On a warm summer day in Edmonton, a line of people has formed, neatly herded by a rope under the cover of several tents, in front of an unassuming building in a southside shopping centre. A man stands guard at the front of the line, asking individuals how many people per party and ushering in just a few at a time.
No, this isn’t the scene outside some hot, new Edmonton nightclub. It’s dinnertime and the crowd is waiting to eat at Edmonton’s first Jollibee – suddenly, it’s the place to be.
The first time I heard about Jollibee was after Anthony Bourdain’s visit to Manila in Parts Unknown, where he called it “the wackiest, jolliest place on earth.” Founded in the Philippines, the fast-food chain has become an absolute sensation across the globe.
Store openings attract crowds days in advance – the first person in line for the Edmonton opening waited three days to be exact.
So what is all the hype about?
Here are six reasons everyone is talking about Jollibee:
- The legendary Jolly Spaghetti – a medley of spaghetti noodles, ground meat, sliced hot dogs, and a somewhat sweet red sauce made from banana ketchup (a Filipino staple). This was the item that I was most excited to try, and it did not disappoint. It is not nearly as sweet as I thought it would be, and it’s hearty and filling. I understand why this is a party food in the Philippines. It’s delicious, and naysayers who disagree with banana ketchup don’t know what they are talking about. After the first bite, you’ll find yourself going back for more. My brother also made a good point in that – where else can you get fast-food spaghetti? (Not at KFC, I’ll tell you that).
- The Jolly Crispy Chicken (also known as ChickenJoy) is probably the most famous Jollibee offering. The chicken is hand-breaded and comes out hot with a crunchy exterior and a juicy interior. It is well-seasoned and cooked just right. It’s real chicken, served with some delightful gravy. I can see Jollibee being up there with KFC and Popeye’s when we talk about who has the best chicken. Be sure to make it a combo with Jolly Spaghetti when you order it.
- It is not all spaghetti and chicken- one must-try is the Palabok Fiesta. This is a recreation of “pancit palabok,” – a popular noodle dish topped with shrimp, crumbled pork cracklings, juicy ground pork and hard-boiled eggs and smothered in a garlicky-shrimp sauce. This dish has a lot going on, both flavor-wise and texturally. It is served with lemon juice that you are meant to drizzle over top and mix in. The acidity cuts through all the rich flavour, making it a tasty, balanced dish. This might have been my favourite dish of the night.
- Peach Mango Pie. I will say it: This is the ultimate fast food pie. The outside is equal parts flaky and buttery while the filling was a wonderful, gooey mix of mango and peaches. I would eat this pie any day of the week.
- The drinks. Forget the usual foundation pop suspects (which they have), and go for the pineapple juice.
- It is always sunny at Jollibee. It is hard not to get excited when you step inside, where employees tell you “Have a jolly day!” while upbeat music plays in the background. I mean, the mascot is a giant bee with a chef hat. Prices are similar to other fast food restaurants, service is fast and friendly and the food lives up to the hype. I am already looking forward to my next visit.
For more information, and to find a location check out their website: http://jollibeecanada.com/
Or, follow them on Instagram: @JollibeeUS
This post was sponsored by Jollibee, but as always, the thoughts and opinions are mine.