplay of salty and sweet.

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  • Meatballs, sauce, cheese, lettuce, bacon and pineapple combine to create a harmonious melody of fast-food burger brilliance. This burger can rival the best American competitors - it's really shockingly good.

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  • Jollibee also shines when it comes to the dessert selection.

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  • It's hard to bite into the mango and peach pocket without comparing it to the passionately defended McDonalds apple pocket. However, this comparison only gives Jollibee an advantage, because the dessert is deliciously fruity without being syrupy sweet, and it cleverly avoids the taste of artificial peach flavor that one might initially expect. The really crispy wonton shell also ensures an appealing consistency that the corresponding McDonalds dessert lacks.

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  • The soft ice cream from the Filipino chain is simple, but still tasty, as is usually the case with soft ice cream. We couldn't tell the difference to McDonalds or the icy dessert from another fast food chain, but that wasn't bad.

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  • The "Ube Pearl Cooler" is a refreshing variant of a traditional Filipino dessert made from purple sweet potatoes. Once again, Jollibee's version cleverly avoids a sugar shock by keeping the added sugar within limits. At the bottom there are also small black tapioca pearls that give the drink a slightly thicker consistency.

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  • Finally we tried the "Halo-Halo". This legendary Filipino dessert is a mess, but it's a masterpiece. It contains sweetened beans, chickpeas, and jelly, as well as ice cream and condensed milk.

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  • The dessert is crowned with a jewel-like arrangement of ice cream and flan, which makes it a first-class Instagram motif - as is well known, the eye eats too.

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  • Although it may sound very strange to one or the other, the mixture of all ingredients and tastes results in a unique combination in a plastic cup.

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  • We left Jollibee ... happy. With an incredibly friendly service, reasonable prices and a menu that serves American fast food classics as well as dishes that convince in their own way, Jollibee has everything a fast food chain should bring. So we now also know why it is still leading the market in its home country and we are excited to see how the chain will spread in the West in the future.

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