It’s been 14 years since the Chinese-American fast-food chain Panda Express had a storefront in the five boroughs, but NYC’s orange-chicken drought finally comes to an end today. A new location at 1 West Fordham Road in the Bronx opened this morning, and word is the Manhattan store at 1277 1st Avenue will be ready for action as soon as the city gives the final go-ahead.
Given its association with mall food-court dining, Panda Express isn’t an obvious fit for NYC’s notoriously fickle dining scene. But as we’ve seen with the runaway success of Chick-fil-A’s Manhattan debut, New Yorkers still crave certain cult classics of American fast food.
— Jennifer 8. Lee (@jenny8lee) November 19, 2015
Panda Express’s New York locations include some special features for the local audience, including family-style seating and exclusive dishes like string beans with sliced beef, peppers and black bean garlic sauce. Not everyone is convinced of Panda’s value in NYC though.
In a New York Times article detailing the West Coast chain’s strategy, Momofuku kingpin David Chang offered the ultimate back-handed compliment: “The thing I know will always be good is that orange chicken—everything else is questionable,” he told the Times. “After 1,800 locations, to be that consistently mediocre is unbelievable. It’s something we can all aspire to.”
“I feel New Yorkers are savvy enough to know good Chinese food,” he went on. “Even white people—and I say that lovingly—know good Chinese food.”
Whether he’s right or not remains to be seen. After all, Panda Express doesn’t pretend to scratch the same itch as Xi’an Famous Foods or the stalls in Flushing’s New World Mall food court. Americanized Chinese food has made a comeback among New York’s fooderati at places like Red Farm, so who’s to say people aren’t yearning for a taste of the source material at fast-casual prices?
Whatever your opinion, be sure to implement the G.O.A.T free-sample hack when you go to get your orange chicken: multiple costume changes:
[via AM New York]