Pan Pan Seafood Diner

Thanks to the latest openings report, I had a reason to voluntarily go to the mall for dinner. Pan Pan Seafood (or diner, whichever) is a southern/fried seafood place in Northgate Mall and I was surprised to find a pretty palatable buffet right next to Sbarro’s and Steak Escape.

I’m not sure how long Pan Pan has been there, but apparently long enough to have a bunch of celebrities come through, from Babyface to Evander Holyfield, according to the photos above the buffet line. My indecision and the sight of ribs made the buffet the obvious choice. I tried a little of everything, including some dark turkey meat and stuffing, mac and cheese, fried shrimp, soft shell crab, greens, and black-eyed peas.

The ribs were pretty bizarre – they tasted exactly like Liquid Smoke – and everything else was pretty flat (it’s a buffet after all), but the black-eyed peas and turkey and stuffing were surprisingly good. Since they serve breakfast all day, I had to get a biscuit, and it was my favorite kind – huge and doughy and super buttery.

The lunch buffet is $8 and the dinner is $12 – not a bad price for all you can take (but as the sign says, absolutely no sharing or doggie bags). So if you find yourself at Northgate Mall and want some great turkey and stuffing, you know what to do.

Pan Pan Seafood @ Northgate Mall (map)
Monday – Thursday: 10 am – 9 pm
Friday – Saturday: 10 am – 10 pm
Sunday: 9.30 am – 8 pm

Published in: on July 5, 2008 at 9:48 pm  Comments (7)  


  1. Pan Pan used to be on Hillandale just north of I-85, and at that time it was a 24-hour diner (which meant that yes, there were 2 24-hour diners within a single exit of one another on that stretch of I-85, Honeys being the other one). Just as Honeys provided a perfect & complete slice of white Southern cooking 24/7, Pan Pan was the best Soul Food you could find at 3:00 AM.

    That exit was closed for an extended period of time during the I-85 widening/realignment, and so Pan Pan packed it in (sometime around 2003, I think), which was the cause of great sadness among the late-night peoples of Durham. Erie Choir even wrote a song about it, “Pan Pan Where Did You Go?” which is downloadable from their ReverbNation page:

    (you should actually download all the songs they have posted there, and instantly fall in love)

    Pan Pan Seafood opened in 2006; I wasn’t sure why they showed up on the openings list you posted the other day. Here’s an article:

  2. This place is a re-incarnation of sorts of the old Pan Pan Diner on Hillandale, at the I-85 freeway exit. In fact, the place was closed and then demolished to make way for the freeway widening project. It was a 24-hour place with an ENORMOUS soul food buffet.

    Here’s an article about how the new Pan Pan came to be:

  3. I’d heard stories about a 24 hr soul food buffet. Thanks for the info!

  4. Pan Pan also had a sister restaurant in Harlem. I stopped in once about 10 years ago for breakfast and recall seeing a sign mentioning the Durham location on the wall. Unfortunately it closed a few years back after a fire. Too bad as it was a fun place – you can get a feel for it in this Alicia Keys’ video that was shot their not long before the fire:

  5. Pan Pan is/has/will always be awesome! This new location is run by the same family as the old one, and they recently removed “seafood’ from their outdoor sign and replaced it with “diner” at my mother-in-law’s suggestion. It seems their business was suffering after the move because nobody knew it was the same people.

    Next time you visit the buffet, you gotta ask them to make a fresh serving of fried oysters for ya… mmmmm.

  6. I went to Pan Pan and not impressed. I have eaten soulfood at the best places. I found the food greasy and the service less than par. I overhead the waitress and host tell a customer that the kitchen manager wouldn’t let them substitute mac n cheese for fries on a childs plate. I am not returning and everyone else should be cautious.

  7. just popped into Pan Pan this morning because i had some business in the mall.

    AWESOME breakfast! amazingly tasty homefries, actually seasoned, and my english muffin was not toasted, but grilled! really tasty turkey sausage, and my husband had some pretty good salmon cakes with his. waitress was really sweet.

    real food, unpretentious, simple, and not overpriced. not overserved either, a moderate serving…

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