Panda Garden is located in a former McDonald's, a block or so from the strip club "Deja Vu" (I always wonder, if it seems like a deja vu, why go back?). Although the owner clearly did a superb job purging the place of its former identity, obviously little has changed since the initial renovation. Frankly, the place looks like a bad parody of a bad 50's Chinese movie. A true chowhound, however, could smell the possibility of a gem from the get go. Panda Garden offers two kinds of menu: an American menu and a Chinese menu. The latter is "Chinese" only in terms of cuisine since every item on the menu is accompanied by an English description. Given the lack of access to standard stock of fresh ingredients necessary to pull off good Chinese food, Panda Garden does a superb job of it. To be more precise, Panda Garden offers homestyle Taiwanese dishes some of which I have never seen outside of Asia. The twice-fried chicken with pepper and lemon grass is mind-blowingly good. Szechwan string beans taste exactly right: the Taiwanese rendition often is less deep fried and more stirred fried. There are at least eight different hotpots one could choose from (the mushroom with tofu is excellent as is the spicy chicken one). For vegetarians, there is a whole page dedicated to some of the classic meatless dishes. Panda Garden's clever use of dried vegetables allows them to avoid dipping into any of the dreadful canned counterparts. It was obvious to me that the owner cares about customers who care about good Chinese food. Present her with your enthusiasm and she will tell her kitchen to up the ante. Oh by the way, everything is dirt cheap (entrees start at $6.50).
Check this place out and let me know what you think.