panda orange chicken

The most popular dish at Panda Express is The Original Orange Chicken.

Fast-casual Asian restaurant Panda Express is headed to Mt. Juliet with a N. Mt. Juliet Road location and is expected to be open in early 2020.

Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenny Martin confirmed Panda Express will take over the White Castle building near Lowe’s. Panda Express Regional Manager David Rodriguez, a Mt. Juliet resident, said he expects the restaurant will open most likely in January.

“White Castle decided to sell the property and close,” Martin said. “We have been trying to recruit Panda Express for several years as a result of citizen requests.”

Rodriguez said it was a no-brainer to open a Panda Express in Mt. Juliet. Since he’s lived in the city almost four years, he noticed a need to bring the restaurant to the area. There’s already a Panda Express in Lebanon.

“We see Mt. Juliet as a growing city just like Lebanon,” he said. “We will love to service the Mt. Juliet community and share our unique flavors.”

Jorge Santana is the current manager of the Lebanon Panda Express, but he will be moving soon.

“I will be the manager at the Mt. Juliet Panda Express,” Santana said. “We’ve heard a lot of good things about Mt. Juliet. We are excited.”

Rodriguez said he drove by the site on Monday and saw White Castle signs being dismantled. He said a remodel to the building (inside and out) will begin soon. Rodriguez said the drive-through lane will remain and there will be inside seating for about 54 customers.

“As we get closer to opening, we will conduct open houses to hire associates,” he said. “We want to hire about 20 to 30 associates, and hopefully a lot of those will be from Mt. Juliet.”

Santana said the restaurant uses the concept of “build your own meal,” with customers choosing either a bowl or plate and select an entree served by employees.

“It’s American Chinese food,” he said. “Our most popular dish is the orange chicken.”

Since 2016, Panda Express has served 80 million pounds of its Original Orange Chicken.

“When we open in Mt. Juliet, I believe our featured entrée will be Honey Sesame Chicken,” Santana said.

Santana said there are 2,500 Panda Express restaurants in 10 countries and 49 states.

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