Lost Food: Panda Panda

Panda Express as it stands today. (Literally, today, 20 minutes before posting this.)

When I lived in Lake Forest during the year 2000, I used to frequent a place called Panda Panda. It was your basic steam table Chinese restaurant, but it was good. I remember the occasional evening on which I’d think, “Do I go to the store, buy ingredients, come home, then spend time cooking just for one person, or do I go out and grab some fast-ish food?” Panda Panda was a frequent winner of these decisions.

It was located at the corner of El Toro and Raymond, near the library. Panda Panda shared a building with a Quizno’s sandwich place and was one driveway away from a Wendy’s.

I don’t know if they were a small chain or a solo restaurant, but they were eventually bought out or otherwise assimilated by Panda Express, which I’ve never particularly liked. (Though Panda Inn, a table-service restaurant owned by the same company, has been consistently good.) Naturally they homogenized the menu as well.

That was the end of that.

A few years later, as part of the big project to renovate the area, both buildings were bulldozed to make way for a new strip mall segment. Panda Express got the prime spot in the new building, but all traces of Panda Panda are lost.

For the record: I’m currently sitting in a Wahoo’s taco place roughly where the driveway used to be.

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