Campus food critique: Panda Express

At the pioneer food court, Panda Express seems to always have the longest line.
Nowshin Chowdhury
At the pioneer food court, Panda Express seems to always have the longest line.

For many people on campus, the line in the Pioneer Food Court is the most loathsome part of their day. But there’s one line that stands out as a sort of gateway into Far Eastern delicacies.

The Panda Express line is always the longest, and with a half-hour wait for food most of the time, I figured it had to be pretty good and wanted to see what all the hype was about.

Below is documentation of my entire experience with the semi-Asian semi-food that is Panda Express:

To start, the line is styled so the people are actually guided like cattle into grazing fields. But, in a nice and orderly fashion, people forget that they feel like cattle because of all the anticipation.

Most people in line don’t want to talk to a stranger. The few people who did talk to me had an interrupted-feeling scowl on their face when I asked them how their day was going. Then, they went back to their own private conversations or staring at their phones.

After a while, I accepted that I was the one making the situation weird, so I put earphones in and put my head down like everyone else. And after four songs and someone continuously stepping on the back of my feet, I finally made it to the front of the line.

I asked for what I would consider the normal Panda Express dish. A bowl of noodles and orange chicken. At this point, I was so hungry from waiting that I just wanted the largest caloric content. So, I just got whatever looked really gross and delicious.

After taking an extra five minutes to get to the cash register and realizing that I was late for class, I finally was able to struggle to find an open table.

As a commuter, I have learned to make friends very quickly and lose them once I’m done eating. But this time, as I searched for someone to interview about their dining experience, I couldn’t find anybody who wasn’t talking to their grandmother on the phone.

So, loneliness was the condiment of choice for my meal. It works especially well with Panda Express because, since I decided to give the chopsticks a try, people laughed at my misguided attempts from two tables away instead of two seats away.

Now the weird part about Panda Express is that it isn’t actually that spicy. It just seems that way because breathing in the air next to the orange chicken causes an immediate coughing reaction.

The food itself was an interesting combination of grease and over-breaded chicken that gave me a mixed reaction about loving it so much. It reminded me of when my mother was too pissed off at my brothers and I to actually cook a meal. I think that reminder of being rewarded with take-out after misbehaving really added to the experience.

The interview I did finally score on the subject of Panda Express was with Naomi Blakely, a native of Singapore who absolutely loathes it.

“I feel like I’m disappointing my entire family when I eat it,” Blakely said. “I’m just really offended by everything about it.”

But the predominantly white (at nearly eighty percent) campus of Oakland University doesn’t share that opinion. So, the lines for Panda Express will continue getting longer, and I’ll probably start eating it for lunch every day.