Not too many American fast-food restaurants specialize in fried chicken, spaghetti, and peach-and-mango hand pies.
Philadelphians today are getting their own location of Jollibee, the fast-growing, Filipino-rooted restaurant with a smiling bee mascot and passionate following reminiscent of chicken-tender phenom Raising Cane’s, which also recently landed in the Philadelphia market.
The new Jollibee, which also is the first in Pennsylvania, is set up with a drive-thru window at Great Northeast Plaza, the former Cottman-Bustleton Center, on Bustleton Avenue just north of Cottman. Founded in the Philippines in 1978, Jollibee now has 1,500 restaurants in 17 countries and is part of the 6,200-unit multinational Jollibee Foods Corp, whose brands include Smashburger.
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This location is the 85th Jollibee in North America, following last month’s flagship opening in New York’s Times Square, for which fans waited 18 hours to gnaw on chicken. A company spokesperson said Jollibee expects to have 500 North American locations in the next several years.
There are no official plans for more Philadelphia locations. The spokesperson said management wanted to see the reception before committing. The Northeast Philadelphia location, across from the Roosevelt Mall at 7340 Bustleton Ave., is in an area with a sizable Filipino population. A Red Ribbon Bakery is said to be on the way in the same shopping center.
The food website Eater.com recently named Jollibee “the best chain fried chicken in America” after its “Chickenjoy” topped 14 global brands in four rounds of contests. The bone-in chicken is available in regular or spicy. The secret sauce for the crunchy, heavily breaded chicken is the side of gravy; adherents say it includes chicken cubes, cream, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce, plus seasonings.
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The spaghetti, incidentally, has little to do with the Italian variety. The pasta is the same, but the Pinoy version is a comfort food adaptation of bolognese with origins that some say trace back to the 1940s, when American armed forces introduced the dish to their Filipino allies. It gets a sweet sauce with chunky slices of ham, ground meat and hotdog.
Other menu items include a variety of burgers, chicken sandwiches and palabok, a fast food version of a traditional dish of noodles with a savory garlic sauce, topped with hard-boiled eggs, shrimp, and pork. Rice and mashed potatoes are available as sides. The dessert list includes fried hand pies filled with peaches and Philippine mangoes, akin to McDonald’s apple pie.
Hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.