Written by on May 11, 2011 in I Eat America, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

( – Silver Spring, Maryland

How I heard of this place: The first time I ever went to a Panera was in Chicago, Illinois, about ten years ago. My sister suggested it as a place to grab a quick bite, with yummy paninis. A few years later, I went back to a Panera, again in Chicagoland, when I attended the Baha’i National Convention and some delegates and I were inerested in going out for lunch. This is the first I’d heard of Panera in Maryland, let alone Silver Spring itself!

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. 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: I often enjoy a panini when I am at Panera. This day was no different. After a two-mile walk and one hour of metro commuting, I was ready to partake of some quick energy and ordered a Signature Hot Panini, served on Panera’s own, freshly grilled bread, the smoked turkey breast, smoked bacon, smoked cheddar and sun-dried tomato ale mustard grilled hot on their Artisan Three Cheese bread., ® with all-natural, antibiotic-free chicken, romaine lettuce, roasted corn, black beans, tortilla strips & BBQ ranch dressing, drizzled with BBQ sauce. The meal was served with my choice of potato chips or extra bread, of which, I opted for the thick-cut, crispy potato chips! My dining companion also went for hte U Pick 2 lunch special ($6.59), hers including a grilled Sierra Turkey sandwich (1/2), with smoked turkey breast, chipotle mayonnaise, field greens & red onions on Panera’s Asiago Cheese Focaccia. To accompany the sandwich, my dining companion ordered a Broccoli Cheddar soup – chopped broccoli, shredded carrot and select seasonings simmered in a velvety smooth cheese sauce – with whole wheat bread on the side, to share with her darling 13-month old son. Our meals came with one free drink (normally, $1.59), which we could select from the foutain around the corner from the cashier.

What I loved: I loved the fresh salad with roasted corn and BBQ sauce! The slight spice to the dressing and the thinly cut white breast meat of the chicken were perfectly paired with the roasted vegetables and sweet BBQ sauce. I also loved the no frills panini with an abundance of turkey and gooey, fried cheese throughout the bread and in the sandwich. The broccoli-cheddar soup looked and smelled perfect, though I did not have the opportunity (this time) to sample it.

Why I loved it: The food is consistently good, the establishment often in a convenient spot and the space clean and welcoming. Perfect for light summer lunches, or hearty, comfort food in the winter months.

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

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