We went to eat at Panera yesterday and my husband commented "This is what Starbucks would be like if they served sandwiches, too." I had to laugh because that thought had crossed my mind several times before. If you haven't eaten at Panera Bread before, it's definitely worth a visit, and it's not your traditional "deli."
I have been to several different Panera locations and most are divided into two sections where you can place an order - a bakery section and a "cafe." In the bakery, you can find a variety of "artisan" breads (including french, focaccia, ciabatta, and whole grain), specialty breads (including sourdough, tomato basil, sunflower, asiago cheese, and honey wheat), and low carb breads. They have a variety of bagels to choose from as well as pastries, brownies, cookies, muffins, scones, and sweet rolls. I have not actually tried any of their pastries, but I am tempted every time I go!
Their cafe has a variety of selections including salads, sandwiches, soups, and crispani (hand-crafted pizza). I love their "pick two" option because you can choose two of the following: salad, 1/2 sandwich, and bowl of soup. I love to try out their different sandwiches. Some of my favorites include: Sierra Turkey, Smoked Turkey Breast, and the Turkey Caprese (which I tried for the first time yesterday and loved). I love their Broccoli Cheddar soup. It is very hearty and includes carrots and a number of spices. Their Cream of Chicken & Wild Rice is also very good. I have also tried their salads a few times. The Greek is my favorite (it includes feta cheese, Kalamata olives, and a Greek dressing). Whether you choose a soup, salad, or sandwich as an entree or the "Pick Two" option, you will also get to choose between an apple, chips, or a French or Whole grain baguette. I love the French baguette, especially when they are fresh from the oven. The average price for these items is about $6.29.
They also offer a kid's menu. You can choose between a grilled cheese sandwich, peanut butter and jelly, or a deli sandwich with your choice of turkey breast, ham, or roast beef. They are served with organic yogurt (it comes in a squeeze tube much like the "Gogurts") and a choice of organic milk, chocolate milk, or apple juice. In my opinion, the kid's meals are a bit pricey at $4.59.
Every time I have visited this location (afternoon or evening), it is crowded. They have plenty of seating inside and a few tables outside as well. Even though they are always busy, they fill the orders very quickly. You will receive a "buzzer" to notify you when your food is ready. This location offers free Wi-fi and I have seen many people with their laptops out, especially during the lunch hour.
You can purchase gift cards online at http://www.panerabread.com or at their individual locations.
If you're looking for a filling meal and a cozy but trendy atmosphere, you should definitely check out Panera Bread.