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Panera: Pretty Poor

Our first visit to a new local Panera was a bad meal. We used some direct-mailed coupons so we were only out $11. It wasn't busy; the food was fresh but dismal.

The pizza was atrocious--a thin, partial spread of mixed white cheeses on reheated cracker bread. It shouldn't truthfully be called pizza. The "Caesar" dressing was so bland it could have been called "Ranch" or "Salad Cream". The "Asian" salad was pretty awful--no flavor at all in the watery dressing, and instead of the decent, crunchy croutons of the Caesar there were a few Rice-Krispies-like things. The smallish half-sandwich used pressed turkey; fresh turkey is available, piled high, at about the same price half a block away. The best item was the whole grain bread that accompanied the side salad. It was toothy, flavorful, and fresh, but no match for La Brea Bakery, Il Fornaio, and Buona Forchetta loaves on local market shelves, fresh daily and better for less.

Bottom line: Starbucks with low-grade institutional food and poor value for money.

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  1. Is the pizza called pizza? I thought they called it something else......

    Yeah, i hate this place...never ever had a good meal here......i like corner bakery more

    1 Reply
    1. re: Xericx

      I've been to Panera once for lunch. Ordinary at best. I did like the "bagels" that I got with the free coupons I got in the mail, but I haven't been back. Why bother?!

    2. I only go there for breakfast- bagels are fresh, toasted, butter does not cost extra. The small quiches are very nice and warm and the ham and cheese scones are just right. I get the coffee in a ceramic cup and go for refills. The free wifi is the major drawing point for me.

      1. Panera is awful.

        1. I've never been a fan of Panera because they give you one or two ultra-thin slices of turkey on a $7 sandwich. The first time I went there and took the first bite of my sandwich I thought they'd forgetten the meat entirely.

          I prefer Atlanta Bread Company over Panera anyday (same design and concept, better food), but sadly there's only one in my area that I know of and that's still at least 45 minutes away. They make a darn good chicken salad sandwich, with huge chunks of actual chicken.

          1. Panera's food, according to the nutritional info on their own website, is incredibly fattening. It's like eating at Popeye's. Friends of mine go to Panera thinking they're eating "healthy", then wonder why they can't lose weight.

            2 Replies
            1. re: little audrey

              *snicker* pity the people that don't know how to eat. but seriously, many friends of mine love the place. i once ate before "meeting up" with people there b/c i was a little afraid of the food. if you're not the type to like high-fat carbs w/no nutritional value, why start?

              1. re: little audrey

                no kidding! I can't believe the fat content of their simplest items - the stats on their "bagels" were especially shocking from what I remembered. If you have one of the specialty sandwiches, you may as well have a super-sized meal at mickey d's

                YUK! hate that place.

              2. The only complaint I have - is they sell bagels but no lox - how can that be!

                2 Replies
                1. re: weinstein5

                  Why be shocked by that? Neither does Dunkin Donuts, or McDonalds for that matter :-) Half the world probably hasn't a clue what lox is LOL, unless you grew up in the Northeast (obviously, I'm overgeneralizing).

                  1. re: sivyaleah

                    I shudder to think of McDonald's selling lox. McLox? Ugh.
                    That said, I cannot believe how busy my local Panera is?! I refuse to eat there. The counter "service" is horrible and the food is inedible. The bread and pasteries are just plain gross. . .it's sad that this is what is now widely considered bakery.

                2. Been there, done that, YUCK

                  Went to the new one on my corner last night.

                  I ordered big to accomodate different tastes in the household. Always do that so we have leftovers for a couple of days.

                  Two salads, two sandwiches and two soups. All different.

                  When I got home I had Two salads, two soups and only one sandwich. Grrrrrrrrrr I hate when my food orders get screwed up! Luckily they're right down the street.

                  I call first. "Oh, sorry. Just come back and we'll give it to you."

                  They don't know how close I live. Sure, they'll give it to me... THEY OWE IT TO ME!

                  I go back and get it.

                  Get back home. Where are my bagettes? I did not ask for an apple! I want my bagettes! Grrrrrrrrrrrr I call them again, (something I would never do, but I was mad by then )to let the person who took my order know that they more than forgot one sandwich. He told me to ask for him the next time I came in. As if!

                  I started with my sandwich, the portobello panini. I don't like their panini bread. The consistancy was all wrong from those I've had in the past and it was extremely oily. Too airy and I didn't like the bread taste. I liked the rosemary, just not the bread. Huge sandwich and I'll have the other half tomorrow.

                  Except for the bread, (the major part) it was a good sandwich.

                  On to my French Onion Soup. Where's the cheese? NO croutons or bread? It's a bakery! Where's the bread? Am I supposed to top it with the apple? I think there might have been a half teaspoon of cheese on it. However, there was enough oil that every spoonful I had was layered with it. It wasn't sweet like ALL others I've had either. Thumbs DOWN!

                  Salad: I followed all my friends' recommendations and ordered the Fandango. I'm not a fan of field greens, but I overlooked that as I look at a salad as a whole, not the parts.

                  But... there needs to be some parts! The entire salad had two teaspoons of walnuts, two teaspoons of Gorganzola and 6 Mandarine oranges. Not enough to mix in at all! The dressing was delicious, but Jack in the Box makes a better salad. There is more than enough salad left for several meals. I only ate a couple bites. I won't eat the rest.

                  On to my roommate's order:

                  She liked her tuna sandwich, Asian chicken salad sans the chicken, but she didn't try the brocolli cheese soup. So I did. I love soup, but I don't like theirs.

                  There was something in our bag that I would buy by the quart it was so good. I don't know what it went with. Probably someone elses order that they also screwed up.

                  It seemed to be a salad dressing. It was made, I'm guessing with apple cider. OMG I liked it! I put some on my sandwich and dipped some of the chips (not my missing bagettes) into it. Yummmmmmmmy!

                  However, I don't believe I'll be going back. It might be because they are knew and the employees at that particular Panera are bad, but so was their food!

                  I usually like everything unless it has cilantro on it

                  It will be the neighboring Subway for us!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mar52

                    The new Panera that I reported on above is in a mini-mall with Subway across from it. This is in Marina del Rey in the Los Angeles area; within 5-7 minutes walk there are at least a half dozen places where a better quick meal can be had in the same price range as Panera. (Gee, I'd hope you could do better than Subway, too.)

                    1. re: mar52

                      I agree with your comments on the soup. I love soup, but theirs seems to be prepackaged stuff. Some of the soups are overly sweet. Why would broccoli cheese soup, or chicken with rice taste sweet?

                      Not good at all.

                    2. Boy, I was sorry to hear about your Panera experience. Out of all the new "coffee" type shops I've enjoyed Panera's the most. I've never had a bad meal, the soups are always good, and the breads are above quality. I've been to several in the chain and have had consistent quality. The asiago bagel is wonderful. I could go on.....better luck next time.

                      1. Bagels: 8/10 Really not bad
                        Salads: 5/10 I usually go for the mission chicken one sans dressing. There are not enuf toppings to go around all the lettuce
                        Sandwiches: 3/10 As said, not enuf meat and I don't get how a bread place can have such lousy bread
                        Soups: 2/10 I tried a roasted pepper soup and it was so bad that I could not have more than one sip

                        Have not tried panni, pizza.....Atlanta Bread CO wins with me for taste...

                        1. it's a great place to bring kids, and the meals they serve get you out of a jam when you are surrounded by awful fast food places. The pizza I tried a few weeks ago (Crispani) in an Ohio location was great... thin as pizza is in Italy, and very tasty. not sure what went wrong with the original posters pizza. It's not the greatest place in the world, but it doesn't deserve the slams above.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: tibizzers

                            Panera is awful. It most certainly deserves the slams above.

                            McDonalds tastes better, and is not a bit bit less healthy than Panera. And that's saying something.

                          2. As far as taste is concerned, Panera is not gosh awful but you walk out of their paying $12 for a simple meal. I don't taste quality in their food. I prefer Corner Bakery over Panera any day.

                            1. The Marina del Rey Panera is indeed the one I went to.

                              Do I dare give it another chance?

                              I had just mentioned Subway because it's in the same mini-mall as Panera and I live on the same street.

                              Sure wish they'd bring back Old World.

                              1. My big beef with Panera -- and I don't know if this is still the case, because I haven't been back in a few years -- is that their panini sandwiches are premade, so you can't ask them to "hold the onions" or whatever. That really bothers me for some reason, whereas Atlanta Bread (usually very close to the Panera) always makes theirs to order.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Covert Ops

                                  Agree, I don't like cheese on anything, tried ordering a panini sans cheese, they couldn't make it.

                                2. I vaguely recall having a Panera sandwich at a stripmall because there were no other options (the board of health had closed the McDonalds and the 7-11 was out of Big Bites). I had some sort of turkey sandwich on "artisinal" bread. I guess that means it was thrown down an artesian well, because the bread was soaked with some sort of odd sauce. The "turkey" was a hideously processed simulacra of heavily processed turkey "product" that was dryer than the ashes of love. This delightful experience cost me around $9.

                                  A few days later I had a $4 italian sandwich at Potbelly. It was everything the Panera sandwich wasnt. Flavorful, fresh, and cheap. Franchises can make decent, affordable food. Panera isn't one of them.

                                  1. I pretty much disagree with all of the above. I love that Panera has all their nutritional information online, so I can make healthy choices while there. I agree the sandwiches and bagels are very high in calories, but at least they publish the information so you can avoid those options if you want.

                                    I like the salads, particularly the asian chicken, the mission fig, the greek and the garden salad. I regularly make substitutions and withholdings to these options and have never had a problem. Most of the soups are also fine; my favorites are the garden vegetable and the mushroom when they have it. (The chicken noodle is very poor though, I will agree.)

                                    The baguettes are tasty in my opinion. Not excellent, but usually have a nice crusty outside and chewy inside. I've gotten a few right out of the oven and found them to be particularly good.

                                    I agree it can be a little pricey, but for me it is worth it since in my experience is quality is consistently good and, as I said, I like that I can make healthy choices there.

                                    Bottom line, I'm one of the people who hasn't eaten at a McDonald's or other fast food chain more than 3x maybe in five years. I will take Panera over almost every other fast food/fast casual restaurant any day of the week.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: charmedgirl

                                      Re: substitutions, I've also made substitutions on salads. I'm referring specifically to pressed panini sandwiches on the menu. When I ordered them (granted this was a few years ago so I don't know if policy has changed) they pulled them out of a fridge and slapped them on the grill. Pre-assembled, special requests not honored. (Because I don't care for onions.)

                                      1. re: Covert Ops

                                        The policy hasn't changed as far as I know, and that's my exact issue with them as well. I don't want to have to pull ingredients out of a $7 sandwich. I also don't want to eat a sandwich with residual flavors of the ingredients I don't like. On my infrequent Panera visits I have the broccoli soup.

                                        1. re: marmite

                                          I have never had a problem asking for a change in the sandwich makings but then I think the Panera in my town has excellant management. The place is spotless, even after the mid morning mommy invasion. Busers come to the tables and ask if you'd like your plates removed when finished. The manager is always patrolin g the dinning area and checking in one people. We have never had anything here that wasn't fresh and the recent squash soup was excellant. Managment does make a difference.

                                      2. re: charmedgirl

                                        Boy, I'd hate to get too off topic here, but I like your point about Potbelly. Flavorful meats, good bread, made to order and about half the price of Panera. I think this is what happens when you try to do too much. Bagels, sandwiches, soups, bread, coffee, salads, and baked goods? All in one place? There's virtually no way to pull that off, at least not for cheap. Look at all the successful chains that are actually good (IMO) - In and Out, Chipotle, Potbelly. All have a very limited menu, but do what they do very well.

                                      3. The Greek salad is ok. The tomatoes are terrible, but that's true everywhere outside of the summer (and even then, only in some places). It's inexpensive (comparatively) and not high in calories/fat (particularly when you ask them to put dressing on side).

                                        For me, it's got it's place.

                                        1. at a Panera location I went to in Ohio, I had the Tuscan Chicken Sandwich (chicken breast, greens, tomatoes, red onions & aioli on rosemary focaccia) and it was great, especially the chicken. who would've thought? the french onion soup was salty to the point where it was absurd and inedible.
                                          at a Panera location I go to more frequently in western Massachusetts, the soups are not as salty as I feared they'd be, but their panini sandwiches are insulting, especially the mushroom panini - think of two thick, tasteless slabs of greasy bread, some rubbery, half-melted, tasteless cheese and a handful's worth of anemic mushroom slices that scream "I'm from a can."
                                          so my humble opinion is: stay away from the panini, realize you're taking a gamble on the soup in terms of sodium, and be prepared to be surprised either by how much better or worse it is than you expected it to be.

                                          1. For me, Panera fits in the same category as Pizza Hut and Applebee's. Regardless of the quality or taste, I can't eat there without getting physically ill. And it's not a one-off, it's any location. So the relatively tasteless institutional soups that I've had there won't be repeated.

                                            1. Overpriced, bland and small portions. I wish LA had Cosi, Pret a Manger, Europa, Schlotzsky's.....such better sandwich, soup, salad options.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: Newkie

                                                Pret a Manger is the best of the bunch as far as I'm concerned. The freshest, best quality and they donate the leftovers at the end of the day to foodbanks. Also very responsive customer service if there is a problem - I've been comped more than a few meals for even minor complaints.

                                                1. re: sivyaleah

                                                  Panera also donates their unused bread to local food banks and charities.

                                                  http://www.panera.com/about/community/

                                                  Never heard of Pret a Manger... if it's a soup, salad and sandwich place it's right up my alley. I'll have to keep an eye out!

                                                  1. re: charmedgirl

                                                    They are based in London and have not branched out into the US other than NYC as of yet. Very high quality, no preservatives, etc. They are always changing their menu too which keeps things interesting.

                                                    Not everything on the menu is always available and some things are specific to the London branches I think as tastes there and here differ. Check out the menu - it will have you drooling :-)

                                                    http://www.pret.com/our_food/

                                                    1. re: sivyaleah

                                                      Pret a Manger definetly has a niche market in London - there are a couple of other 'knockoff' chains that do similar take-away food... I really wish that Toronto had PAM - it would definetly help with my luncheon dilemmas.

                                                    2. re: charmedgirl

                                                      I work for a senior nutrition program to support my Chow habit. We get leftover bread from Panera, and maybe it's just because it's the off season, but they've been very good to us. We're talking entire rounds of brownies and danish rings and totally huge bags of bread and bagels that I can pass along to my seniors.

                                                      Between Panera and what we get donated from Publix, I feel like we go a decent way to apoligozing to our clients for the days when our food vendor sends us tuna surprise to feed our people.

                                                  2. re: Newkie

                                                    I love Pret a Manger. Had a sandwich from there while in London and it was inexpensive and super yummy. I really enjoyed the soup too!

                                                  3. In my experience, Panera is on the decline. I used to love the place, then liked it, now I tolerate it because my wife still likes it.

                                                    What's still good: Breakfast pastries

                                                    What's still OK: Salads, soups, breads in general

                                                    What's barely tolerable: Sandwiches - skimpy toppings, heavy on condiments, and not fresh tasting

                                                    What's terrible: Crispini, or whatever the heck they call their pizza.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: GDSinPA

                                                      Totally true--the original chain, St Louis Bread company, was great when it was just in STL. I had a crappy veggie sandwich at Panera just yesterday. :( I'll still eat their everything bagels, though they are definitely not the best.

                                                    2. 90% of Panera is horrible, but I really like their cream of chicken and wild rice soup.

                                                      1. I think that whenever possible everyone should try to patronize locally owned businesses. That doesn't mean that they are all wonderful, but often they aren't the cookie cutter "blech" of chain restaurants.

                                                        We have Friendly's where we are (actually in the city where it started) and I avoid them. They are ordinary and I think expensive for what they have. Plus you can't get your hamburger made the way you want it.

                                                        1. Im with most on here, I hate Panera, and cringe when my wife asks to go.

                                                          1. The food ain't so hot but the decor is kinda cool...

                                                            1. I truly HATE panera. I feel like the food always tastes like its been sitting there for days. The only thing i ever get there are salads and they are pretty lousy!

                                                              1. Panera's customer service is laughable, at least the one in Bridgewater, NJ, which I eat at fairly often. Like the time my husband insisted his turkey sandwich to have no cheese and onions. The cashier who took the order then repeated the request (on microphone no less!) and even added that note on the receipt, and it still came with cheese and onions.

                                                                I also got a quizzical look when I said I wanted a chocolate croissant. The girl behind the counter then went, "oh, you mean the chocolate bread." Whatever.

                                                                1. Panera -- what a sad sad state of affairs. Growing up in St Louis, I went several times a week to the very local, very high quality St Louis Bread Company in U City. Then they expanded to a few more stores, and it was heaven -- you could get those sourdough boules and pumpkin muffies and bread bowl soups all over the city. It was a golden age.

                                                                  Then they went national.
                                                                  Then they changed their name.

                                                                  Things changed, sure, but there was hope. Things seemed to level out after a little while, and there *were* some pretty decent new options on the menu.

                                                                  Then the first inkling that things were going to be quite bad, quite soon. Everything that had been made fresh (salads, soups, grilled chx, etc), suddenly was being supplied in bulk, from a centralized supplier for the whole nationwide chain. Oh, it was not good. Wilty salads, "streamlined" recipes that turned all the good flavorful things into god awful bland salty things. Rubbery breads.

                                                                  No no no, this is no longer the St Louis Bread Company. This is now Panera, the place where lunch went to die.

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: litchick

                                                                    ITA. It's sad. I also grew up with SLBC. Now their salads especially are disgusting.

                                                                    1. re: IndyGirl

                                                                      Just curious...when did the chains in STL change to Panera?

                                                                      1. re: L_W

                                                                        Hm... I seem to recall it being the late 1990s, but my memory is fuzzy. There was such a slow, plodding descent to badness that it feels like the transition took years. I do know that right after the sale, the ownership group changed all the STL area "St Louis Bread Company" outposts to "Paneras," and the customer base revolted. They wouldn't have it, so strong was the local dedication to the cafe/brand. So the owners conceded, and for years, though every franchise around the country was called Panera, the ones in St Louis were called Bread Company.

                                                                        1. re: litchick

                                                                          Yes, I think you are right. It was so gradual...their salads used to be wonderful. It was my favorite place to get lunch (I studied piano in STL for several years growing up, and it was about an hour-and-a-half drive there every week). When I moved away in 1996, it was still excellent.

                                                                      2. re: IndyGirl

                                                                        I was in college in Columbia, Mo., when the first St. Louis Bread Company to open outside St. Louis came to town circa 1995. It was a good, cheap place to get a decent bowl of soup, salad or sandwich, which is exactly what a college student needs. I loved the Bread Co., and missed it terribly when I left the Midwest after college.

                                                                        Now, Bread Co., is Panera, and it's everywhere, and it's not nearly as good as it used to be. It's still a heckuva lot better than, oh, Subway or McDonalds, but it's not quite what it once was.

                                                                        Long live the St. Louis Bread Company!

                                                                      3. re: litchick

                                                                        Hi! I have lived in St. Louis for more years than I will admit. The "Bread Co." is still extremely popular. The Clayton store generally has long lines of jurors and office workers and H.S. students at lunch time. While I agree the food has gone downhill, I cannot agree that it is horrible.
                                                                        The service leaves a bit to be desired: when I get a soup for lunch, I always look in the bag before I walk out--I always ask for either the whole-grain roll/baguette or an apple, but will get sourdough bread or whatever. The apple is generally a good, crisp one.
                                                                        The long-term help is good, the new people are not well trained.

                                                                        I remember the days when the thick turkey sandwich on 9-grain bread was topped with fresh sprouts and was too big for lunch. I do love their Forest Mushroom Soup. The veggie black bean is decent. I like the new roasted pepper. I get frustrated when the website lists the soups of the day and then I go over and my choice is not being served. Last winter, when Forest Mushroom showed up on the website for its annual appearance, the store didn't have it for another 3 weeks. Yikes.
                                                                        I do find myself there less frequently over the last couple of years. Haven't tried the "Crispani" 900-calories! The bagels are o.k., but no one in St. Louis makes a really good bagel, including Pratzel's.

                                                                      4. They opened a Panera by my house in La Mirada, CA. My friends and I thought it was something new, we did think that it opening next to a Starbucks was kind of funny, but hey who knows. I have been there 3 times, once for lunch but I had a croissant, while my hubby had an artichoke sandwich, and the kids had a grilled cheese sandwich (which was pretty good). Last time I went I got the spinach and bacon quiche. Sorry, fellow chowhounds, but I loved it; maybe really high in fat, but to have once every blue moon, why not. The decor is ok; it has a fireplace, but it does not seem a cozy place to hang out or something.

                                                                        1. Went to Panera on Sunday, it was convienient as we were waiting for a prescription to be filled at neighboring drug store. SO had a squash soup that was declared delicious, I had a basic ham and cheese which was more than generous with meat, perhaps because I always order to hold tomato and lettuce? When we can't get to the big market for LaBrea bread, Panera's is good to go with soup or stew made at home. We've been going to Panera for years now, sometimes with co-workers for lunch, and have never had a bad experience there. Our local outlet is very generous to the community, has open mike nights and is always busy.

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: LikestoEatout

                                                                            I've read all of these post and I have to say, I've been to several Panera's in t he area Massachusetts and Southern NH area. I've never had a bad experience. My kids love it. We,ve always had wonderful service. I was at the grand opening of one and we were given 2 dozen bagels free. They were fresh, hot from the oven. The manager even threw in two huge loaves of bread.
                                                                            IMO it has to be the particlar location, if you're in MA or NH don't be afraid to give them a try.

                                                                            1. re: othervoice

                                                                              I wouldn't feed panera's bagels to a dog that was dying of starvation. Disgusting.

                                                                              1. re: othervoice

                                                                                I live in MA, and I've been to Panera a few times. The bagels might be fresh, and I'll say that the flavors are good, but the consistency is the worst! To me, they are like large, round, airy and light pieces of bread. That's just not how they are supposed to be. In my opinion, a good bagel is chewey on the outside and more doughy on the inside.

                                                                              2. re: LikestoEatout

                                                                                Sounds like this one that you frequent should be a model for all the rest of them... I've been a few times and must say that it wasn't the best that I've had, but definitely not the worst either, as many hounders have been voicing out. I give a business big points for actively being a part of the community even if it has some shortcomings... I will patronize places like this over others, given a choice. It's so nice to see businesses giving back to the community that sustains it livelyhood. So many nationwide businesses take the money and run...

                                                                              3. I've been reading these basically horrific reviews of this place above...and thanking the culinary stars that we don't have one here in San Fran...but when I took a ride on our newest streetcar line what should I spot a block away from the stadium...but a sign saying "Panera Opening!!!"
                                                                                I wonder if it will open, and when it does what we SF food freaks will make of it?!

                                                                                1. I'll admit it - I like Panera. There's one across the street from my office, and while it's a little on the pricey side, I have no complaints about the food, the service, or the atmosphere. Is it haute cuisine? Of course not - it's a chain place, and it eats and feels like a chain place. But would I rather go there than a fast food/hamburger joint place? Absolutely. And it's a great place to grab a drink and use the free wifi when you're on the go.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Suzy Q

                                                                                    i agree. and i think those who are saying they would rather eat at subway or mcdonald's are really being dramatic. this is a convenient place and like every chain there are things that are good to order and there are things that sort of flop.

                                                                                    i had a sample of the crispani this summer when they were first testing it out and though i haven't had one to order, i enjoyed the crispani (tomato and fresh basil variety) that i tasted. i'm not a fan of their hot paninis, myself, but i've not been dissappointed by their regular sandwiches. the soup is pretty bland, but the bagels can be pretty good. good cream cheese, the hazelnut variety is outstanding. their savory ham and cheese scone is nice when i've had it.

                                                                                    in closing, i think that panera is a good alternative for those of us who want something a step above the typical chain food when we're out and about in a shopping center, running errands, on the go in our typical daily lives. amen.

                                                                                  2. My experience at Atlanta Bread Company included the following (amongst other problems): I witnessed a customer complain to a server that she was brought french onion soup with cheese instead of her order which was no cheese. After pointing this out to the server, the server then offered to remove the cheese. At which time, in the middle of the crowded "restaurant", he started to dip his fingers into her soup in order to remove the cheese. I kid you not. While I am not a huge fan of Panera, I prefer Panera b/c they serve soup without fingers.

                                                                                    1. I first went to a Panera when I was on a two week cross country road trip. We started out of Seattle with a car that I had loaded down with coolers full of food (halibut cheeks in dry ice, fresh salmon...we went way overboard the first few days). After we'd exhausted our supplies cooking at campsites and rest stops we, inevitably, started eating what we could find. Cowboy stew and then swedish pancakes in South Dakota, those were good. Then days of fast food. I thought Panera was nirvanna.

                                                                                      A roast beef sandwich with actual lettuce on something resembling real bread versus my 14th burger from Wendy's or McDonald's seemed a godsend.

                                                                                      Then I went back to Panera. Ah well. Substandard service and iffy ingredients have been the norm in my experience. I think they provide a valuable alternative to burger joints, but I prefer quiznos for sandwhiches.

                                                                                      1. Panera's is a typical fast food sandwich place with higher prices.
                                                                                        They are not clean, and the people will be sweeping the floors and then ring up customers.
                                                                                        There sandwiches and soups are bland.
                                                                                        The only thing good is their scones, they are very good, esp. the cherry.

                                                                                        1. I appreciated that they had wi-fi when I was traveling a few years ago, and needed a spot out of the cold in a mid-west city. They seemed to fail at anything other than providing shelter.

                                                                                          I currently pass by one on my way home, and stopped in last week to give their baguette a try. I asked if the one on the wall was fresh- the help said that it was not, but that they had a fresh batch in back. (reserving all judgment on why they would display-or sell old bread at the dinner hour, I agreed to purchase one of the 'fresher' specimens).

                                                                                          It was not fresh and delivered what you would imagine a large batch, premixed recipe designed for maximum profit would.

                                                                                          Basically a taco bell of breads.

                                                                                          1. Its all about the free Wi-Fi.

                                                                                            A few years ago my bother said he didn't understand why the drug reps were always sending them baskets of pasteries from Panera (back when drug reps could actually do this). I told him it was because they were already in Panera every morning checking thier email.

                                                                                            I once stayed at a hotel with horrible ureliable internet service. I spent 4 hours eating "dinner" at Panera one night.

                                                                                            1. I go there on the weekends for a cherry Danish which is very good. Their coffee is beyond horrible. The service at the Irvine Panera is deplorable. They continue to have everyone behind the counter doing their own thing and no one pays any attention to the line out the door. It is sooooo mis-managed. Try their cinnamon raisin bread sliced thick for french toast. Yum.

                                                                                              1. There's a Panera opening in the Coolidge Corner neighborhood of Boston. A bunch of my co-workers are thrilled, possibly just because it's another option for lunch that we're not all burnt out on, or possibly because they think it's actually good. Generally, however, I've not heard enough good things about it to get me to choose it over, say, a cheap burrito.

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                                                                                                1. re: braineater

                                                                                                  I'm sure Panera's "bagels" will be a real hit in Coolidge Corner! NOT

                                                                                                2. I'm I late to the party? I was a fan of Panera until a few weeks back when I went there for lunch. In two words "IT SUCKED!" They raised their prices then put it in small print, so you wouldn't notice, the tomatoe scare gave them an excuse to give people a Mozzarella and Tomatoe salad without the tomatoes and still charge the same price!
                                                                                                  Are they sniffing the flour? Then they give me sandwich that had been sitting for what seemed several hours try to pass it off as fresh. Complain? Damn right I did demanded my money back keep your substandard food and service, a great new local place opened near by BSC "Bugers,Shakes, and Fries" great food, great service, great price!

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                                                                                                  1. re: Besteatsskeaker

                                                                                                    I usually just stick to their coffee while I'm working on the net in the comfort of their booth.

                                                                                                  2. Panera's coffee is not bad and the unlimited refills are nice for when you feel like a layabout. Also, the generous free samples of breads are a nice touch.

                                                                                                    Having said that, overall this is not a very good chain for baked goods. The stuff is pretty but often tasteless and weirdly unsatisfying. For a chain bakery Corner Bakery is much better.

                                                                                                    1. I've had the "pizza" at Panera before and I agree, it's not that good. But I liek Panera for their Asian Sesame Chicken salad! It's always a good, refreshing lunch.

                                                                                                      1. I only ever went to Panera once while in the states , and while it wasn't mind blowing for the price, i wouldn't say it fit into " i wouldn't feed my starving dog from there " category.

                                                                                                        On a side note, I wanted to chime in for what i also feel are the ridiculous comparisons between places like this, and McD's "healthwise". There is more to healthy than fat or no fat in food. Calorie for calorie, i'm thinking that there's likely to be more nutritional value in something that hasn't had its life deepfried out of it. At least you're getting a few vegetables in there.

                                                                                                        1. I tried Panera because there seemed to be a lot of hype around my office when one opened. People were gong there often.

                                                                                                          It was mediocrity dressed up in upscale trappings. Everything sort of looks homemade and "artisinal" (if you squint) but get it to your mouth and it's sorry, commercial tasting food.

                                                                                                          I noticed after the initial hype my coworkers stopped going there so often.

                                                                                                          1. I like to go in the winter time because it really is the only place you can get a cup of soup. Their soups are not bad. I can handle a bowl of soup and a piece of french bread but that's about all I would get there.

                                                                                                            I also sometimes get bagels for a work meeting since it's the only place with bagels on my way to work.

                                                                                                            1. I've only been twice. That's two times too often. First time, my cousin asked me out to lunch. Not really thrilled because I am known as the Anti-Chain. I ordered the tuna salad sandwich. They raved about their fresh lemonade. I asked for a sample because I find lemonade is a little too strong. I took a sip and my throat seized up. However, I used the rest of the sample in a tall glass of ice water. The last time, I was desperate and it was close. I had the Chinese chicken salad. Nothing special. It came with a little French roll. I never had such stale bread in my life. When I asked to change it, the server ignored me. Will not be going back.

                                                                                                              1. There are skimpy with their toppings/fillings for the price. Their artichoke sandwich is good, but now I'm afraid of how many calories it has:)

                                                                                                                Atlanta Bread & Cosi are both better & try harder.

                                                                                                                1. I kinda like their soups...