Panda Express, a nationwide chain of more than 2,200 restaurants, has opened its first Winston-Salem location at 5990 University Parkway.
The restaurant is in a brand-new building on a former Pizza Hut site between a Starbucks and a McDonald’s, and near the intersection of University and Hanes Mill Road.
Panda Express is a fast-food Chinese-American restaurant concept that was founded by Andrew and Peggy Cherng in 1983 in Glendale, Calif. It is still a family-owned business with no franchises.
The Winston-Salem restaurant seats about 60. Service tends to be quick, because the food is already prepared and kept on a heated display table, and customers can easily see every single hot item. Customers simply point to what they want and watch as their order is filled.
The open kitchen is also visible behind the steam table, where food is cooked in woks in small batches.
“You can see the food being cooked,” said manager Jorge Sandoval. “You also can ask for a sample of anything on the line. You can taste the whole line if you want.”
The Winston-Salem Panda Express offers 11 regular entrees plus one rotating special, most of which feature chicken. There are currently eight chicken entrees, three beef entrees and one shrimp entrée — that includes the Honey Sesame Chicken, which will stay in rotation about 12 weeks.
Panda is known for its orange chicken — crispy battered, fried chicken in a sweet, tangy and slightly spicy orange sauce. As of 2016 the chain had sold more than 80 million pounds of the dish, according to its website.
Other entrees include Shanghai Angus Steak, Honey Walnut Shrimp, Beijing Beef, Sweetfire Chicken Breast and Mushroom Chicken.
The five sides are white steamed rice, brown steamed rice, fried rice, chow mein and super greens.
There also are three appetizers: cream cheese Rangoon, chicken egg roll and vegetable spring roll.
Desserts consist of fortune cookie or chocolate chunk cookie.
Customers can pick one of several meal configurations:
A bowl with one entrée and one side ($6.20).
A plate with two entrees and one side ($7.60).
A plate with 3 entrees and one side ($9.10).
A kid’s meal with junior entrée, junior side, 12-ounce drink and cookie; 4) family feast with 3 large entrees and 2 large sides ($5.30).
A family meal with three large entrees and three large sides ($34).
The shrimp and Shanghai steak entrées carry a premium charge of $1.25 for a single regular entrée.
Entrees and sides also can be ordered a la carte. Beverages include sweet black tea, passion fruit mango black tea, juice, sodas and water.
About half of the entrees are designated “wok smart” for having at least 8 grams of protein and 300 calories or less. These are the Black Pepper Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, Mushroom Chicken, String Bean Chicken Breast, Grilled Teriyaki Chicken and Broccoli Beef.
Sandoval said that all of the food is freshly prepared each day.
Though this is the first Panda Express in Winston-Salem, the chain is well-established in other major cities in North Carolina, including Greensboro.
Sandoval said that more N.C. locations are planned, including Wilmington and New Bern.