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Marilyn Hagerty: Anything goes at Panda Buffet

Lunch begins at 11 a.m. daily at the Panda Buffet Chinese restaurant at 2451 Columbia Rd. But customers keep streaming in during the early afternoon.

Many seem to be UND students. Others seem to be people who come regularly and have their favorite dishes. They wend their way around the large service buffet, where there are 95 items.

Enough, I thought, to feed any army.

Most popular choices, according to John Chen, the manager, are snow shrimp and TSO chicken. The chicken with a special spicy sauce is breaded and deep fried.

There is an abundance of inviting vegetables on the buffet line. I chose green beans and broccoli, along with rice dishes. And, from a dessert table at the end of the line, there are mini dessert choices — just right for finishing a meal. Among the myriad of desserts on display, there was pumpkin pie.

It was almost as though anything goes.

Some customers prefer to select their meat and embellishing choices and watch it prepared at the Mongolian Stir Fry table. It's an option that is included in the standard cost on weekdays for lunch ($8.99) or dinner ($11.99).

For me, an occasional stop is an adventure in eating. The choices are so numerous, you can't try everything. By studying steady customers it is easy to tell they know what they want.

I sat in a comfortable booth where I had quick service of tea. There are small hanging lamps and soft colored lighting throughout the restaurant. The new décor has created a more inviting setting. People tend to stay around longer to visit and perhaps take a second helping of a favorite offering.

Panda Buffet

2451 S. Columbia Rd.

Owner/manager: John Chen

Chef: Jimmy Huang

Telephone: (701) 780-8800

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. lunch; 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. dinner

Seating: 150

Report card: An adventure in eating at a moderate price. Recent renovation makes Panda Buffet more inviting. Choices are endless and meet every taste. Mongolian stir fry offered without extra cost.