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Monday, November 1, 2010

Panera Bread

  I decided to try out Panera Bread recently, partly because they were at the top of a recent "healthiest places to eat" list, and also because I had a gift card, and free is good.  There are 3 locations in the Dayton area: 6550 Miller Lane, 1203 Brown Street and 2751 Fairfield Commons Blvd. (Fairfield Mall, Beavercreek)  As in the past, I found the place mostly populated with students doing studying and eating.  Of course, that makes me wonder - how can you really enjoy the food if you're trying to memorize human anatomy for an exam while eating?  Maybe some folks are just naturally better multitaskers than I am.

  I've only eaten there a couple of times previously, mostly because the word "bread" in the title is not exactly something that gets me in the door, to be honest.  I think of bread as something you eat with hot dogs or peanut butter to stretch the budget.  Kind of like rice - a staple, but nothing fancy or exciting.  (probably why most Chinese places aren't called "Rice & ...")  For the most part, I don't think of bread as being the highlight of most meals, although if you have some fresh Rye bread, I might reconsider.

  Anyway, I noticed a couple of recent additions to the menu, and decided to try both of those by doing a "U Pick 2" combination.  That's where you can get a smaller amount of something, but you get more variety. (2 items, rather than 1 to try)  I have to admit, I'm really not a fan of the "signature upcharge", and still am not really sure how they calculate the costs.  Evidently some items are "signature", and others are not.  I don't think it is supposed to denote that some are fantastic, and others not - only that some are more expensive than others, really.  Perhaps they use more expensive ingredients, or take longer to prepare?

  I ended up ordering the new "Tomato Mozzarella and Basil Signature Salad", and also got the new "Cuban Chicken Panini on Focaccia".  Total cost came to just under $9.50 with tax.  The salad is described as a balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil with Asiago croutons, fresh mozzarella, field greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh basil & onion.  The Panini was described as natural chicken, smoked ham, swiss, chipotle mayo, sweet pickle chips and sun dried tomato ale mustard.

  How did it all stack up?  The panini tasted good, bread was crispy, but the meat was really thick in some places, and almost nonexistent in others.  I would have liked a little more uniformity in that regard.  I would give it about a 7 out of 10 score.  As for the salad, the mozzarella was rather tasteless, but I suppose that went along well with the salad itself, which was very flavorful.  Most of the greens were what I would call a "Mesclun mix", with somewhat pungent leaves.  Croutons were stiff but oil drenched - I prefer them dry and on top of the salad, rather than mixed in like this.  I would rate the salad probably an 8 out of 10.  The meal was filling, and certainly seemed healthier than what is offered at many restaurants.

phone: 937-890-1500 (Miller Lane location)

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