It might be hard to believe, but in my almost three years here at UConn I have not once been to Panda Express at the Student Union. Not once until Tuesday afternoon, that is. I figured that after countless lunchtime rush hours at the Union seeing the unbelievably long line at the renowned Panda Express, I had to finally wait in the long line myself and give the Chinese fast food chain a chance.
Arriving at the Union during my normal two hour break between classes on Tuesdays, I quickly joined the increasingly larger line, which was wrapping around the staircase at the time, and took my time to read the menu. While the wait in line can be long, the employees actually send you down the line pretty quickly once you make your order so you won’t have to wait much longer. On top of that, the staff is quite friendly in my experience and makes the wait seem more manageable.
Students have numerous options to choose from including a bowl, a plate or a bigger plate that can contain one, two or three entrees, respectively, to go with a side, such as fried rice or mixed vegetables. The pricing isn’t too bad either as a bigger plate goes for only $8.30, which is great value for three proteins. Entrees range from Panda Express’s famous orange chicken to broccoli beef to kung pao chicken and more. And of course, this is far better than most of the Chinese cuisine you’ll get at the dining hall.
I personally tried out the grilled teriyaki chicken as a safe choice and had a side of fried rice. While it wasn’t anything like going to a sit-down restaurant, I have to say that the chicken was fresh, well-cooked and tasted great while the fried rice was full of flavor in its own right. The quality of the meal was better than I expected, for sure, and I will definitely go back to try some of the other entrees that Panda Express has to offer, especially the orange chicken which I’ve heard much about. Plus, in the future I’ll definitely try out different combinations of entrees as the plate and bigger plate give you more to choose from.
Ultimately, I have to give Panda Express four stars out of five. The food was solid and has great value for college students. Plus, it fulfills a need for quick Chinese cuisine on campus. The only downside, of course, is the wait in line during rush hours due to the sheer popularity. Going in-between meals would be a smart choice, but even if you do go during rush hour, I definitely recommend Panda Express to anyone like myself who has avoided the lines for three years. For what you get, the food is surely worth the wait.