By now, every VCU student knows what to expect at Panda Express.
The service is friendly. They cashier says “Welcome to Panda!” and the rest of the staff echoes with a “Welcome!” It masks the inevitably long wait you will have to patiently abide by in this Express.
The restaurant is decorated with tiles that inspire a bamboo feel, but are accented by cold, blue steel and VCU-related art. It’s full of large windows so you can make eye contact with people as you dig into your panda bowl.
Your pan-Asian fix can now be satisfied with a swipe, so you won’t have to worry about the 4 Asian restaurants neighboring the restaurant on Grace Street.
For a block on your meal plan, you pick your protein and you pick what accompanies it, whether it’s rice, noodles, fried rice, or brown rice. Your meat options range between beef and chicken with varied Asian-inspired sauces and textures and tofu options for your vegetarian friend.
There aren’t any surprises here. Panda Express’s strength is that you will taste exactly what you thought you ordered. I can eat a lot, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the modest size of the swipe bowl was enough to fill me up. Maybe the large drink size helped me out a bit.
But that all can be enjoyed after you actually receive your order. The wait is not where anyone wants it to be, but only if you order in-demand items like orange chicken. They will take your order speedily enough, but whether it’s ready or not is another beast entirely.
For reference, on opening day, I waited twenty minutes to get my Orange Chicken bowl from Panda Express. Two weeks later, I ordered the same thing and waited the same amount of time. My friend who ordered beijing beef was able to get his food without waiting at all.
I went at 5 p.m. that first day, where I expected the wait because workers have to get used to the kitchen system. I just thought it would have been streamlined by now, but that’s only the case for options that aren’t your standard “Orange Chicken” or “Teriyaki Chicken.” It’s just not as “Express” as I expect it to be, nor is it as “Express” as I’ve had in Shortpump Mall.
We know you will still be a happy consumer of what Panda Express has to offer. But just know that the wait is not as streamlined as it can be.