I know. I know. Another chain. J and I had made plans earlier in the week to only eat out once. Tomorrow. Something came up and J wanted to run to Frandor. Neither of us had eaten lunch yet and we wouldn’t get back home in time to eat before she had to be at work, so we just ate while we were out.
J has always been a big fan of Panera Bread. Me, not so much. When we lived in Peoria, J worked long hours on Saturday and would usually stop at a Panera for at least one meal. Before we started dating, she almost lived there.
The Panera Bread in Frandor has a physical address on North Clippert, but it’s actually on the interior of the shopping center. It sits on a corner connected to the same building that houses Kroger. It’s much smaller than most of the other Panera’s I’ve been in. From the beginning, I felt a little crowded. Usually, Panera has separate areas for the cafe and bakery. I didn’t see that here.
When you walk in, the order counter is right in front of you. The bakery section is off to the right side of the counter. There were four cash registers, but only two open. We waited for the next available cashier, but that wasn’t good enough for a lady who walked up after us. She wanted us to pick a line in hopes we would pick the longer line so she didn’t have to wait as long to get her coffee.
J knew what she wanted. She picked the “Pick 2″ which she half a sandwich and half a salad. The sandwich she chose was the Mediterranean Veggie. The sandwich is two slices of tomato basil bread with Peppadew peppers, feta cheese, cucumbers, lettuce, tomato, onions, and cilantro hummus. She asked to leave the onions off, but got them anyway. The salad she picked is her all time favorite salad from anywhere, the Strawberry Poppyseed. She raves about this salad every time she gets it. I tried my best last year to replicate the dressing, but I was way off and haven’t tried again. She didn’t say anything about the sandwich, but I know she was excited to see the Strawberry Poppyseed salad on the menu once again.
I usually get the Asiago Roast Beef, but I noticed a Chipotle Chicken sandwich on the menu. Anti-biotic free chicken chunks were served on toasted French bread with cheddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon, tomatoes, and an ancho chipotle spread. After taking the tomatoes off, it was a really, really tasty sandwich. I was surprised at just how good it was. The “spread” (I’m guessing it’s mayo) was a really nice kick to it. The sandwich came with a pickle spear and a bag of potato chips.
Our bill was just over $18. This was probably the best Panera experience I’ve ever had. Like I mentioned earlier, the store did seem kind of cramped. The order pick up area was really tight and there was really no place to stand comfortably. Lucky enough, we must have just missed the lunch rush. The seats were full, but there was only one person in front of us.
J will probably have a little bit easier time getting me to Panera now. I’ve found a sandwich that I really liked and could almost find myself craving.