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.
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!
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.
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!