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Giant Panda reopens downtown

Want a filling meal on your lunch break, but don’t want to break the bank? This lady will serve you right up. Qihui Li and Yi Zhong moved out of their West Duluth space and re-opened downtown just one week ago in the old Saigon Cafe location. They own and operate this restaurant, which almost has a fast-food feel. The food was served quickly, relatively cheap, and surprisingly good.

Now open Monday through Saturday until 9 p.m. at 114 W. First St., Duluth.

16 Comments

Makoons

about 7 years ago

Anyone wanna start taking bets on when it will close? That space is cursed.

Paul Lundgren

about 7 years ago

The criteria for a restaurant space being labeled as "cursed" seems to be getting pretty weak now. I think it took about five changeovers at the place where Jalapeno Express is before it was considered cursed. 

Mexico Lindo was supposedly cursed because just two restaurants had failed before it in that spot at Fitger's. (And Chi-Chi's lasted there a long time.)

Now the Giant Panda spot is cursed because one restaurant (Saigon Cafe) failed before it. (Thai Krathong moved to a new location after about eight years in business in the "cursed" building.)

B-man

about 7 years ago

Reopening a restaurant known as a buffet without the buffet is a questionable move.  I stopped in last week, but upon the realization that the buffet is no longer a part of the Giant Panda I left. 

The model is the same as the food court at the mall.  Order your food at the counter and take it with you to your seat.  A coworker reports the food is good, so I wish them the best of luck in the "cursed" space.

Codie

about 7 years ago

It's almost like the food court, except she does bring your food right to your table. Yet it only takes about 5 minutes. Given the low traffic in this spot, I think it's almost better that they don't have a buffet. The chicken was really soft and juicy, which probably wouldn't be the case if it was sitting under a heat lamp for hours on end.

I encourage people to try it out... even if it's just for the 2/$1 wontons (which are also really good). I would feel rude walking into a new business without buying anything.

Makoons

about 7 years ago

I should learn to read more thoroughly. I feel like a dum-dum...I thought they were opening up in the downtown space next to the DTA...the same place Greek, Mexican, and Indian restaurants have failed before. My apologies!

adam

about 7 years ago

What's going in the old Chef Yee's spot?

Paul Lundgren

about 7 years ago

Oriental House opened a couple months ago at the old Chef Yee's spot. Giant Panda is better.

smackadoo

about 7 years ago

There really wasn't any comments about the food here so I thought I'd help out and give some input.

A co-worker and I decided to try it out. First of all I'd like to say I thought they did a pretty good job on the remodel. No more step up platform (which didn't make sense in the first place) and its bright and inviting. 

I went there the first week they opened they had combo's around the 7 dollar 8 dollar mark which included a good portion of meat, rice, and egg roll. 

I revisited again just recently and now the combo's are more appealing to the pockets at 5 dollars for lunch. The only difference is that you don't get an egg roll but can add it for just a dollar fifty or 2 cream cheese wontons for a buck. 

The food overall was delicious. The fried rice is usually a big indication to me of how the rest of the meal will be if it is good. And it was great. Good flavor, a good amount of egg in it, and a nice balance of veggies.

I got the chicken and veggies the first time and it came fresh, the food came out steaming hot, with bright green broccoli. The sauce was mild in spice with a nice sweetness to compliment it. And the egg roll was meaty and good too, not greasy as other places.

The second time was just as great with the General Tso's. This time I ordered the cream cheese wontons and those too were fresh, a good amount of cream cheese and what I love is that instead of ordering a huge plate of them for 5 bucks you can just get a couple for a buck. 

I was a little surprised watching some people come in asking for the buffet and finding out they no longer do that and leaving instead of giving it a try. Honestly the food is priced right and you get plenty on the plate you won't need seconds. Aside from that, the staff is really friendly. Forgive and forget (the old buffet), this place is amazing.

Claire

about 7 years ago

People, this place is a total deal! Good Chinese made to order! The $4.95 lunch special is the best deal in town! I'd rather have quality Chinese than a buffet with icky food. I've been there twice, had General Tso's chicken both times, it was delicious. The first time I was there, I ran into Hanabi's co-owner. That tells me a lot if someone who is in the business himself and runs one of the best restaurants in town is eating at Giant Panda.

Codie

about 7 years ago

I whipped up a facebook page for them that you can "like" if you want:

http://www.facebook.com/GiantPandaRestaurant

michellenelson

about 7 years ago

Oh my God, they will actually make you authentic Szechuan food if you ask. They have a special menu with different Szechuan spicy dishes, sooo good. I just had the cold spicy beef and tripe it was awesome.

-Berv

about 7 years ago

Just had lunch there. Good food, excellent service.

emmadogs

about 7 years ago

I can't find an online menu, and I didn't see one on Codie's FB page apart from the combo specials.  The online menus that I found reflect the old, closed place.  Can anyone route me to a current menu?

thanks

Andre

about 7 years ago

If it wasn't for this blog, I would have not discovered this little gem. Saw that they had an authentic Szechuan menu according to Michelle. Went in there on Wednesday and ordered the Spicy Chicken combo to get a feel for the place. It was 5:30 and no one was in there except the owner and chef. After I ordered the combo off the wall menu, I asked the owner lady if she had a Szechuan menu. Low and behold, she hands me one and shows me pictures on her camera of the beef and tripe dish. Oh my god... You know it is legit when the menu is in Chinese with broken English descriptions. Of all the Chinese places in Duluth, this seems by far the most authentic and traditional. I have not tried anything off the special menu yet, but I will probably try everything. The owner told me she will post the menu on the window soon. She also tells me that other Chinese people in town claim that the food is very traditional. Some dishes take a 2 day notice and others 3 days like the Salted Duck. When I got home, the food was still piping hot. The Spicy Chicken is so spicy, that I sweat for at least a half hour post-meal. Tasted pretty good for a combo item. Fried rice was par and the egg roll was par as well. All in all' I will probably only order off the Szechuan menu and am rooting for this place!

ruby2sd4y

about 7 years ago

I visited with five friends about a week ago for lunch and we ordered off the lunch special menu. I ordered the Curry Chicken. It was gross. I love curry, so the flavor was okay, but literally all of the chicken (the little there was) was chewy mystery meat (gristle/cartilage-y), and hardly any veggies, and what were there were overcooked. I'd never order that dish again, nor recommend it. The portion also seemed smaller than my counterpart's meals. Needless to say, I left disappointed and hungry. One of the biggest disappointments/huge spoilers for me at any Asian restaurant is ending up with chewy/gristly mystery meat - I won't return.

The others each had some of the other dishes off the lunch menu (sweat and sour, General Tso's, etc), and said they were happy with their orders, although the cook had forgotten to put the sauce on the two sweet and sour plates, bringing it later. Then again, we all have different standards of what is good. (Personally, I don't think eating S & S is worth it, and prefer to try new dishes, but it seems an all-around favorite of those who aren't very experimental.)  

Besides our group, there were only two other tables of two in the restaurant (we met at 1p and left about 215p after visiting), and it seemed from the photo above, the only one waiting on anyone was the owner. We had to finally ask after ages (nearly to leaving), to get our beverages refilled for the first time. No one came around to offer, or even ask about how our food was, and one of the gentlemen had to go up to the counter to finally get something sorted out about his dish.

We were all disappointed there was no buffet (didn't see this post previously), but for cheap lunch eats, it was okay (for them). Personally, I won't be jumping to go back (maybe, to try the Szechuan menu talked about above - now that I know there's something else on offer - and once I read more reviews of those dishes). For a cheap lunch I prefer Beijing ($4.20-$4.60, 11a-3p), love their food (well everything I've ever tried so far - lunch or dinner), and never ever have had any chewy mystery chicken/meat in any of my dishes so far in my many years of patronization. The lunch portions are also larger for the money, which is nice, especially when my work days get long and I have leftovers for dinner.

Ray Chang

about 7 years ago

Great food, great service! They have two different menus for customers.

I highly recommend sliced beef and beef tripe, salted duck, and coconut shrimp. It's really authentic Szechuan food. It's the best Chinese restaurant in town.

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