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With limited time for lunch and a grumbling belly, I wanted a quick meal, but not something too heavy or greasy. I headed out to Panda Hut in Lake Wylie, near Bi-Lo.
Panda Hut is very clean and open with five large booths and two tables for four in the dine-in area. Proudly displayed above the booths are two banners declaring Panda Hut among the 2007 Top 100 Regional Chinese Cuisine from 43,139 participating restaurants nationwide.
I walked in past the soda fountain machines and two small tables with two chairs each to order at the counter. Today, there was no line, but even when there is, it moves quickly.
Overhead are photos of menu options, but I knew what I wanted. A quick look at the lunch menu (available every day until 3 p.m.), and I ordered L.10 Sesame Chicken to go. All lunch menu chicken dishes cost $4.80 and include rice and a drink.
Other options include shrimp dishes for $5.15, beef for $4.95, lo mein with pork or chicken or beef or shrimp for $4.80, or veggie dishes for $4.50. There's also "Special Lunch Dishes" like Happy Family for $6.75 and Beef and Scallop House Special Sauce for $6.50.
There's a large three-page regular menu, too, that even includes Health Food, "steamed without MSG, oil, sauce on the side with white rice." Health Food is listed on the lunch menu -- steamed chicken with broccoli or mixed veggies for $4.95. Panda Hut also offers party trays and gift certificates.
It was pretty hopping with several people coming in for pick-up, ordering to go and sitting down to eat. My wait couldn't have been more than five minutes, and I was on my way after grabbing a fortune cookie from the bin by the napkins, condiments and plasticware.
The smell in the car teased me. I sat down to my desk, quickly popped the lid and dug into the chicken and broccoli. This was the first place I had sesame chicken. I'm usually a cashew chicken or shrimp person, but Panda Hut's sesame chicken and sauce is so good, my cravings keep me going back for more.
Maybe one day, I'll give another Chinese cuisine restaurant's sesame chicken a try, but for now, I'll adhere to my fortune cookie: "Your smile tells you what makes you feel good."
LOCATION: 144 S.C. 274 (Landing Station) Lake Wylie
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sundays
PHONE: 803-631-1988, 803-631-1088
AMBIANCE: Express Chinese restaurant