Today I went to Panera Bread. I haven’t been here in quite a while. This one is located on the corner of International and Zinfandel, part of the Capital Village shopping center but very much off on it’s own. This is one place I definitely want to arrive at early because it gets very busy after, say, 11:30. Today I arrived at about 10:55 and it was nice and quiet, just one person was finishing up their order at the register, and half a dozen or so were seated, scattered about the good-sized dining room.
To the right of the registers is a display with loads of fresh bread and pastries. I stepped up to the counter where a very friendly and talkative cashier awaited. I knew that I would get my favorite salad here, the Chicken Cobb with Avocado (chicken raised without antibiotics, romaine lettuce, applewood-smoked bacon, Gorgonzola cheese, vine-ripened tomatoes and hard-boiled egg tossed in our herb vinaigrette, then topped with fresh avocado), and I would use their Pick 2 combo to pair it with a sandwich. I kind of made a last second decision on the grilled cheese for that. The cashier suggested the Big Kid Grilled Cheese, which I was unaware of. While the regular one is very basic, the Big Kid version is Gruyere, Vermont white cheddar, organic sliced American cheese and applewood-smoked bacon grilled on white miche. Obviously I went for that. The Pick 2 combo comes with a side of chips, an apple or a baguette, which is what I chose. Along with a soda this all came out to $12.77.
I got my soda and took a seat with my pager, which went off in a speedy 4 minutes. I retrieved my tray from the counter and got to work. Todays salad seemed slightly smaller than I remember the half size being, but it was as delicious as always. I love the herb vinaigrette on this, it’s such a unique flavor that’s strong, but doesn’t overwhelm the individual ingredients. The chicken is in good supply here and is nice and tender. Lots of avocado as well, seemed like I got a good chunk in each bite.
The grilled cheese looked a little sad at first, and I even wondered if I had been given the normal grilled cheese by accident. Once I bit in, however, it was clear that this was the big kid version. The Gruyere and white cheddar stood out immediately, and in the next bite I met some bacon. Overall this was good, however it could have been served a bit hotter, because the entire thing had mostly solidified by the time I was halfway through it. I love me a big, gooey grilled cheese (Yard House serves one of my all time favorites). The baguette was pretty damn good, I’m not sure that I’ve ever picked that before today. I’ll definitely get it again on my next visit.
So overall, Panera delivers solidly on nearly everything (well, I guess on everything if you take that literally with the grilled cheese).