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Anything good at Panera Bread?

One of these is opening in the newly remodeled Northgate Mall here in Marin County, Ca. I've never been to one. How's the food and the breads? Anything especially good or is it just a fancied-up chain? (And I'm not even going to ask about the unfortunately named BJ's which is opening as well..)

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  1. Their breads are good, if not a tad expensive.

    If you're not fortunate to have a boulangerie in your 'hood and the grocery store bakery sucks, Panera will be a nice repository of speciality breads. Their bagels are better than average but not superb (it's a cut above the baked circular bread that most places sell as a bagel).

    I find their sandwiches to be okay, a bit on the skimpy side with the fillings. I've found their soups to be too salty.

    One upside with the place, is that most of the locations I've been to offers free wi-fi.

    1. Chowhound opinions from just a few months ago: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/628194

      1. The free wifi is good.

        The breads are not as good as you'd find at an artisanal bakery, but they're tasty and textury enough. My mom was a big fan of their 3-cheese bread.

        I like their soups. I don't like most of the sandwiches (overly fussy, not the right balance of ingredients to please me), and the salads are hit & miss - the seasonal salads tend to be better than the standard ones IMO.

        I do like their breakfast items - the egg sandwiches, the "souffle" thingies, the bagels & the breakfast pastries. Again, it's not what you'd find at a good indy specialty store, but it's good enough.

        1. It's a chain, but you could certainly do a lot worse. The soups are good as benbenberi mentioned and for a quick sandwich/salad it isn't bad. Surely a lot healthier than your typical burger/fries meal and much tastier/fresher than Subway. Coffee is decent too, not too burnt/strong like Starbucks. Among other typical food court choices, I'd pick Panera.

          2 Replies
          1. re: iluvcookies

            Like any deli-style place, there are better and worse choices from a nutrition standpoint. Panera's Chipotle Chicken sandwich has almost 1000 calories in its standard format.

            1. re: beachmouse

              This is true of any restaurant. I still think Panera has a better variety and overall quality than say, Burger King or Nathan's.

          2. One word of caution...I've had their French Onion soup at two locations & at both it was salty as all get out. That one is off my list.