Pros: Close to work, decor has nice colors
Cons: Too expensive for what you get
Bread, bread and more bread. Bagels, pastries, salads, soup and sandwiches. That seems to be what Panera Bread is all about. If bread is your passion then you've hit the right spot. If friendly, quick and accurate service is what you're after then you should keep looking.
We have a Panera Bread cafe-bakery right across the street from my work so it's a serious option when deciding where to go for lunch. Of course the prices you pay will leave you wondering if you shouldn't have waited for dinner.
I've ordered one of the hot panini sandwiches twice and although the sandwich was stacked to the gills I couldn't believe that I paid $6.25 for just the sandwich. Frontega Chicken is one of my favorite choices and it has smoked, hand-pulled white meat chicken with red onion, mozzarella cheese, tomato, chopped basil and Chipotle mayonnaise all served up on a Rosemary and Onion focaccia "bun". It's served hot! It smells absolutely wonderful too. As far as hot panini sandwiches they also offer Cuban Pork and Ham and Portobello and Mozzarella. All of these will run you $6.25 and all come with chips.
In the mood for soup? Panera Bread also offers a daily soup schedule which changes daily, except for the French Onion which is served every day. A single bowl of soup will run you $3.25 and it's served with a baked Sourdough or French roll. I don't feel quite so "gouged" for the price on soup but then again, it's just soup. How expensive can that be? You also have the option of having your soup come out in a Sourdough Bread Bowl and that runs $4.95. Go with French Onion soup in that same bread bowl with a little melted provel cheese and you're going to have to fork out $5.35.
Not really into soup or sandwiches? How about salad? Panera Bread offers 5 different salads all ranging in price from $5.35 up to a whopping $7. You can opt for Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad which has chicken strips on romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, homemade Asiago cheese croutons and Caesar dressing. I've ordered this once, minus the Parmesan cheese, and it's really quite tasty. I noticed that the chicken strips left a lot to be desired but that's not the full idea in ordering a salad so I let it be. You can also order just a regular Caesar salad, which is virtually the same thing without the chicken. Other options in the salad area include Chicken Oriental Salad, Fandango Salad, Greek Salad and Classic Cafe Salad. I'm a very picky eater so none of these even looked close to appealing to me.
One of the specials that Panera Bread offers is called "You Pick Two". You can select two of the following for $6.20; any bowl of soup, any half sandwich or any half salad. There is an additional charge for select sandwiches and salads. There's not a lot of room for substitution here so be careful when ordering.
Getting thirsty? You have several choices here also. They offer frozen beverages which are Espresso drinks and they come in 3 different sizes; tall for $2.50, grande for $3.25 and largo for $3.75. Want just a regular drink? Choices here run anywhere from Mocha Blast to Hot Chocolate. Pepsi and Dr. Pepper fountain drinks are also available. Most of these drinks range anywhere from $.95 to $3.75.
How about dessert? Oh, I'm sorry, do you still have some money left over to spend? Desserts options go from Biscotti, croissants, cookies, danish, muffins and muffies to scones, specialty pastries and strudel. Personally I've never tried any of their desserts but a few friends that I've eaten with have. There's nothing to brag about.
I guess I'm just too much of a cheapskate to really enjoy Panera Bread. Getting a soup, sandwich and drink will run almost $13 depending on exactly what you get. That's just too much money to spend for lunch and I'm not sure I could talk my husband into going out for sandwiches for a dinner meal.
Panera Bread accepts Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, and Discover. (They'd have to if they expect anyone to eat there very often.)
Is there anything I liked? Well, yeah. Let me think. Hmmmm. Oh yeah, I know! They call it Operation Dough-Nation. *"We believe that the universal spirit of bread is sharing. That's why we're committed to ensuring that every purchase at Panera Bread feeds back into the community through the following programs. With your help, we can make a world of difference." There are 4 different options available if you want to help:
~~Cash donations made in the stores are matched and donated to local hunger relief and other charitable organizations.
~~All unsold bread is donated at the day's end to local hunger relief agencies.
~~Through their Dough for Funds program your fund-raising groups can sell special coupons for Panera Bread products and keep half the proceeds.
~~They regularly donate product and gift certificates to benefit a wide range of charitable organizations and causes.
Like I mentioned before, I'm a cheapskate. Not because I want to be but because I have to be...I'm the mother of 5 kids. Panera Bread is somewhere I'll visit once in a while if everybody else in the group wants to go there, but otherwise you'll probably see me somewhere else.
Thanks for stopping by! Feel free to leave any comments or questions.
*As stated on the reverse side of their take out menu.