My trip to Panda Express opened my eyes to a delectable new option for fast food


I won’t try to deny it: I love fast food. Probably to an unhealthy extreme. There’s not often a situation where I’m not craving fast food in one of its many forms. Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Wendy’s, Chick-Fil-A, Fazoli’s, and Chipotle are just a few of my favorites. I will eat fast food any time, any place.

All things considered, I’m shocked that I didn’t discover Panda Express sooner. It didn’t really appear on my radar until a few months ago when I spontaneously decided that I needed to try it. I was on a day trip to Holland when I finally visited Panda Express for the first time. While it wasn’t mind-blowing or anything, it was enough to warrant my return when a Panda Express opened in Grand Rapids.

I was a bit nervous and unsure of what to expect as I entered the restaurant. I had read a couple of online reviews prior to my trip, and they hadn’t been particularly positive. But I entered with an open mind, and more importantly an empty stomach; I wanted to determine for myself if Panda Express would satisfy my cravings.

When I walked in, my eyes were immediately drawn to the sleek and somewhat modern theme. The dark wood, open windows, and pops of red created an atmosphere that was attractive and pleasing to the eye. I wandered over to the Subway-style food line and surveyed the menu and array of colorful food choices in front of me.

The menu was very simple and easy to read, displaying reasonable prices for the myriad of available dishes. It wasn’t an easy process trying to limit my decisions to only a few items, but I finally elected to try the Orange Chicken, Fried Rice, Chow Mein, and spring rolls.

As they took my order, it was obvious that the staff was new and still learning their way around the restaurant. But despite their slightly slower than average service, they were very polite and tolerant of my many questions. They served my food to me without any mistakes and were very clear in communication.

As I got into the car with my take-out boxes of food, I was too hungry to wait. Both my dad and I eagerly dug into the spring rolls. The crunchy, crisp outer wonton wrapper gave way to a warm, salty, and overall flavorful inside of vegetables and Chinese noodles. My suspenseful taste buds were instantly pleased.

I could barely wait another second to eat by the time I got home. The smell wafting from the boxes was tantalizing, and I was exceedingly hungry. Having tried the Fried Rice on my previous visit, I decided to give the Orange Chicken a shot. While at first it seemed sticky and messy, my first bite led to a burst of sweet but savory flavor. I didn’t expect the chicken to be quite as crunchy as it proved to be, but I wasn’t disappointed.

The Chow Mein and Fried Rice were equally delicious. I was surprised by the careful mixture of sophisticated flavor and fast food simplicity in each of the dishes. The Chow Mein, which I had not tried, kept me coming back for bite after bite until I’d eaten almost half of the container myself.

As a fast food fanatic, I’m disappointed in myself that I have to admit it took me so long to discover Panda Express.”

While the meal was definitely appetizing, I didn’t expect it to stick in my memory for so long. I continued to crave yet another meal from Panda Express for days. I see another visit in my near future, especially since I have many more dishes I’m hoping to try.

As a fast food fanatic, I’m disappointed in myself that I have to admit it took me so long to discover Panda Express. However, I intend to make up for lost time; Panda Express is without hesitation going on my list of go-to fast food places.