Based on the number of readers who checked in when we talked about Jollibee opening, it seemed people were more than excited. The fast-food chain from the Philippines, which already had locations elsewhere in the United States, was coming to the Dallas area.
And for weeks since it opened, you can’t miss it in Plano with its long line of cars winding in the adjacent parking lot. That long line is why it took so long to publish this first look (not that I was waiting in it for weeks, but I feared I might be if I tried).
The plan was to go with chef Randall Braud, formerly of Not Your Lola’s. But he hasn’t made it out.
“Me and my sons drove up there [Aug. 22] and there were over 120 cars in line. My youngest was super hungry and wasn’t going to wait. We opted to try next weekend,” Braud said (and didn’t make it the following weekend). “Filipinos are going crazy over it. This was very reminiscent of when [In-N-Out Burger] opened here in Texas.”
Last week, my household braved both the drive to Plano and the line, leaving Dallas at 10:10 a.m. At 10:41, we entered a line that seemed reasonable. It only zig-zagged three times, with plenty of empty space to be filled an hour later. At 10:51 a.m., an employee approached us and took our order, noting everything on a tablet. We wound on to the pickup window, where we received our bags and boxes of food at 11:04 a.m.
Not terrible, considering all the hype.
It’s more or less what it tastes like in the Philippines — the yum burger (we got ours with cheese) has a strong char taste, the palabok (clear noodles in a garlic sauce with pork rind, shrimp and egg) is an acquired taste, especially in fast-food form. There’s also a burger steak, covered in their brown gravy.
The fried chicken is the reason to go. Get it in a sandwich, if you want a simple bun and a lot of garlic aioli with it. But the pieces of chicken are the ones to order. You can get spicy or regular. Either way, you get a crisp exterior over a rather juicy piece of meat. I’ll say it: It’s superior to other fast food joints’ chicken.
Based on the lines, others agree. Braud even has a friend who says he’s gone “at least” once a day since opening.
I was bummed that despite ordering the Jolly Spaghetti, we didn’t receive it. People unfamiliar to Jollibee see the ham, ground meat, hot dog and yellow cheese and have a look of questioning, but when they taste that super-sweet sauce in it, it’s usually entertaining to watch.
If you can’t get enough of it, try another version of the sweet spaghetti at a McDonald’s in the Philippines. Even Pizza Hut on the island of Luzon has a super-sweet tomato sauce on its pies. Grocery stores also have banana ketchup. You get the point.
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As a comical note: Despite the seemingly constant long lines at the drive-thru of Plano’s Jollibee, their PR representative kept asking when we were going to publish something on them, even offering an easier way to get food: “If you just tell me what day you plan on coming to the store and what time, the store team will be able to help you out and you won’t have to wait in line. They just need to know four days in advance so ... we could schedule it,” she said.
Skipping the line when others can't isn't the kind of thing we like to do around here, and risking the drive-thru line proved to work out OK. So go at it and try that excellent fried chicken. Just don’t be a chump like me and forget to get a peach-mango hand pie.
Jollibee, 1016 Preston Road, Plano. Drive-thru open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.