Before Panda Express, there was a parent company, a more upscale, full service restaurant called Panda Inn. As someone who was only a few blocks from a Panda Inn when I lived in Santa Monica, CA… I visited often. Since then it has been pretty much taken over by the “express” chain, but I do believe a few “Inns” still remain, unfortunately they are no where near me anymore.
To be clear, Panda Express is definitely a food court experience, but they have some tasty dishes. The main caveat is getting something that has been sitting around for too long (which is why I avoid the drive thru).
If you go inside, and pick some dishes that have just come off the cooktop, it’s pretty good Chinese fast food. Not the same quality as Panda Inn, but works for me in a pinch.
Panda Express is merely Panda Inn without the fancy silverware and table service.
As someone who worked for the company (Panda Restaurant Group), at Panda Express you are essentially getting 90% of the Panda Inn experience for 50% of the price.
And for what it’s worth, while it’s not gourmet, Panda Express is very very good for what it is. It is eons better than your typical Chinese fast food corner store with hot plates and chafing dishes. It’s sort of like what Shake Shack would be to your typical Burger King.
THANK YOU for the Chicken Salad recipe. I used to get it all the time at Westside Pavilion and was super disappointed when they discontinued it. Have tried over the years to duplicate from memory, never quite the same.
Some random musings…I agree that Panda Express is pretty ok chinese food if your town has no good chinese. Mine doesn’t. And therefore PE scratches the itch. It is much better than other fast food chinese mall or otherwise.
Has that Panda Inn in Pasadena been around awhile? I think we may’ve gone there as a group for dinner pre-prom. My high school was in La Canada Flintridge.
I love chinese chicken salad. Several decades ago when we lived in LA, we would get our fix in Westwood at Feast from the East. Now that is a recipe I’d love to see a copycat of!
There was an interesting conversation about Panda Express in a Splendid Table podcast about American Chinese food that I listened to today……making up for months when I was hardly driving down the street! Highly recommend the episode….