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Panera: I admit it. My chain bias was unsubstantiated.

Someone brought a box of pastries to the office yesterday in a plain white box. The contents included danishes, chocolate croissants, cinnamon twists, and various others. I tried a twisted pastry that had toasted pecans and cinnamon in it. It was very delicious! And the pastry was delightfully flakey neither too dry nor too greasy and overall tasted very fresh.

I was informed later that these pastries were from Panera. In the past I have never even paid attention to this place as an option simply because it was a chain. I hereby admit that I've been a snob in the past and admit that sometimes a chain could be good.

Can anyone verify chain consistency? I think this batch of pastries were from Watertown.

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  1. I've never eaten one of their pastries. The bread I have eaten from Panera is mediocre at best. Very white, very processed without any hint of a yeasty taste. I do like their salad with beef and walnuts. Dressing isn't overwhelming, nice selection of greens. Not a bad choice when I have to have lunch in places like Concord, NH or Nashua. My Mother loves their soups, so it is a neutral lunch spot when we go out to lunch together.

    1. I used to hate Panera, but I've come around too. Not necessarily where their pastries are concerned but I love their Asian Sesame Chicken salad: formulaic or not, it tastes good and is around when i need a good lunch.

      1 Reply
      1. Pizzas or whatever they call them...not great; and if you enjoy truly artisan bread...DO NOT buy their bread.

        1. For food I say that there is a continuum from horrible to amazing. Panera (St. Louis Bread Company here where it started) is not horrible and it's not amazing. Most people have something they really like; I like the sandwiches. (I get extra everything.) My biggest dissapointment are the bagel-shaped rolls -- the crust is OK but it's just bready in the middle. And they don't even have onion bagel-shaped rolls or lox of any kind.

          But it's a darn sight better than many other bakeries I've been to, just not as good as the best.

          1. best bakery around here. i spent $20 today on loaves of bread, baguettes, bagels, croissants, muffins, and bread bowls for the family. friendly staff and tasty stuff. it's a great chain.

            1. You picked the best pastry in the box, in my opinion. That pecan twist is delicious. There are other pastries that are good as well. I think it's pretty consistent. They don't hold anything over until the next day so you are guaranteed freshness at the very least!

              1. I've eaten at Panera in Iowa, Missouri, and Texas. All were good. Panera is a pretty decent place for a sandwich or salad or quick breakfast. It's not anything I'm going to make a special stop for but it's nice to have something reliable, particularly if you travel through small towns.

                It's certainly a better option than McDonald's.

                1. I've had greek salads at Paneras in Florida and Baltimore...had one yesterday...always good in my opinion. However, that's all I've ever tried there.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: crosby_p

                    my mum loves this salad, so i started making huge greek salads at home for the family all the time. i buy the baguettes from panera and serve them with my homemade salad. good times.

                  2. I've only ever been to the one in Huntsville, Al and the two sandwiches I've had were both excellent.


                    1. I enjoy panera very much. Only things I've tried that I did not enjoy where the chicken salad and the brownie. Love the soups, sandwiches (other than aforementioned chicken salad), and greek salad.

                      1. yesterday i made the chicken and wild rice soup from the chowhound recipes, toasted two of panera bread's sourdough bread bowls that had been coated with olive oil, sea salt, and cracked pepper, and loaded them up with my homemade soup. totally fantastic.

                        1. Mom likes the sourdough bread. I've had the sourdough bread bowl with their homeade chicken soup. I was sick and it was comforting and better than I expected.
                          They also have a drive through and it's better than some of the surrounding choices for breakfast - McDonalds, Chik-Fil-A, etc...

                          1. Has anyone tried their breakfast soufles? Whenever I've been there it was after breakfast.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: michele cindy

                              Yes, they're great. They also just recently introduced breakfast panini sandwiches with eggs, cheddar, and bacon or sausage. Had one yesterday and it was outstanding.

                              1. re: zhelder

                                I was wondering how those breakfast sandwhiches are as they look really good.