Panera Bread

Written by on May 21, 2012 in I Eat America, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

(panerabread.com) – Ballston Common Mall, Arlington, Virginia

How I heard of this place: The first time I ever went to a Panera was in Chicago, Illinois, when my sister suggested it. Since then, either I’m noticing it more or there are more popping up throughout the country.

Type of cuisine: Bread being their staple, Panera boasts quality in sandwiches, grilled, hot as well as being served cold, deli-style. To accompany one’s sandwich or panini, patrons are invited to indulge in one of Panera’s signature salads and soups, ranging from decadent and creamy, to light and fresh. No breakfast or lunch would be complete with the sweet indulgences, to which Panera pays special attention; pastries ranging from cookies to muffins and scones, cakes and brownies, are beautifully arrayed and presented behind the glass display case on raised plates and stands for your viewing enjoyment. As well, I’m certain, to entice those who were not in the mood for something sweet. Think again.

Ambiance: Panera offers a comfortable, casual spot to dine alone or with friends and colleagues. The green and light birch tones throughout the establishment, give a sense of nature, while the clamboring of knives and dishes in the back bring in the air of an urban setting. Staff are friendly, greet you warmly from behind the cash register as you enter the establishment. Often, windows line the front and sides of the cafe, where walker-by can enjoy the tasty treats on the plates, in the hands and in the mouths of patrons as large bites are taken of sandwiches, colorful salads and warm soups. Pastel-toned banners and posters hang about the space and in the mall windows to entice the taste buds of people thinking they can simply walk on by. Booth as well as table-chair seating are availble throughout the establishment, with space between so as not to feel like you are in the conversation of your neighboring diners. “Our bakery-cafes are an everyday oasis. A place to gather with friends or enjoy a quiet moment alone. Comfortable, friendly, fashionable. A place to recharge and feel rejuvinated. Slip into one of our seriously comfy chairs and stay awhile.”

What I ordered: This was a special visit, unlike any other I have experienced with Panera to date. Working just across the way, their Catering Manager asked us, at Starbucks, if we had any coffee filters to spare…to share. I handed her a stack, and she returned with a bagel for each of us! For me, she chose the Cinnamon Crunch, cinnamon and vanilla chips flavoring the soft dough, topped with a sweet, crunchy shell of cinnamon & sugar. In the bag, she also included a small packet of Hazelnut Cream Cheese spread.

What I loved: While I have yet to sample the spread, the untoasted, soft, delicately sweet bagel was the perfect dessert to my baked mini yellow potatoes with salt & pepper for dinner.

Why I loved it: Free!

Cost: Low to average ($6-$9 per lunch entree, sandwich, salad and/or a combination of the two)

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