Mickey Js

Is Jollibee As 'Tastylicious' As It Claims?

We try the popular Filipino fast-food establishment near NRG Park.

By Joanna O'Leary January 7, 2020

If it's true that Jollibee is the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the world, it must must be doing something right. Millions of people are apparently having a jolly good time chowing down at these Filipino establishments, whose hallmark dishes include Chickenjoy, spaghetti, and peach-mango pies. It's Olive Garden meets Popeyes meets McDonald’s.

Maybe this fast-food mashup was why, even though I've driven past the Houston Jollibee outpost on multiple occasions, I've felt little temptation to stop in. Could it really satisfy my cravings for chicken adobo or sissig?

But recently curiosity triumphed over cravings, and I popped in to gape at the platters of sketti and sauce and maybe even sample the Chickenjoy, fried chicken described alluringly as “delicately hand-breaded to be 'crispylicious' on the outside, with a secret marinade making it 'juicylicious' on the inside.” Wow. If you’re going to use a double portmanteau to sell your product, it better be doublelicious.

The fluorescent orange tones of the tomato gravy quickly convinced me to skip the spaghetti; however, I did try a Chickenjoy leg, which was moderately juicy (not to the point of 'juicylicious,' sadly) and greasy. I guess the "secret marinade" is oil. It should be noted that Yelpers have higher praise for the “spicy” version.

More pleasing was the palabok fiesta, Jollibee’s pimped-out, fast-food rendition of traditional Filipino bihon (rice) noodles with a hefty ladle of very strong garlic sauce and garnishes of pork rind crumbles, shrimp, and hard-boiled egg halves. It’s a sturdy dish, and the silky and fragrant sauce makes it all go down smooth.

The final contestant on my Jollibee taste-test panel was a langhap-sarap burger. It did, as promised, "taste as good as [it smelled]," because, well, it didn’t smell like much of anything upon receipt. The bland beef perked up a bit with the addition of some extra honey mustard sauce, and then became downright delicious when I dipped it into the palabok gravy. Genius!

My mid-day Jollibee romp was entertaining enough that I want to return earlier in the morning for one of the restaurant’s "breakfast joys," specifically the sweet pork sausage served with a hillock of steamed rice and a sunny-side up egg. Even if I’m initially disappointed, I’m confident I can salvage my matutinal entree by dousing it in that garlic sauce.

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