Judging (Fast Food) Restaurants – Panda Express


Our discussion on Columbia Heights development got me thinking about Panda Express. The last few weekends when I’ve walked through Columbia Heights near the metro (14th and Irving), Five Guys, Pete’s and Potbelly’s have all been packed. But Panda Express always only has a handful of customers. As far as fast food is concerned, it’s pretty decent. I mean it’s no Szechuan House for sure. But as far as fast food is concerned are there any Panda Express fans out there? Or if you’re getting fast food are you always going to hit potbelly’s, Five Guys, or grab a slice of pizza at Pete’s?

29 Comment

  • I definitely get cravings for that orange chicken every now and then, however, I’ve always known of better alternatives to Panda Express, just like we all know better Mexican restaurants than Taco Bell. I guess it serves it purpose for now (a quick alternative for cheap food), but I can’t wait until Panda is replaced with something local, cheap and delicious.

  • With City Lights delivering to me in MTP I have no need for Panda. I am always a little suspect of chinese in the first place for the same reason I am with Indian. its so saucy that its easy to hide low low quality food. So I need it from a place I trust.

  • I never thought I’d say this, but I am glad to have this Panda Express. The small Georgia Avenue, Upsure, and 14th street chineese fast food places are all terrible, dirty, and rude. It might be a Panda Express, but at least its good and clean. Maybe it will inspire some of the other to clean up…

  • panda express is so awesome! it tastes amazing and is a fun party for you every time you eat it! many times have i walked out of panda express, styrofoam container under my arm, big smile on my face, humming hell of ditties.

    also, the manager Sunny is a really cool guy and really fun and smart and good looking.

  • Amen Julian, we need “local, cheap and delicious”.

    Panda Express is mall food court Chinese food. Not in my neighborhood!

  • I have to agree. Before this place opened I would’ve never considered eating panda meat, but these guys are really on top of their game. And there’s no reason to be alarmed; the chain hasn’t used the meat of endangered giant pandas for decades. It all comes from livestock-grade red pandas.

  • It’s finger Ling Ling good!

    While not my favorite Chinese restaurant, as a previous commenter noted, it is clean, and you can get a pretty healthy meal there if you get the mixed veggies as the side instead of fried rice or noodles. They don’t have wonton soup, though, which seems weird to me.

  • I would tend to agree. Panda Express has some tasty-ass orange chicken and it makes for quite the satisfying meal.

    I loved Sunny’s work at Pentagon City. However, his enthusiastic attitude and ear to ear smile seems to have disappeared a bit as of late. I wonder if the high stress of working the CH branch has started to have an effect.

    Sunny if you’re reading this man, SMILE! We know who wakes up at 4AM and chops all those delicious looking vegetables in the back showcase.

    We love your work!

    – MattS

  • I also want to chime in, in that this is some of the most blatant false advertising since I sued the makers of “The Neverending Story.” Not only do they not serve panda meat as advertised, when I went in dressed in my panda outfit with my junk hanging out, they refused to serve me. They should change their name to “Panda Depress.”

    PS: their bbq koala is some of the best I’ve had this side of the Adelade Home for the Criminally Insane.

  • Panda Express is a notoriously employee-friendly business (sorry couldn’t think of a word more positive sounding than ‘notorious’). The owner is quite the champion of policies which favor his employees. Still a chain, but a good chain, like Whole Foods or Yes! Organic Grociers is a good chain.

  • It’s not as good as Yum’s. No Mumbo Sauce

  • MAmbo Sauce, WIA. MAMBO sauce.

  • Panda Express rocks, make sure you go when Sunny’s there though as he helps ensure the orange chicken is at it’s crunchy and flavorful best…avoid “Luis” though, whose proportions and quality control leave much to be desired.

    Hopefully Sunny, after leaving the shadow of the Pentagon City branch, can flourish in the bright light of reflected non-prescription emotions glasses and colorful scarves in Columbia Heights

  • its mumble sauce

  • I’ve also seen “marble sauce” and “moms beau sauce.”

  • Clearly, it’s Mumbai sauce!

  • Famously, Anon1:22. Famously.

    I luuuuuuuurve Panda Express. City Lights is the one that should be in the food court. That place sucks, and it’s about time everyone comes to terms with that. Just like Mr. Chen’s used to be good and now sucks balls.

  • What is this City Lights of which you speak, Anon @ 12:44?

    I order from Johnny’s now, but would like something a little higher quality. Not that I don’t love going in there and admiring their bullet-proof glass and LOL-funny menu typos. But when half of my general tso’s is just fried chunks of fat and gristle, I wonder if it was worth the 2-minute walk over…

  • Also, Mr. Chen’s “sucks balls” because they serve “man-boy sauce” with their chicken wings. Says so right there on the menu.

  • I love Panda Express! I get some serious cravings for the orange chicken. My parents live out in Phoenix and they’re in every shopping center there. I could care less if it’s a chain–it’s a much more pleasant experience (and I find it’s cheaper) than the local ‘hood Chinese joints over by me in Shaw. I went to one at 7th and T that (a) had no heat (I guess the overhead for the gas bill is too high); (b) allowed smoking INSIDE the restaurant; (c) had handwritten menus; (d) blantantly overcharged me and only charged me the correct price when I said something; (e) sold Black ‘n’ Milds as well and (f) gave me chicken (if it really was chicken and not the rat I saw near the Metro the other day…) that was mostly gristle and fat.

    Give me mall chain food over that any day.

  • Why don’t they have lake trout?

  • WDC- City Lights of China. (in Dupont) its one of the few places I trust. Also you can get general tsos at Tono in WP and they have a pretty good chinese menu at Banana Leaves too. All deliver to me in MTP. Who eats chinese take out anyway. it is most pure in delivery form. and around here there are much better places a delivery away.

  • Does Panda Express deliver?

  • I loved the experience I had at the Union Station location when trying to find some good/quick vegetarian food. They’ve got great options for cobbling together loads of veggie options.

    However, since it’s not a local business, I just don’t see myself going there, especially with all the fine local carry-out places around.

  • @5:57 – I don’t think so, but oddly Potbelly’s does.

  • I can’t seem to find a good Chinese delivery option these days. Mr. Chen’s used to be awesome, but the quality there has taken a nosedive in the past year or two. And City Lights is a bit sketchy. What’s good out there for delivery?

  • i do fortune express, good food and great delivery service – very reliable. they deliver to petworth and mt pleasant.

    Fortune Express
    (202) 723-3278
    4726 14th St NW
    Washington, DC 20011

  • Fortune Express is disgusting slop alongside those other takeouts that pander to the innocuous taste buds of gentrified DC or it’s “urban” denizens. Adam Express (although Korean) is about as good as it gets around the CH area.

  • I have been working for 3 years.now..but the last few month they hire a new manager ( with low pay ) and they perform modern slavery… ( surprised me panda kick off almost all the American ( white ) and replace with Chinese decent and speak enough English .. ..???. I will stick with family own/traditional Chinese restaurant ..

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