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Panera Bread opening in Scarsdale..is it good?

I saw a sign in the mall where Odd Job used to be and saw a sign Panera Bread coming soon....is this place any good? We need a great bread bakery in Southern Westchester...I believe they may be of the chain variety, gosh, I hope its not another "Cosi-style" bread cafe!

Has anyone ever heard or tasted their bread???

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  1. I've only had the bread served with the sandwiches, never just went in for bread. It's not bad. Bagels are, not surprisingly, very bleh. They have a lot of baked dessert items which I haven't tried. It is along the lines of a Cosi.

    It's decent for a chain sandwich or salad but for the bread itself can't replace an actual good bakery. When you want amazing bread (and many other things), hike over to Port Chester RawTuna... go to Kneaded Bread.

    1. More people should try out Arthur Avenue in the bronx. From southern westchester its about 10-25 minutes (bronxville-white plains). There are a couple of good bakeries there as well as great produce, meats, everything that westchesterites complain about not having (at reasonable prices). And all at half the price of whole foods (meats and cheeses espescially).

      1. Yes, it's a chain. There's an outlet in Yorktown, I think, maybe Somers, and their sandwiches are pretty good for what they are. I kind of like Cosi, actually, and I hope Panera will be acceptable in its stead, although I once had a "ceasar" salad at a Panera that apparently lacked any garlic at all. But hey, at least it's a wee bit more inventive than Boston Market or Cal Pizza Kitchen.

        1. It's a big national chain and the food tastes as it should - made for the masses. We have several in the capital district area. It's better than mcdonald's or boston market.
          Panera's is actually the renamed 'Au Bon Pain' chain from the 90's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Au_Bon_Pain). If you like food chains (most americans do, seemingly), then you'll probably like it. We don't, and there's surely a quality independent bread company near you, or a farmer's market where breadmakers come with their wares. We have several in our area each week, surely there are many in westchester.

          7 Replies
          1. re: salvador

            Panera's is not the "renamed Au Bon Pain chain from the 90's"--indeed Au Bon Pain still exists as Au Bon Pain. I have been to the Panera's in Yorktown, and it is ok for what it is--a quick lunch that is more inventive and fresh than many other fast food joints. It is not an artisinal bread bakery, but the bread is ok, and the coffee is delicious.

            1. re: Marge

              Panera is just ok...Au Bon Pain is actually a notch or two better,,

              1. re: Marge

                Interesting though...I guess the two -- Au Bon Pain & Panera -- are related since Au Bon Pain bought what eventually became Panera in the early 90's. Needless to say, I'm not the biggest fan of Au Bon Pain, yet for what it is, it sure beats McDonalds!

                1. re: RawTunaFan

                  They definitely had common ownership in the mid-90s, but Panera is really a concept based around the origins of St Louis Bread Company which was purchased by Au Bon Pain in 1993. After finalizing the Panera concept and some expansion, the company decided to divest Au Bon Pain rather than spin off Panera. But the concepts, while similar in their bakery focus and with some overlap in types of menus, remained separate.

                  http://panerabread.com/about/company/...

                  They compete now. Around here we have both, although little in direct competition because ABP is only in downtown and at the airport, whereas Panera is mainly in suburban locations. (This is changing; ABP is starting to do suburban locations in some of their markets.) Au Bon Pain, I'd say, is doing it better. Panera is phoning it in these days IMO. Perhaps it helps that ABP is serving a smaller number of outlets. Panera can still be useful in a pinch, but it's not the ideal choice it once seemed.

                  I can't compare to Cosi, not having really experienced that, but I guess that one as well is in a similar market niche.

                  1. re: RawTunaFan

                    "Needless to say, I'm not the biggest fan of Au Bon Pain, yet for what it is, it sure beats McDonalds!"

                    I sometimes think that, but then I check the nutrition facts on the Italian Combo I often order when I go there and think to myself "Wow, if I was going to blow my diet so badly, I could have just had the Big N Tasty I'm always denying myself."

                2. re: salvador

                  Salvador, I, for one, take umbrage. Yes, quite a lot of Americans like food chains but not necessarily most and the vast majority of Chowhounds do not - that's why we're here. Best not to generalize. Also, Au Bon Pain still exists.

                  1. re: salvador

                    I am not aware of any famers markets where you can go in and get a sandwich or salad and sit down and eat it. Care to point me at the ones you are talking about? Also, what happens when I want something on a day when my local farmer's market (which isn't even open for the season yet) isn't there?

                  2. I'm a regular customer of Panera (and Cosi) and in my opinion Panera is doing a very decent job for what it tries to be. It is a chain and conceptual somewhat close to Cosi. Where I live (Westfield, NJ) there is actually a Panera and a Cosi right across the street from each other. Competition makes them both focus on their customers.

                    From a bread perspective Panera is not a dramatic improvement. They have a good variety and it is better than what you get at a supermarket but it is not a high-end artisan bakery (and it is not trying to be one). The sourdough baquette is above average and the focaccias and the ciabatta are actually quite good. I also like the asiago demi.

                    When you get sandwiches you can choose from a variety of breads (cosi is a bit limited there). The flad bread at Panera (called crispani) wins easily against the more traditional (and for my taste too doughy) pizza at Cosi and it is a much better value. The "You pick two" at Panera (half sandwich, half salad, soup) is a pretty good lunch deal. Finally, almost all Panera's have free wireless, only some Cosi's do.
                    Cosi wins on the breakfast sandwiches (they do have them and you can create your own) and they allow BYOB which Panera does not.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: FoodFetish

                      FoodFetish -- Nice post. I used to really like Cosi. I still like their bread but I find that their sandwiches can be rather thin on incredients. As you say, the You Pick Two at Panera is a very good deal, lots of food. My only problem is that you cannot get stuff on the sandwich customized.

                      1. re: MisterBill2

                        MisterBill2,

                        you are right about the customization of sandwiches, that can be difficult at Panera. My experience is that they let you theoretically customize most sandwiches except the paninis which seemingly are premade and just reheated on the grill. For the others I often specify a different bread or "without onions" and in roughly 30% of the time they don't get it right. (Nevertheless, if you then complain you often get a second sandwich for free. If you are hungry that is good thing if not it probably goes to waste.)
                        I have also seen some Panera struggle with this more than others.

                        1. re: FoodFetish

                          It might just be when I get the You Pick Two that they won't let me customize since they make the whole sandwiches and then serve half with each order.

                    2. It's ok. Nothing special. To me, the sandwiches taste like all bread. I can't tell you how many are here in Momnouth Co., NJ...too many! There pannini sandwiches are way too greasy for me..yuck! The bagels are so hard and tasteless.

                      Don't be in a huge rush to this place!

                      1. Panera is about equivalent to Chipotle or Qdoba. Nicer fast food. I eat at them frequently when taking long car trips. They are usually easy to find in shopping areas near the interstate and far better than McDonalds.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: blackpointyboots

                          Blackpointyboots, I agree. Panera is actually pretty good for trips. As much as I don't like chains, in this country and in particular in some states you really don't have a choice. I travel a lot for business and I often use panera as my office. The atmosphere is mostly pretty nice and you can usually find a quite spot, plug in your computer, use the free wireless and drink decent free-refill coffee.
                          I don't seem to be the only one who is doing this. The Panera in Menlo Park, NJ usually has always hand full of people with laptop working there. Some people even seem to have business meetings there. Only over lunch does get a little crowded and noisy.

                        2. If you like wimpy-crusted bread, you'll like Panera. If you like the illusion of home-made goodness, you'll like Panera. Why not just go to a good, locally owned bakery or deli -- or has all of southern Westchester become so gentrified and commodified since I left the NY area that there are no longer any good bakeries and delis?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: ClaireWalter

                            I think the chain places like Panera and even markets like whole foods put a dent on many of the local bakeries and bread places. The same thing Starbucks does to the smaller indie coffee places. Its really sad that people are so lazy they would rather buy a sub par fruit tart at Whole Foods than support their local bakery.

                            1. re: RawTunaFan

                              You seem to be under the mistaken impression that all areas that get places like Panera (or Starbucks) have local independent places that are better. They don't. In my area of Yorktown, my choice is bagel stores/delis that don't do anything interesting so Panera is a step up. And how many indie coffee places were there before Starbucks made the whole thing so popular?

                          2. the only thing i got at panera wen i went the other day was the nutty oatmeal raisin cookies. had gotten them togo and the bag had a grease stain on it. but it was still very very good. i got my money's worth with that cookie.

                            1. While I find most of Panera's offerings to be fairly average, I think they have the best "fast-food" breakfast offering---their baked egg souffles. The spinach & artichoke one is especially good. Here's a link:
                              http://www.panerabread.com/menu/baker...

                              1. Everything you need to know about Panera's success in two words: Free Wireless.

                                It's been years since I lved/worked in that area (although still get back to Zachy's yearly). I seem to recall a number of indie delis and sandwich shops in Larchmont, Eastchester, Tuckahoe. Have all those non-chain choices disappeared?

                                To me, the food seems slightly higher than institutional, except for the soups, which taste overprocessed, often too salty, not in the least like homemade.

                                1. St. Louis Bread company, AKA Panera, is all over the place here in St. Louis -- and it is pretty much as described: decent but unremarkable. People who have not had great bread are generally very impressed with them.

                                  The "bagels" are what I call "sandwich bagels" -- big and puffy, made to accomodate fillings; at least the crust is OK. Between Einsteins and SLBC they've pretty much destroyed what there was of the better bagel bakeries. (At least there's still the Bagel Factory, even if Basically Bagels is gone...) If you're looking for great, this likely won't do it, but you could do much worse.

                                  Some people really like them -- it's worth a shot!

                                  BTW -- it wasn't free wi-fi alone that made them so popular here, because they were taking off before the wi-fi. They have always been a place to relax, read the paper and/or get some work or studying done. IMO the decent coffee has a lot to do with their success because the profit margin on coffee is so good.

                                  1. Panera is all over Florida and Georgia, and they are always packed at lunch. It is definitely a step up from fast food, including a step up from Boston Market. It is not an ultra-trendy-upscale place, but it is a nice, sit down deli and good at what it does. But if you are accustomed to mom-and-pop bakeries, you won't be impressed (we don't really have places like that here, that I know of, so we are plenty satisfied with Panera).

                                    They have twelve or so different kinds of bagels to choose from, plus a few hot quiche type breakfasts, and a variety of pastries at the bakery. I am a big fan of the french toast bagel, also dutch apple.

                                    The soups are basic for the most part, but good (broccoli cheddar, french onion, chicken noodle, creamy chicken & rice, black bean, potato), and sometimes they pull out a chicken chili or shrimp bisque.

                                    Salads include caesar, asian, chicken/fruit/poppyseed (which is v.v. good), fuji apple/gorgonzola/white balsamic, tomato/basil/fresh mozz/onion/foccacia, and sometimes a steak/blue cheese salad. Another poster writes that their caesar dressing is lacking garlic. I have never found this to be the case, and I like spicy caesar.

                                    Sandwiches include chicken caesar, bacon/turkey with thousand island and gouda, chicken/mozz/caramelized onion, turkey/artikchoke, and they have like 7 breads to choose from, including my favorites, sesame semolina (tastes like noodles), and tomato basil with a sweet crust. You can also get basics like PBJ, chicken salad, tuna salad, maybe egg salad (?). I don't recall ever seeing ham or pastrami on the menu.

                                    They recently started serving about four kinds of flatbreads after 5 p.m. I haven't tried them because I go for lunch.

                                    p.s. Their holiday bread is outstanding - has apples, raisins, and lots of cinnamon. We buy at least one loaf every December. Also the free wireless internet is a plus!