Friday, December 30, 2011

Bowie Restaurant Project: (38) Panda Express

Panda Express Is Now Closed.
For an explanation of the Bowie Restaurant Project, look here.

For a list of all the Bowie Restaurant Project reviews, look here.

Panda Express, 3860 Town Center Blvd.

Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 12/29/2011
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 2
Pre-Foursquare Visits: Don't think so
Rating: 1/2 out of 5 stars

Based on my criteria for determining how many times to visit a restaurant for review, I had hoped to get by with one visit to Panda Express. It seemed so familiar -- and ubiquitous -- that I was pretty sure I had been there before. But ordering my food brought no sense of remembrance, so I suspect Panda Express is the type of place I have walked by countless times to order food from some place better.

Let's get the details of the restaurant out of the way. The rice was dry, and the food was meh. You can get two or three entrees with a combo, which I guess distinguishes it from most "normal" Chinese restaurants. It at least assured me I wasn't missing out on some fantastic specialty. The entrees were a mixed bag; some were tastier than others, and I would try to remember which were which if I had any intention of eating there again. The combo doesn't include a drink, or at least that's what the worker told me. That's despite the fact that the sign makes ordering a combo a 3-step process, of which Step 3 is "choose your drink". That bit of lameness (whether on the part of the worker or the franchise) earns them the sub-one-star rating.

I'm not sure who would win the crown for "Most Unnecessary Restaurant in Bowie," but the answer is almost certainly either a Subway or a Chinese restaurant. Panda Express is a strong contender, given that you can walk a few feet in either direction in the food court and get better food. While you can't get "Chinese" food, you can get "Japanese" food next door at Hibachi. I recognize there is a significant difference between Chinese and Japanese food, but let's face it -- there's not a big gap between "Chinese" and "Japanese" food you find in a mall food court. So if you have a hankering for something Asian-y, and don't feel like leaving the food court, head to Hibachi. If you really want Chinese food, why are you in the food court?

As 2011 draws to a close, I am halfway done (in some sense) with my Project. I have 76 restaurants on my list. Some will be added, but some will be deleted, so 38 is just about halfway. I mark a couple of other milestones. I recently finished all 7 Subway restaurants. Moreover, Panda Express is the final food court restaurant. Look for "Best of Subway" and "Best of Food Court" posts early in the new year.

So will 2012 allow me to knock out the other 38 restaurants? I'm hopeful. I've averaged more than one review a week, so I'm certainly on pace to do so. I recognize that hitting all the Subways and food court restaurants leaves the impression that I'm getting the easy visits out of the way early. That's true to a certain extent, but there are a number of quick hits left -- Starbucks (ugh), for example. Trickier are the sit-down restaurants, which require a visit with family or co-workers. We like to take the kids out, though, and at work, there are often people visiting for a meeting who can be talked into a restaurant. The really tricky places are going to be the sit-down restaurants that nobody wants to go to -- I'm looking at you, Applebee's, Chili's and TGI Friday's. We'll see how that goes.
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