First Byte: Jollibee in Waipahu

With a large part of the demographic in this old plantation town on Oahu’s west side being made-up of folks originally from the Philippines, it’s no wonder Waipahu has been appropriately labeled “Little Manila”.  Waipahu is certainly an ideal town for a national chain restaurant originating from the .P.I. “motherland” to set-up shop, with Max’s of Manila in recent years also first setting foot here. While not from P.I., another Filipino chain originating from California who also set-up shop here in Waipahu is Valerio’s Bakery, famous for their Pan De Sal rolls.

Now, adding to that list of Filipino chains in “Wai’pa-HOOO!” is Jollibee, who recently opened for business in the same shopping center where anchor tenant Pacific Market is located.

Jollibee is the equivalent to the collective mind in the Philippines as McDonald’s is in the U.S.. While like McDonald’s, who have expanded their menu far beyond just burgers and fries, Jollibee is also well known for their “Chicken Joy” fried chicken and sweet “Filipino style” Spaghetti, amongst other new menu favorites to suit the current trend.

Here’s Jollibee’s whimsical mascot standing near the doorway in front of the restaurant…

Also in front, “Crispy Bangus,”, along with some of their breakfast dishes are promoted on this poster stand…

Upon entering Jollibee Waipa-HOO! on this peak Aloha Friday noon lunch hour visit this past week, I soon learned this place still has plenty of novelty, hype and popularity with the Waipahu locals, as was evidenced by the LONG LINE of folks waiting to order…

Thankfully Jollibee lives up to the “fast” in fast food, and the line moved very quickly, where from standing in back of the line to arrival at the front counter took what seemed like no longer than five minutes. Helping that efficiency, there’s a worker who checks off an order ticket for each person in line and hands it to you…

I don’t recall seeing him calling in my order to the kitchen through his headset. Instead, all his function seemed was to speed the ordering process by checking off a menu ticket that he then hands to you, which you in turn hand to the cashier. Regardless of this effort in efficiency, I still had to wait on the side at the counter for a few minutes for my order to be completed as they hurriedly rushed more customers at checkout.

You a fan of Jollibee’s famous sweet Filipino style Spaghetti? Then make it a party platter!..

Where there’s burgers, there must be dogs..

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I swear their “Signature Dressing” is essentially Banana Ketchup.

Here’s the takeout menu from the Waipahu location…

I wanted to dine there, yet every table was taken…

In the photo above, if you look towards the front service counter, there’s a “party room” in the right corner (just past the soda fountains) where you can hold private parties, including “Jollibee” themed party favors and even an appearance by the Jollibee mascot, similar to Chuck E. Cheese. I’m SO there for that on my next BD! lol

Since all the tables were taken inside, and there were no tables outside in the shopping plaza, I decided to take my Jollibee grindz back to the office.

On this “First Byte” visit, I decided to try Jollibee’s Spaghetti & Chicken Joy Combo’, along with a Cheeseburger on the side, which pretty much covers their most popular signature menu items…

Packaging looks fun and well-presented. Let’s check out the Spaghetti and Chicken Joy combo…

As you see, the “Chicken Joy” on the left includes a side of gravy that you pour on it, dip it, or not use at all, up to you.

Being a fast food fried chicken, naturally us folks who grew up in the U.S. are going to compare it with absolute top-of-mind, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), along with Popeye’s or Church’s or other regional favorite, depending which chain you like best in your neck of the woods. Upon taking a first bite, I immediately notice the batter is nice and crispy, even after my 30 minute drive back to the office. The meat inside was also quite juicy and tender, albeit not really packing much as far as seasoning (salt) within the fibers.

The batter also didn’t have much in the seasoning department, tasting like there wasn’t much going on besides flour mixed with some salt ‘n pepper, and that’s about it. At least that’s all I could detect. Overall, “dry” without the gravy, it was just a basic fried chicken done right, no more, no less. Note this was the “Classic” Chicken Joy, not the “Spicy” version.

Now let’s REALLY add some “joy” to this fried chicken by pourin’ some gravy on it…

Aaahhhh…oooohhhh…aaaaahhhh. Now THAT looks more like it! Upon a bite of “Chicken Joy” all smothered in gravy, I found the gravy’s texture fairly gelatinous, thanks to what seemed more like a cornstarch thickener than roux (flour and butter) or a flour slurry. Flavor-wise, the gravy tasted pretty much like your typical “McPackaged” poultry or even turkey gravy, where I’d say the “McPackaged” stuff is actually better, as far as depth and overall savoriness. Go figure.

Like the chicken’s batter, the gravy’s seasoning tasted like there wasn’t much going on besides salt n’ pepper basics, with perhaps just a small hint of sage or bay leaf, if any. I suppose the rather basic-tasting gravy did indeed bring some added “joy” to the fried chicken, which was good in and of itself, yet not by much, and I probably wouldn’t have missed it had they, say, forgot to pack the gravy in the box.

With that, I give Jollibee’s Classic recipe Chicken Joy 3 SPAM Musubi and the accompanying gravy 1, where in this sector of the fast food industry, Colonel Sanders’ “original recipe” is still is the benchmark by which all others are judged.

Now let’s try Jollibee’s sweet Filipino style Spaghetti…

That yellow “slick” is the grated cheese, which has already melted over the course of my 30 minute drive. OK, let’s mix it up and do this…

And? Well, um. Well, um. All I can say is, if you’re a purist when it comes to authentic Italian cuisine, stay CLEAR AWAY from this dish, because Jollibee’s Spaghetti has clearly abandoned all rules in that regard.

Honestly, the first thing that came to my mind upon tasting it was Chef Boyardee, at least for the sauce. The chunks of  what looks like hot dogs in it  actuality tasted more like a sausage of some sort, and was actually quite delicious, with an almost “chunky” texture in its filling, having me wish there was more sausage pieces mixed in with the sauce.

Just like I assume their “Signature Sauce” is Banana Ketchup-based, I also think this Spaghetti “sauce” (God it’s painful to say that) is also Banana-Ketchup-based. There’s just this “fruity” twang about it (“twang” is my new favorite word for “twist”) that’s hard to pinpoint.

I must say, the Spaghetti noodles were cooked perfectly al dente, so thumbs-up there.

Overall, Jollibee’s Spaghetti is something probably most appreciated by those who grew up eating this sweet style. If not, you’ll either hate it, or scratch your head and wonder “What the heck did I just eat?”. I’m in the last camp, still scratching my head in retrospect. I’ll have to go refresh my memory and get a can of Chef Boyardee SpaghettiOs, then I’ll get back to you on that thought. lol

So as it stands, as for a SPAM Musubi rating on Jollibee’s Spaghetti, all I can say at this time is “No comment”. lol

Finally, let’s sample Jollibee’s Cheeseburger…

Note, like McDonald’s basic burger, Jollibee’s “standard” Cheeseburger’s bun are plain, whereas their premium models get a sesame bun.

Let’s get the cutaway view…

I certainly appreciate the crispy, fresh Iceberg lettuce topping is kept in whole pieces and not shredded, as I’m not a fan of shredded Iceberg Lettuce on burgers (like they do at Micky D’s).

Let’s really take it apart (done after I took several bites)…

Notice they also toast the inside of the bun, so thumbs-up for that. Notice there’s their “Signature Sauce”slathered lightly on the inside part of the top bun, which I tasted by itself (without the burger) and am almost POSITIVE now (almost) this is essentially banana ketchup.

So how is it? Eh, OK. Eh. Meh.

The highly processed burger patty (common’ now, this is corporate fast food, what do you expect?) seems to be made up of plenty of filler, and was obviously cooked on a flat top griddle (fried), and not an open flame grill, which you know how I feel about that.

It also tasted like someone on the line missed putting salt and pepper on it, as, well, there wasn’t much taste to the patty at all. As if I was eating a Cheese, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich, where the predominant flavor component came from the the slightly acidic sweetness of the sauce, while the burger patty itself was an underseasoned, overprocessed afterthought. Ouch.

Summing it up, I give Jollibee’s Cheeseburger 1 SPAM Musubi on this “First Byte” visit, with 1 barely making the grade, thanks to the freshness of the bun and veggies, as well as the “interesting twang” from their Signature sauce.

I’ve been told their “Big Yum” Premium Burger is “the one” to get, but if that 1/3 pound burger patty is essentially a larger version of the one here, I’ll pass.

A Jollibee regular standing in line in front of me highly recommended I try their Halo-Halo and Peach Mango Pie, so if (if) I return, that’s what I’m gettin’. Not sure about anything else. The hot dog looks kinda’ interesting with the grated cheese and signature (banana ketchup) sauce.

A coworker who grew up in P.I. noted the food served at this new Jollibee is pretty much authentic and the same as the one he remembers from back home. And it’s exactly that demographic who will enjoy this place most. Surely young children will enjoy Jollibee for its whimsical appeal, along with a menu to match.

Chicken & Burgers
94-300 Farrington Highway (in the Waipahu Shopping Plaza)
Waipahu, Hawaii  96797

Tel. 671-7448

The Tasty Island rating:

(1) Average.

P.S. Adjacent to the new Jollibee (and neigbhoring Golden Coin) is Pacific Market , the anchor tenant of Waipahu Shopping Plaza, where I swear, EVERYONE MUST experience this market at least once. EVERYONE. This place is AMAZING! It truly is like taking a tour with Anthony Bourdain through the open markets  throughout the entirety of asia, all wrapped up in one convenient store right here on Oahu.

You think Whole Foods has interesting and unusual stuff? Well, wait until you check Pacific Market out! There’s so many fascinating imported food products from all over asia. While the focus are products from the Philippines, there’s also many items from the likes of Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, China and Korea. I’m pretty sure there’s plenty of imported asian food products that, if you can’t find in Honolulu Chinatown, you’ll find it here. In fact, I recently checked downtown Chinatown for Fried Dace, and couldn’t find any. And guess what? Pacific Market had it!

The prices here also seem very reasonable, no doubt due to the exchange rate with the countries they come from.

I’ve seen never a larger selection of Patis, not to mention Longanisa, both packaged and freshly-made. There’s also all these interesting canned fruits imported from Thailand that I’ve never heard of, nor would I have a CLUE how to use in a dish. I’d love to learn, though!

I’ll admit, when it comes to browsing in the store, I have this fetish for sauces, and spend plenty of time in the grocery aisles just reading the labels of exotic imported and new, locally produced bottled sauces. Well, here at Pacific Market, it would probably take me an entire DAY just to go over the HUGE SELECTION of imported asian sauces alone.

As far as retail, I also haven’t seen as much variety and quantity of rice than I have in this store, including 50 lb. and 100 lb. bulk sizes. Whoah!

Then there’s the meat and fish department, which is the part that may make you want to put on a respirator mask, as it SMELLS STRONG in there, being there’s chest after chest after chest of fresh-caught whole fish on ice on display throughout the area. Like Chinatown, you can buy pretty much EVERY PART of the pig here, and I must warn, if you’re squeamish about looking at animal “guts” on display in food cases, you best stay clear of the meat department at Pacific Market. They even had goat (Kalding). Didn’t see any live frogs though, which Chinatown does have.

Finally, the produce department has lots of unusual, exotic greens and fruits you definitely won’t be able find at your neighborhood Foodland or Safeway, including Malungay and Saluyot leaves, just to name a few. They also sell cartons of cooked and uncooked balut duck eggs, which were going at $7 for 6.

The front checkout area also has this interesting novelty shop, as well as a takeout deli.

If you ever are entertaining visitors (tourists) and driving them around the island, make it a point to stop by Waipahu and take them on a “tour” of Pacific Market. It truly is one of the most fascinating shopping experiences to be discovered here!

Finally, while we’re talking about fast food chains, the very first McDonald’s to open in Hawaii was in Aina Haina in 1968, where they’ve recently knocked that original structure down and built a modern McDonald’s right next to it.

Here’s the original McDonald’s Aina Haina (first McDonald’s in Hawaii) back in its glory days (photo taken 2007) …

Here it is in the process of being demolished (photo taken last month)….

Out with the old, and in with the new (located about 50 yards to the right of the old McDonald’s Aina Haina shown above)…

The original McDonald’s building in Aina Haina Shopping Center has since been razed (demolished).

RIP Aina Haina McDonald’s circa 1968 building.


13 thoughts on “First Byte: Jollibee in Waipahu

  1. Out in the old , in with the new. Its unfortunate though, the old mcdonalds seems to have way more personality then the new one. the new one actually kinda looks like A) a jiffy lube or B) a miniature version of an airport hangar.

  2. I like Jollibee chichen because it is less saltier than that produced by the two (2) KFCs on the Leeward side. I get the 6-piece chicken joy.

    However digressing a little, I tried “miss vickie’s big book of pressure cooker recipes” knock off of KFC chicken and contender to both Popeye’s and Church’s chicken the other week and on my first try I think would be a 5 SPAM Musubi on your scale! I did chicken thighs; marinated chicken in buttermilk with salt, pepper and some spices overnight, patted thighs dry; pressure cooked the chicken in my Fagor pressure cooker ON A RACK ABOVE 1 cup water with one (1) Knorr chicken bouillon for 7 minutes and rapid released pressure; let cool and rest for about 5 min while I prepped and mixed seasoned flour; dipped chicken in fresh buttermilk then in seasoned flour to coat (my 27 herbs and spices combination); back into buttermilk and coat in seasoned flour (2 coatings); let rest in refrigerator 10 minutes; bring to room temperature and fry in 3 inches of 350 degree Crisco oil (I use my black beauty family heirloom cast-iron fry pan) till golden brown (careful as chicken cooks real fast). Juicy, crispy, no blood at the bone and cooked through and tastes like the old KFC chicken that was first introduced way back when. As you would say; “ONOLICIOUS, BROKE DA’ MOUT’ WINNAHZ!”

  3. to be honesty, i don’t think i will be rushing to taste the food here any time soon – i don’t like the idea of banana ketchup on my hotdog, and the photos of the rest looks pretty dire.

  4. After reading, I’m starting to wonder if less salt or no salt is one of the styles of filipino cooking. I went to A’s Bistro this past Sat. and the Bihon Noodles and the Crispy Pata were very much lacking in salt. And the french fries had no salt at all. Maybe their way of satisfying all customers is “put your own salt to taste”. Some of my friend’s love A’s Bistro. Got to ask them if they “put their own salt” LOL

  5. Hey don’t knock Jollibee if you didn’t try it, my trips to P.I. I’m always amazed how packed Jollibee are compared to McD’s and Pomai only tried the dishes that he knows Fried Chicken,Burgers and he didn’t try the the real filipino dishes Palabok, Bangus,Tapas which you wont find at McD’s…Hawaii taste will differ from people from P.I. check out this link it’s very interesting:

    Oh I do like Jollibee when I go to P.I. but for Burgers, Burger Machine is da place I like best

  6. Banana ketchup has it’s place but like Simon sez, I need to try the spaghetti first before I comment.

    That chicken leg looks tasty, though!!!!

  7. Diner E – guess you gotta like Filipino food to begin with…your regular Hawai’i diners would find it hard to order…not knowing what to order.

  8. Pomai, it different for sure Jollibee food. I do like now banana ketchup and use it on plain potato chips and French Fries. I do not know much of Filipino food but now will try other places that serve it.

  9. Kimo, Banana ketchup is really ono with Fried Chicken, but I’m sure it’s great with anything

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