New York Style: The Jollibee Experience

We finally decided we’d try and get some Chicken joy tonight and while the line outside is not that intimidatingly long, it looks like I’m going to be here a while. A man walked up to me as I fell in line and handed me a ticket stub — I didn’t even know I had to get one.

So Alan wants some chicken and a burger. I’d settle for a champ but am hoping they’re offering peach mango pie. We were fortunate to have found a parking spot just before 62nd Avenue, so the boys are warm and snug in the car.

I’m glad Jollibee chose Queens instead of somewhere in New Jersey which means it’s just “in the neighborhood” and easily accessible. Just as the better Filipino eateries are a few blocks away, this is right by the 61st St local stop on the 7 train. I’m around 50 people from the door, and it appears they let the people in in batches. So when it does move, I expect I will move up by around 10. I’m already hoping they are offering Peach Mango Pie but I don’t see it in the marquee above the counter.

It’s a tad bit cold but it could be worse. There is a slight breeze but no strong winds, and we wouldn’t have gone tomorrow where there’s a forecast of rain mixed with some snow. Anything for a taste of home… The line, as expected is all Filipino — undaunted by the news of long lines wrapping around the corner. I didn’t get quite that far but I have yet to move.

Whenever we’re in Manila, we make it a point to eat as much Jollibee, ChowKing and Max’s Fried Chicken — these are simple and ordinary treats back home which are indulgences for us here because it takes effort to get to where the outlets are. And sadly, there are even times when the outlets here fail to measure up to the original franchise. (Like the Goldilocks pastillas here is a far cry from the pastillas sold back home — perhaps due to ingredient substitutions.)

But is it any wonder that there’s a queu to get in considering even back in Manila, the lines for the counters are always long. The guys in line behind me appear to have arrived from New Jersey. Quite a trip for some goodies, but one I can completely relate to.

Such is the draw of craving for a taste of home. It’s something we can never quite forget, and something we keep coming back for. I’ve moved around 10 feet now, almost half an hour into standing in line. I’m at the halfway point of the line from where I started out — and I can already taste my Champ and Filipino-style spaghetti. You can’t quite smell it out here probably because of the cold, but seeing the familiar decor inside already makes your mouth water at the prospect of Jollibee for dinner.

I’ve posted my status on Facebook and I’ve already gotten two comments from friends — I wish I could “share the joy” but I haven’t even gotten to the front door just yet. This is the latest craze among Pinoys here in the East Coast. No wonder there is a sign outside that even if the store is open until 11pm, the line closes at 8pm. (Take note…Touted as Winter hours.)

Someone just drove by asking how long is the wait — someone in line shouted back “One hour!” which should be just about right since I’m now halfway through, just a little more than thirty minutes after I got here. The guy behind me is inching his way past me not so much because he’s trying to cut the line but I think more out of excitement to get in. I can’t blame him… (Is he nuts trying to cut the line with Filipinos in front of him? Besides, we’re holding numbered tickets… And you just try to cut the line…)

Jollibee, the mascot, is almost in sight. I almost feel like wanting to have a picture taken with him after all the effort this has taken. I’m 10 people away… Almost there. (An elderly guy asked me if I was texting… I said no, I’m blogging.=).

Some non-Filipinos walking past are probably wondering what’s all the fuss.. Two ladies actually stopped and asked what they are selling here. The Fil-am guy behind me said “Filipino delicacies, snails…” — all in jest, but I quickly said “good burgers and chickens.”.

So what’s your favorite treat at Jollibee? Mine remains to be the Sweet’s something I try to mimick for Alan’s benefit, but still a far cry from the real thing.

This is not for the faint of heart. An hour and a half into this, I’m still feet away from the counter and I’m hearing there’s a wait for the chicken. I already know I’m waiting because I’m not leaving this place without it. The chicken is available in original and spicy recipe and in 2 ($5.99, or $7.19 with 2 sides), 3 ($7.79 or $8.99 with 2 sides), 6, 12 pieces. Instead of the famous Champ, they have the Heavyweight Yumburger ($4.99 or $6.39 with French Fries) and the Amazing Aloha ($6.29 or $7.69 with French Fries). would you want your burger with bacon and a slice of pineapple? (Alan is brave to try it but I’m sticking to the Yumburger.). They have the standard Spaghetti ($4.49) and Palabok Fiesta ($5.79) of course, and yes, the Peach Mango Pie ($2.29). (I’m happy.) There are Salu-salo Family packs which are platters going for $17.19 for the Palabok and $13.99 for the Spaghetti.

When I finally got inside, it took another half hour before I finally gave my order.  It might seem insane to others for us to have spent two hours for a simple Jollibee meal but if you ask us, it was well worth it.

Jollibee is at 62-29 Roosevelt Ave., nr. 62nd St.; Woodside, Queens