Sat, June 22, 2024

Business Lunch Review: Panda Express

Editor’s Note:
Wes Hennings never met a meal he walked away from and is an opinionated eater! Each Thursday, he shares the results of a business lunch he’s had with a colleague as a way to advise our business community on the good, bad, and the tasty across the CSRA. He doesn’t let ABD or the restaurant know where he is going and his opinions are his own. He grades the restaurants he visits on a 1-5 scale with “5” being outstanding. We call this our “Real Business Lunch Review”.

Food Quality: 4
Service: 3
Business Meeting: 3
Value: 5

Average Score: 3.75 of 5

I have been on a quest to find a good Chinese buffet in town but have so far had little luck. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find some excellent flavor around, but perhaps, not in an all-you-can-eat setting. When a friend invited me to Panda Express for lunch one afternoon, I knew what I would be getting. I thought I would share, so you too can know where to find a reliably tasty Asian-inspired meal.

In the recesses of my mind, there was a Panda Express in the mall my family used to shop at when I was a child. Whether this was part of the chain, or just coincidentally had the same name, who knows. But my mother would stop each time we were there for the crab Rangoon. This is possibly my formative memory of beginning to enjoy Chinese food because who doesn’t love fried dough stuffed with cream cheese?

Of course, my order at Augusta’s Panda Express had to include Crab Rangoon, and it was as tasty as I remember from that little mall shop of my childhood. My dining companion and I both got the “plate” option which includes two entrees and a side. One of the entrees of course has to be orange chicken (for reasons detailed later) and I opted for honey walnut shrimp and my pal, the teriyaki grilled chicken. We both had them pile fried rice beside it, though lo mein and broccoli were other options.

Panda Express claims they have the “original” orange chicken. This claim to me seemed dubious and hard to prove, but research seems to point to the fact that they did. And perhaps, this is why it’s just so darn good. It’s this orange chicken that I find myself craving and coming back for. I’ll always eat every bite of the chicken, if not even trying to scrape the extra sauce from the container.

The trouble is, I can never find another entree that I enjoy as much to pair with this dish. The shrimp I had was even an upgrade and it was just ok. The shrimp had a little too much flavor of the sea remaining, as I like to say. As for the teriyaki grilled chicken, the review was that it lacked a little flavor and was just “ok.”

The pros of Panda are that it’s nice and quick and casual. But those could be cons if you are trying to find a business lunch. The seating isn’t great and the atmosphere is loud and often crowded. But we were still able to have a nice conversation without taking up too much time. I wasn’t too impressed with the attentiveness or the process of the folks behind the counter, but it’s also not far from what is expected in these types of establishments.

Panda Express is a good lunch and is conveniently located in a couple of places around town. You’re taking chances if you’re not choosing the orange chicken and you should definitely opt for the crab Rangoon. Even with the appetizer, double entrees with one upgraded, and drinks for all, we still clocked in at less than $30, so the value was about as good as you’ll find. When you find yourself craving the flavors of the East, you won’t go wrong by dining with the Panda.

Panda Express
255 Robert C Daniel Jr Pkwy

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