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What's the McDonald's of Manila?


Luwee knows. He's waiting to take my order here at Jollibee (1401 E. Plaza Boulevard, National City), the Filipino fast-food eatery that has created almost 2000 outlets worldwide, including subsidiaries. They were a two-store ice cream place in Manila in 1975.



So I guess you could call this Filipino mall food. Jollibee also has outlets in Westfield Plaza, Bonita, and Mira Mesa (8118 E. Mira Mesa Boulevard). Not surprising: Filipino-Americans are almost ten percent of San Diego's population. But what I'm noticing is lots of burger and spaghetti dishes on the menu. "Something Filipino?" I ask Luwee.

"Rice with fish or pancit palabok -- pancit noodles with shrimp," he says.

I take the pancit. With a nice pineapple drink, it comes to $7.24 plus tax. It's an orange swirl of noodles with a fishy aroma, tiny shrimp tails here and there, boiled egg slices, probably fish flakes, chopped green onion, and a chicken drumstick.


Pancit palabok and drumstick meal with pineapple drink

But I notice most of the moms coming in with kids seem to be getting the pancit or rice for their older relatives; for their kids and themselves, they are ordering burgers or spaghetti. Huh. You can see what's cool.

It's certainly bright and merry in here, in a Ronald McDonald kinda way.



And this pancit-plus-drumstick really filled me up. I'm just an amateur when it comes to the famous foods of the Philippine Islands, but one thing I know: this is in no way Tita's Kitchenette (up the road at 2720 E. Plaza Boulevard, at Euclid).

Not to be retro or anything, but that place is the real thing. Jollibee's? Welcome to globalization 101.

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