Once, oh so many years ago, I had myself a solo adventure in The Philippines. Among my many memories, I have never forgotten pulling into the Jollibee drive-thru window in Quezon City and ordering corned beef with rice. Surely, this wasn’t the most exciting thing on the menu, but to a Jew that had spent nearly a year in China and longed for corned beef I was amazed. Of course, this corned beef was more a remnant of the colonial days of The Philippines than of my own ancestors, but it was still an experience.
A couple of years later, I realized Jollibee existed in LA and longed to pay the place another visit. Then, just as I was about to take a lunch trip to the Carson location, the place blew up on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. This only strengthened my resolve and moved Jollibee to the top of my to-eat list.
Although we were greeted by a giant anthropomorphic bee outside, on the inside were were greeted only by Filipino faces. I knew the time had come to potentially recreate some memories. This time, though, I ordered the Aloha Burger instead of corned beef. This burger came topped with a slice of pineapple, bacon, “creamy” cheese, Aloha dressing and lettuce. I got mine without the lettuce and deduced that the Aloha dressing was basically honey mustard, but light on the mustard. It ended up being exactly what it sounded like. Unquestionably fast food, but unquestionably unique. Plus, the cheese was less the creamy variety and more the Velveeta variety.
To join my Aloha Burger, I ordered a side of fries. Note that I made no distinction about the size of the fries, because at Jollibee the fries only come in one size. Of course, they make up for that lack of size variety with side dishes like corn, rice and sweet potato waffle fries. In any case, the fries were the perfect size and generally held their own against other fast food fries.
The icing on this whole fantastic cake of a fast food joint, though, was the Halo Halo. As a dessert, the Halo Halo is probably the greatest dessert that exists in any fast food restaurant in the past, present or future. Starting from the bottom, it begins with sweet beans, coconut shavings and big cubed jellies. On top of that layer is a sweetened purple jelly-like substance, following by evaporated milk and something like shaved ice. Finally, it is topped with a small scoop of ube (purple yam) and mango (I think) ice cream. But wait, that’s not all. Seated next to these scoops is a slice of flan. It is truly a sight to behold and to eat. Surely, a trip to Jollibee without a Halo Halo is wasted.
So, after trying out the American version of Jollibee, I can say that any lover of fast food will find themselves enjoying the main courses. But don’t show up as a snooty burger snob and expect it to make you like fast food. It’s unique as all hell, but it’s still fast food.
But, whatever your position on any food, check out the Halo Halo. It might not be some fancy chef dessert, but it is damn sexy and damn worth it.