Jollibee and Max’s have been delighting Filipino-fried-chicken lovers elsewhere for years. Now, both are in Seattle, and while they’re both delicious, one features more batter than the other.
We’re living in good times here, people. We’re blessed with not one, but two famous fried-chicken chains from the Philippines, Jollibee and Max’s. Even better, they sit a mile from each other in Tukwila.
Max’s is the worldwide phenomenon that landed in the South End in May. The wait is up to an hour on weekends. (Psst, come on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays to avoid the lines.)
The kitchen does beef peanut stew kare-kare and Lumpiang eggroll, but you see the cursive writing on the wall — “the house that fried chicken built” — and you know what to order, right?
At its branch in Tukwila, Max’s goes through 250 chickens on a busy night. The late, great L.A. Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold listed Max’s as one of his favorite Asian fried-chicken joints.
Its signature chicken will be familiar to anyone who has brined and roasted a chicken on a Sunday afternoon. The difference here is Max’s deep-fries theirs. No batter. Just the meat and skin deep-fried — twice — in vegetable oil to a golden, crispy finish.
Max’s chicken ($10.99 for a half order, $15.99 for a full chicken) is intentionally salty to go with the dipping sauce that you are supposed to doctor at your table. Mix together the table condiments of Worcestershire, Tabasco and banana sauce (a sweeter version of ketchup). I like a Worcestershire base rounded out with some fiery-ness; most Max’s fans I’ve seen tweak theirs on the sweet side (globs of banana sauce).
You want that piquant briny meat to get that vinegary tang.
16830 Southcenter Parkway; 253-277-2065, maxsrestaurantusa.com
In my circle, it’s mostly Asians and military brats who know about Jollibee. But then a couple of years ago, Anthony Bourdain had a drumstick and spaghetti at the Jollibee in Manila, and next thing I know, everyone evangelizes about “chickenjoy” — that’s fried chicken to Jollibee nation.
Its outpost at Westfield Southcenter is among the chain’s 1,300 branches worldwide. It’s fast food, but expect 30 minutes to an hourlong wait on weekends. The good news: You get a pager so you can go window shopping while you wait for your bucket of chicken ($9.99 for six pieces, $16.99 for 10).
The chicken comes with a side of gravy. Jollibee devotees want every slope and angle of that craggy batter lathered in brown sauce. Imagine Ezell’s but with a crunchy-mucky texture similar to a chicken-fried steak smothered in country gravy.
I prefer “chickenjoy” unadulterated. Jollibee’s chicken is coated in a batter that is crunchier than most fast-food chickens’. When the cashier asks whether you want regular or spicy, the latter is the only way to go. The flaky batter crumbles into salty specks when you chomp into that juicy meat.
From my visits, Jollibee’s is never greasy or soggy, the oil never rancid like some second-rate chicken shacks.
Its plump, spicy drumstick, the ideal proportion of batter to meat, ranks up there with Popeyes’ for best fried chicken at a fast-food chain.
Jollibee fanatics swear by the pasta here, but that tomato sauce is as sweet as dessert. Better is the “palabok” — a garlicky bed of noodles topped with shrimp, ground pork and slices of hard-boiled egg and dusted with pork rinds for crunch.
1374 Westfield Southcenter; 206-24804240, jollibeeusa.com