Panda Express vs. Panda Kitchen: Battle of the orange chicken

Like most broke college students, we usually get hungry, especially when the dining halls are closed. This rang true for me on Labor Day. Mesquite Dining Hall was the only on campus restaurant open, and the food did not look appetizing. Thanks to my love of food, especially of the Asian variety, I set out on a food adventure. Originally, I was only going to write a review solely on Panda Express. Then Justin Marquart, art sophomore, said Panda Kitchen was better. I’d never heard of Panda Kitchen before, due to it being a family-owned business and I’m new to this town. In contrast, Panda Express is a huge restaurant chain that recently arrived to Wichita Falls in June. For comparison, I ordered orange chicken, fried rice and an egg roll at both restaurants.

Panda Express’s orange chicken and fried rice. Photo by Justin Marquart

Panda Express

Panda Express is my first stop. The Chinese food chain is located on 3164 Lawrence Rd. The restaurant gives off a modern feel with a mostly wooden interior. The seating includes cloth booths, traditional tables and long, raw, wood-like tables with individual bar stools. My order total came to $10.95 plus tax ($1.90 medium drink, $1.95 egg roll, $7.10 plate with two entrees). The customer service was great, but the food was served at room temperature. I did not eat all of my orange chicken due to the temperature, but ate the rice because it was served warmer. The chicken egg roll I ordered was good, too. Unlike Panda Kitchen, Panda Express does not have its own delivery service. However, it’s possible to order through the MenuRunners app for a delivery fee of $4.99.

Rating: 6/10

Panda Kitchen’s orange chicken and fried rice. Photo by Justin Marquart

Panda Kitchen

My final stop took me to Panda Kitchen. They are located on 4020 Kemp Blvd. Unlike Panda Express, the restaurant the dining area was not modern looking and a bit smaller, yet it was incredibly clean and the workers were friendly. Another contrast, the meal was served hot, and they served larger portions. Panda Kitchen’s take on the orange chicken dish was slightly different. Their sauce color is a deep red instead of Panda Express’ brown, and there were orange slices in the orange chicken that looked pretty fresh. There was also an option to order the orange chicken spicy. My order total was $10.38 ($6.39 for the small portion, $3.99 milk tea). The food is also prepared in house instead of it being reheated and under a hot lamp.

Rating: 8/10

After trying both places, it took a while to choose a winner. I regularly frequent Panda Express in my hometown in Houston but, after mulling it over, Panda Kitchen is the winner. Panda Kitchen’s food was served hot, tasted fresh and the portion size was larger than Panda Express’.