Being born and raised in the Philippines, when I moved to the US at age 5, my one guilty pleasure every time I went home was eating at Jollibee. Next to Burger King, Jollibee is my all time favorite fast food joint. When I moved to California in 2011, I was happy that I was in a state where Jollibee had been transplanted in the bigger cities. In 2011 – by the way – I had learned that there was a Jollibee in NY, TX, CA. Then, my husband moved me out to Las Vegas, where I believed I was 4-6 hours away from the nearest Jollibee. Alas! I was proven WRONG! I’m so happy I was wrong! Turns out, there are 2 Jollibee locations here in Vegas! Now, I should tell you why I love Jollibee.
I should start off with the fried chicken is so much crispier than KFC, and they serve the fried chicken with RICE and GRAVY! Called Chickenjoy, the chicken isn’t battered and breaded with so many seasonings that you can’t taste the “juicy” that is the chicken. Lightly breaded and fried to golden brown, Chickenjoy was and will always be my favorite of fried chicken(s).
There’s actually a story about Chickenjoy that my older cousin, Kris, enjoys retelling. I was 2 or 3 at the time, and we – the cousins – were sharing a bucket of Chickenjoy. I’m a LEG hoarder; I love dark meat, but when I was younger, all I would eat was the drumsticks. I wouldn’t touch thighs. Continuing with the story, Kris comes up to the table and sees that there’s one (1) drumstick left, and everyone’s still eating. He calls dibs, says “thanks”, grabs the drumstick, and starts eating it. According to EVERYONE who remembers, the moment he took the first bite, I started WAILING. Apparently, the bucket was already split among the cousins, with everyone getting 2 pieces, and that last drumstick was my second piece. Oops? *laughs*
My husband likes the beef tapa, rice, and egg breakfast. This really surprises me, because he’s not a big breakfast guy. He loves breakfast, but he just doesn’t normally eat breakfast food. The flavor – for him – is different from American breakfast food, and he likes the garlic rice. Beef tapa has a sweet marinade before it’s cooked on the flat top. I have yet to have burnt tapa from Jollibee, and I have had burnt tapa before… just not from Jollibee.
I will confess, when I first went to Jollibee Las Vegas, I was torn whether or not I should speak in Tagalog. Being from Virginia-Tennessee, the only Filipinos I spoke in Tagalog with were relatives, family friends, and extended family. Kids my age didn’t understand or speak Tagalog, so my chatting companions were always adults. When I moved to California, I was still speaking to those older than me in Tagalog, while people my age still didn’t speak the Filipino National language. When I stepped up to the counter, I was so excited to hear Tagalog coming from the cashier that all I could do was smile at her for a good minute before ordering. (Kind of embarrassing, but I didn’t care!)
Another thing about Jollibee that I’ve missed so much: Peach-mango pie. I wasn’t a big fan of it when I was younger, but after a visit alone to the Philippines, my Lolo (grandfather) and I bonded over Peach-mango pie, and I’ve been hooked since.
Something that I haven’t had here in the US version of Jollibee is spaghetti. I’ve grown so accustomed to how I’ve made spaghetti that I don’t know how my taste buds will respond to the sweet, cheesy version of Jollibee spaghetti. They use a sweet tomato sauce – I always joke that it’s banana ketchup – with ground beef and shredded cheese… and slices of sweet hot dog. Weird, right? Don’t get me wrong. It’s really good; it’s an acquired taste, but I haven’t had it in so long that every time I think about trying it, I revert to: “If I wanted spaghetti, I could’ve stayed home and made it. Chickenjoy please!”
The next time you want to give Filipino fast food a shot without going completely out of your comfort zone, I recommend visiting Jollibee. In Las Vegas, there are two locations. The one I’m familiar with is inside Seafood City on S Maryland Parkway, just north of Flamingo, and the other is on W Sahara in the area of the Village Square on the northwest corner of W Sahara and S Fort Apache.
Overall, I give Jollibee:
4 forks out of 5
(a) Crispy, not greasy fried chicken
(b) Filipino fast food for cheap
(c) Ability to give familiar food a different taste
(d) Filipino vibe everywhere! (Most workers speak Tagalog, and TV is tuned to Filipino network!)