I believe there are over 1,900 Panera bakery cafes across the USA. I’ve been to several of them at lunchtime or dinnertime and one of the things I like is that I know I’ll get a nice sandwich and a hot bowl of soup – always piping hot - for a reasonable price. Other benefits from my point of view are that the restaurants are always clean even during the rush periods, empty tables are kept clear and wiped, floors are swept, the restrooms are clean and well equipped and they have free WiFi for customers.
We were three on this occasion and we all chose a different “You Pick 2” where you combine a cup of soup and a baguette with a half portion of a sandwich.
My Mother-in-Law chose a cup of Clam Chowder which she enjoyed a lot, with a half Roasted Turkey and Caramelized Kale Panini, served on Black Pepper Focaccia bread – which looks like a rectangular English Muffin. MiL enjoyed the sandwich but thought the half portion was quite small, so she made up for it by eating both her and my wife’s Baguette with her soup. Cost $9.35 for soup and sandwich.
My wife chose the cup of Creamy Tomato Soup and combined it with a Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich served on Sesame Semolina Miche – which looks like a chewy slice of white bread with sesame seeds on the crust. My wife enjoyed the sandwich, the size was half as big again as the Roasted Turkey sandwich. Cost $8.55 for soup and sandwich.
I chose the cup of Broccoli-Cheddar soup along with half of a Bacon Turkey Bravo Sandwich served on Tomato Basil bread heated in the Panini press. The bread looks like a slice of wheat bread with tiny specks of tomato embedded. Another reason I like coming to Panera is that I can substitute the baguette served with the soup for Panera’s brand of kettle cooked chips, which are as delicious as Kettle or Cape Cod branded chips. Cost $8.65 for soup and sandwich.
Given the care that Panera takes with everything else, I’m sure that each bread is chosen to compliment the sandwich ingredients and now that I’ve been to a few Panera’s I’m learning what breads I like and those that I don’t. This dictates the filling I have in my sandwich. I just wish they would serve the Steak and Arugula Sandwich or the Steak and White Cheddar Panini on Whole Grain or Rye bread.