Many San Franciscans recognize the joyful cartoon bee outside the city's only Jollibee in SoMa, but few venture inside. What is Jollibee, you ask? (With a gluttony of food writers, we couldn't find one whimsical article or review on the unique-for-S.F. joint. Then again, that umpteenth street food article won't write itself.) Jollibee is an American-style fast-food chain featuring Filipino-ish menu items (e.g., burgers, spaghetti, chicken, shrimp and other local Filipino dishes with which we were unfamiliar.) San Francisco's quasi-Filipino neighborhood houses the city's only Jolliee store, with other locations in Daly City, San Bruno and Union City. Being a big fan of the term "Chicken Joy," always featured in the window of the restaurant, we finally gathered a few dollars and several dimes, and headed over to sup on some of their offerings.
To launch our journey into Filipino fast food, we started by ordering items with which we're all too familiar, a cheeseburger (the "Yumburger") and fries. The fries were just as satisfying and unoriginal as any you might find at any artery clogging joint. The cheeseburger, however, was a bit different. The burger bun looked and tasted cakey; it lacked the chewiness of, say, a McDonald's or Wendy's bun. And the meat patty, if you will, was exceptionally thin -- especially when compared to other fast food chains' thick patties. The sauce, which was explained as ranch dressing by a helpful Jollibee employee, tasted like a mishmash of mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup. Very odd, but barely palatable in a pinch.
As with anything wrapped in delicate dough-like substance and fried within an inch of life, the Shanghai/Lumpia Rolls were tasty. We could eat a bucket of the crispy rolls filled with a meat-like substance. Which, of course, begs the question: Why don't more fast food restaurants use the egg roll format on their menus?