Friday, April 21, 2017

Panera Bread Food Review

Panera Bread's You Pick Two

I'm a big fan of Panera Bread, particularly their Bakery-Cafe (Bear Claw, Cherry Pastry) but the good times don't stop there. Panera also serves a wide variety of cold & hot sandwiches, flatbreads, soups and salads. What better way to try them out, than a You Pick Two, which offers (your choice of) two half portions (and a bag of crisps) for $9.49.

I ordered a Steak & White Cheddar Panini (sans the cheese) with a cup of Low-Fat Chicken Noodle Soup and a bag of Panera's own kettle potato chips + a Prickly Pear Hibiscus Fresca (instead of a sugary soda.)

Ambiance: This particular Panera is usually very busy (AU, Wilson High students) which makes for a loud, tight fit inside: Choose your seat carefully. What's worse than crowded & noisy? Hot... as in Dante's Inferno. There was no A/C, which (combined with multiple ceiling to floor windows) created an oven-like atmosphere. Downright insufferable.

Prickly Pear Hibiscus Fresca

Food: The sandwich is small (about 3") with great grill marks, and good quality steak, pickled onions and horseradish sauce on a (flat) hoagie roll. Tastewise, it's a hit, although it wasn't nearly enough to fill me. The soup was nice & hot, but looked (and tasted) really greasy. Light on salt, and even lighter on chicken (barely any at all) but generous amounts of carrots, celery and noodles. Panera's house brand crisps were very good... comparable to well-known name brands (i.e. Utz, etc.) Fix the soup, and add another inch to the sandwich, and this review gets a heck of a lot better.

The Prickly Pear Hibiscus Fresca combined hibiscus, lime, prickly pear and (just a hint of) cane sugar. Bland, if you ask me, and not nearly as tasty as Panera's ever-revolving selection of iced teas and lemonades.

Service: The food was mediocre, and the ambiance... awful. But kudos to the first rate Panera staff. The cashier was friendly and efficient, and it took less than 10 minutes for my order to arrive at my table (with a smile!) I've been here many times: Service is always very good.

Overall: It's difficult (impossible?) to get past the lack of air conditioning, especially when it's over 80° outside. Still, I've had enough good meals in the past to give Panera a second chance. Perhaps next time, I'll visit a less crowded location, and try a full size sandwich or a yummy Tomato Mozzarella Flatbread.