Panera Bread Review

Panera Bread Frontega Chicken Sandwich

Last week my boys and I were running errands around Glendale and found our selves needing to go to the Sprint Store on Brand around lunchtime. The trouble was that when you have two young boys you know for a fact that there is absolutely no way that you should risk sitting in a line for any extended period of time with a hungry 7 year old. It’s just plain dangerous. So I did what any good Dad would do. I picked the nearest lunch spot to our destination that had easy parking. This of course was Panera Bread on Brand Avenue.

It’s been years since I’ve been to Panera Bread and to be honest I couldn’t actually remember too much about how things are done there. I knew that it wasn’t a full service restaurant (please wait to be seated type of place), nor was it a completely fast food place either (next in line!) As it turns out it’s a little bit of both. The deal is that you wait in line at the counter, order, grab your own drink and then sit down and the staff will bring it to you.

I have to admit that my expectations were pretty low. I mean the place is attractive enough on the inside. The staffs were courteous and friendly but it felt like an American version of Ikea inside. Nice but sort of generic.

Panera Bread Frontega Chicken Sandwich

Panera Bread Frontega Chicken Sandwich

I ordered the Frontega Chicken Sandwich., (the menu describes it as Smoked & pulled white meat chicken, mozzarella, tomatoes, red onions, chopped basil & chipotle mayonnaise, grilled hot on our Focaccia.) and a cup of the Vegetarian tomato soup. (the menu describes the soup this way – Vine-ripened pear tomatoes pureed with fresh cream for a velvety smooth flavor accentuated by hints of red pepper & oregano, topped with our Asiago croutons. Served daily.)

 

My ever-adventurous kids ordered the children’s mac and cheese with lemonade. Now the thing that I have to tell you about my kids is that they are Mac and Cheese experts. They love Mac and Cheese. They eat it for breakfast (no really!) lunch and dinner. Wherever we go they order it and tear It up! I was curious to hear they thought of Panera Bread! The Panera Menu describes their Mac and Cheese as made with shell pasta & tangy Vermont white cheddar cheese sauce.

Before I get to the Mac and Cheese I have to tell you that the soup and sandwich tasted great! The chicken sandwich was full of flavor, had melted cheese on toasted bread. The soup was equally good (I had really low expectations about the soup but was pleasantly surprised!). Both the sandwich and the soup came out hot and very tasty!

Panera Bread Kids Mac and Cheese

Panera Bread Kids Mac and Cheese

As low as my expectations were, my kids loved the Mac and Cheese. It was served with bread and a yogurt tube. My kids said it was amongst the best Mac and Cheese that they have had and that they would definitely order it again. They rated the yogurt tube as okay but not as good as gogurt (go figure) and the only criticism was the lemonade. For being freshly prepared it tasted a bit off. Now I’m not quite sure what freshly prepared means. It sounds to me like it should mean that it’s freshly squeezed but I suspect that it’s fancy double talk for meaning something else. The lemon flavor was fine but it had a chemical taste to it that I suspect derived from using liquid sugar. Just a hunch but something about it was different.

Panera Bread Kids Mac and Cheese Empty Bowl

Panera Bread Kids Mac and Cheese Empty Bowl

On top of that Panera’s staff was very quick. It took less then two minutes after we sat down for our entire order to arrive and as I mentioned above, it came out hot. Panera also has free WiFi (I assume with purchase) and so there were quite a few student and office type people there with laptops.

My only real complaint was that halfway through our meal a young man came through the restaurant selling candy bars. He would stop at each table and ask the patron to buy a candy bar and claim that the sale would benefit a children’s camp. Now this isn’t the worst thing in the world but when he approached a employee at the restaurant I expected that they would tell him to leave and they didn’t. I just don’t think that when you go out to eat that you should have to be hassled and feel like you want to hide. Instead you want to just enjoy your meal and the people you are with.

Where do you like to go for lunch in Glendale? When was the last time you tried someplace new? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

 

Confessions of a Pizza Snob

I’ve now lived in Glendale 25 years, and as of May it will be 30 years in California. I was born and raised in New Jersey, and if you know anything about the people of New Jersey (excluding exaggerated reality TV shows) it is that we take our food, especially pizza, very seriously. The crust should be thin and have some crispness to it. Toppings consist of any or a combination of the following: cheese, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, green pepper, onion. PERIOD. The mere mention of Hawaiian pineapple pizza triggers my gag reflex. Fruit has no place on or near a respectable pizza. The addition of “gourmet” meats such as chicken or ham is not at all repulsive, but if you want chicken or ham and cheese on bread, go eat a sandwich. A fancy-schmancy 10″ circle of baked dough with toppings is called an appetizer. Real pizza should yield 6-8 respectable slices, and still leave room for a side of pasta and/or salad.

Over these past 30 years, I have been on the hunt for good California pizza, and I must confess it has been a herculean quest. Most often my disappointment lies with the crust. I’ve been told the “problem” is the water. I’m not sure if there are too many or not enough minerals in Southern California water, nonetheless, I’ve tolerated soft, doughy pizza crust, while not unpalatable, simply isn’t the pizza I long for.

Now the good news. It’s taken me almost three decades to find, but good pizza does exist in our area. I wish my #1 choice was closer, but through sheer tenacity and optimism, my #3 and #4 picks are within five minutes from home. I generally prefer to eat at the establishment because fresh out-of-the-oven pizza is always better than one that has to be reheated.

1. North End Pizzeria – Burbank http://www.northendpizza.com/

2. Vito’s – West Hollywood www.vitopizza.com

3. Giuseppe’s – Montrose http://www.giuseppespizzamontrose.com/

4. Rocky’s – Glendale * Rocky’s Gourmet Pizza

* I am acknowledging Rocky’s, located across from Verdugo Park on Canada Blvd., for its excellent taste even though its crust is the soft variety, and it’s really close to home.

Mangia!!!

 

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