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New Fast Food Frenzy

Filipino fast food giant creates a near In-N-Out Burger frenzy with its first Houston restaurant

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Jollibee Houston grand opening with mascot and smiling girls September 2013
Pose with the restaurant's mascot. Twitter
3 Jollibee Houston Setember 2013 crowd at menu board in line to order
The bright, colorful menu features burgers, fried chicken and spaghetti. Photo by Eric Sandler
2 Jollibee Houston Setember 2013 interior with crowd
Even at 11 a.m., a crowd had already mostly filled the dining room, but tables turned over quickly. Photo by Eric Sandler
1 Jollibee Houston Setember 2013 fried chicken with mashed potatoes
A plate with two pieces of fried chicken, two sides, a smoothie and a fried pie cost about $10.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Jollibee Houston grand opening with mascot and smiling girls September 2013
3 Jollibee Houston Setember 2013 crowd at menu board in line to order
2 Jollibee Houston Setember 2013 interior with crowd
1 Jollibee Houston Setember 2013 fried chicken with mashed potatoes

Filipino fast food giant Jollibee has opened its first Houston location near Reliant Stadium. Although it didn't receive the same sort of advance coverage that, say, In-N-Out Burger might if it were to open here, Houston's Filipino community (and fast food connoisseurs) have turned out in force to welcome the newcomer.

A manager tells CultureMap that the restaurant has been serving up to 1,500 people per day since it opened, and judging by the line outside the restaurant Sunday afternoon, fans are willing to wait an hour or more to get their fix. Even at 11 a.m. Monday morning, a line had started to form. Parking is at a premium in the small lot, and a washateria next door has blocked off spaces for its patrons. 

Outside, a statue of Jollibee's mascot, a man in a bee costume with a chef's hat who's a fun alternative to Ronald McDonald, surveys the scene. The drive-thru won't open until next month.

I'd rank the chicken as slightly better than average. Not quite as spicy or crispy as Popeyes, but comfortably ahead of my last visit to KFC.

Inside, patrons have three basic choices for their entree: Fried chicken, burgers and spaghetti. Not being overly familiar with Jollibee's products, I noticed that most of the other patrons were ordering fried chicken and went that route along with mashed potatoes and buttered corn. To drink, I ordered a frozen purple yam smoothie with tapioca balls. Since I have a strange affection for fast food desserts, I chose to finish my meal with a fried peach mango pie. 

I'd rank Jollibee's chicken as slightly better than average fast food. Not quite as spicy or crispy as Popeyes, but comfortably ahead of my last visit to KFC. The pie actually tasted like fruit and wasn't as overwhelmingly sweet as other examples. 

Jollibee probably isn't something I'd wait an hour or more to eat, but, for those who either grew up with it or have been traveling to California for a fix, I can see the appeal. A return trip will be in order when the restaurant starts serving breakfast in the next couple weeks.

In the meantime, there's a bona fide fast food phenomenon happening near Reliant. Go check it out. 

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