It’s been around a year since the first location for Jollibee, the iconic Filipino fast food restaurant, opened in Winnipeg. I was invited to the opening, and it turned out I couldn’t go. Missing the opening didn’t turn out all that badly, as the reason for missing was one of things that led to the Free Press feature on my blog last January.
Jollibee has been called the McDonald’s of the Philippines. Which would be true, if McDonald’s actually produced a product worth eating.
When I heard that a second location had opened, I figured it was time for me to finally paid a visit. I chose the new location on McPhillips. I hopped on the 71, but then made the mistake of getting off to soon, and ended up walking quite a distant. On review this seems like it will be good preparation for when Transit cuts the 71 route.
Jollibee Well Prepared for the Crush
From what I read about the opening of the second location, I suspected that the restaurant would be quite busy even though it was closer to 7 pm when I showed up. Sure enough, when I entered the door I was pointed to a line that was outside in a little tent. Fortunately that line wasn’t very long. Still, there were probably close to 40 or so people in front of me. As it turned out, I had no sooner taken my place in the outdoor line than I was told I could join the line inside the building. This was the first indication of how my visit would go.
Despite the long line, it was no more than 10 at most 15 minutes from the time I entered the line until the time I received my food. Jollibee outdid themselves with their planning, preparation, and pace.
They drive thru isn’t open yet, and rather than have an entrance an exit out of each set of doors, they made one set entrance the other exit. The behind counter and kitchen areas were more than adequately staffed. The tables were quickly cleaned as customers left. They had an employee going down the line taking people’s orders. These orders were then written on a slip of paper so that all you had to do was hand them to the cashier when you reached the counter.
Finally, they also had management going around and checking the line. If people were forgetting to move up because they were to engrossed in their conversations, the managers gently reminded them to keep the line moving. This kept everything as smooth as possible.
One of the manager’s came over and had a little chat with me while I waited for my food. This may have been due to the fact that I was one of only two or three non-Filipino’s in the entire restaurant. Which is too bad, because this is really good fast food no matter who you are or where you are from.
One of the benefits of the extra walking was that I was good and hungry by the time I ordered. I had talked to Audrey, one of the Baristas from Fools and Horses, before I went. Audrey is Filipino, and she recommended that I try the Fried Chicken. So, that was the first item I ordered. I went with the Spicy Three Piece Chicken with One Side. For my side, I chose the mashed potatoes. I also ordered the Jolly Spaghetti and a Peach Mango Pie. The combo came with a beverage so I had the Mountain Dew.
The Fried Chicken is fantastic. It is Jollibee’s signature dish, and deservedly so. The batter is good and crispy, without being overly thick and doughy. Also, the drums seemed to be somewhat larger than you get at KFC. In addition they are served with a really tasty and thick gravy. The gravy is so good, that it almost made me regret not ordering fries. I suppose they may have ketchup, but I didn’t see or ask for any. Of course, I didn’t miss it.
A couple of other things about the chicken. First, it was well cooked. When pumping out as much food as Jollibee was lat night, it’s easy to miss proper cooking time. Not so here, the chicken was well cooked, moist and tender. Second, the spice powder that they use to season the chicken, has a good, little kick to it. It lives up quite nicely to it’s spicy label.
The Jolly Spaghetti was a little different. The sweet nature of the sauce takes a little getting used to. However, despite being sweet, it’s not sugary. I also liked the fact that the spaghetti itself was not over cooked.
The mashed potatoes were quite good. They also came with gravy. So, there is enough gravy to keep your blood stream well gravied. The Peach and Mango pie is quite similar to a McDonald’s Pie, with the exception that the filling is fruitier, and the peach and mango combo is better than the apple.
Having enjoyed my visit so much the previous evening, I decided to head back this morning and have breakfast at Jollibee’s as well. (Breakfast at Jollibee’s – the lesser know sequel to Breakfast at Tiffany’s). Jollibee does offer breakfast options familiar to North Americans, but they have a limited menu as part of their opening strategy.
I also thought that the location would be less busy if I would show up early in the morning. Sure enough, I arrived just after 8 am, and there were only a smattering of customers in the restaurant. The service however, was just as good. There was no relaxing of effort because their were fewer customers.
My breakfast wasn’t going to be as big as my supper, but I did order the Burger steak with two sides. For the first side I went with the rice, and for the second I chose the Buttered Corn.
The Burger Steak was quite good. It has good, beefy flavour, and comes with a very nice mushroom gravy as well. The rice is well cooked with the each grain coming apart as it should. The corn was not notable, but there’s only so much you can or need to do with corn to make it taste good.
For my beverage I had the Pineapple juice which would be my one disappointment. The flavour is good, but the glass was about 60% ice. I also took a chocolate sundae to go. Which was also quite enjoyable.
I hope Jollibee opens more locations in Winnipeg. I’d really like to see one in downtown Winnipeg, although it’s not hip, trendy, or overpriced, which will work against it. That’s one thing worth noting, I’ve made it all this way talking about Jollibee without talking about the prices. The prices are more than competitive with other fast food places, and the food is better than most other fast food offerings.
Jollibee will definitely be on my list of places to visit in the future. To my Anglican friends, if you are heading to Epiphany Indigenous Anglican Church, make a detour and visit Jollibee’s. To anyone else, make sure you stop in at one of the two locations as soon a you get a chance.