Friday, January 27, 2017

Jolibee - Skokie, IL

I first heard of Filipino fast food chain Jolibee on an episode of Parts Unknown in 2013 when Anthony Bourdain (who called their famous spaghetti dish "deranged, yet strangely alluring") visited one of the US locations in Los Angeles with Chef Roy Choi. The chain (which has 36 locations here now, including one in Queens) has developed a loyal cult following in the States among expat Filipinos, first-generation Filipino-Americans, and a few curious gringos willing to expand their fast food comfort zones beyond simple burgers and pizza. Luckily for us, a Jolibee location recently opened in suburban Chicago at 3534 W. Touhy in Skokie not far from our home-away-from-home over the holidays in the city, so Mrs. Hackknife and I agreed to meet up there with my brother-in-law (an aficionado of all things fast food) to check it out.

All hail our new overlord the happy Bee mascot

Diners can conveniently order the chain's two most well-known offerings, the fried chicken and the spaghetti, as part of a combo meal.  The chicken (called "Chickenjoy" on the menu) isn't particularly distinctive in any way, other than it's definitely now on my short list of best fast-food fried chicken, all crispy and juicy and tender as advertised.  On the surface, the spaghetti (which includes noodles, slices of ham and hot dogs, shredded cheddar cheese, and a slighty-sweetened tomato sauce) sounds a bit disgusting, but the components actually work together in a stoner food-kind of way.  I can definitely see the allure.  The combo meal comes with a side of gravy (I didn't use it) and choice of drink (I selected pineapple juice).

Jolibee is also known for its Filipino desserts, including halo halo (not the best we've had - the old Filipino Fest in Tampa spoiled us forever) and pearl coolers (you're looking at the ube, or purple yam, below), but the best of the bunch is the peach-mango fried pie that puts to shame anything McDonald's was doing, even back in the 70s when their fryers were still powered with beef tallow.

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