Panini On the Town: Panera Bread

Today’s post is my first in a series of posts over the next few months sponsored by Panera Bread.

That was me, swinging open the doors of Panera Bread with my big camera bag (to take today’s pics), my iPad case (always with me during my once-a-week “me time”) and diaper bag (at least it’s a cute one) in tow. I was there to set up shop, relax for the next hour or so and really get a sense of what draws people to this place.

Of course, I’d been to Panera countless times before – it’s on our regular rotation of lunch places when the kids and I go out with friends. My husband is also known to stop in after work to bring home some of their cookies on a lark (always much appreciated). Today I was on my own and, at about nine-thirty in the morning, it was just the right time for a late breakfast.

I knew about their breakfast sandwiches...but souffles?

In that this is Panini Happy, I had every intention of sampling one of their breakfast sandwiches. But then my eyes gazed down the menu and landed on the section called “Soufflés”. Wow, really? I’d never seen soufflés on the menu of a casual dining establishment such as this. I had to find out what these entailed.

Spinach & Bacon Baked Egg Souffle at Panera Bread
Spinach & Bacon Baked Egg Souffle at Panera Bread

Oh my goodness, was this incredible. I honestly wasn’t expecting anything nearly as good as this. It was kind of a non-traditional interpretation of a soufflé, with the eggs baked inside what they call their “sweet French dough” (very much like a croissant). I tried the spinach & bacon one, alternating between savoring each bite slowly and scarfing it eagerly. There was something about the flavors that kept me wanting more – I subsequently found out that besides the spinach and bacon there was also garlic, lemon and splash of Tabasco in the mix. This wasn’t a normal weekday breakfast for me and it was a real treat.

It was a gorgeous morning to sit outside on the patio

When it’s sixty-eight degrees out in January, you have to take advantage of the opportunity to dine al fresco. I found a great spot by the fireplace, which felt cozy even if it wasn’t lit. There were a number of little gatherings around the neighboring tables, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop a little.

Around one table was a prayer group of about six women, one of whom broke down into tears while sharing a story of a niece who had just been diagnosed with a serious ailment. Behind me, under an umbrella, were two men drinking coffee and lamenting about the difficulty of installing ink cartridges in their printers at home. Inside the café, one of my own friends was actually sharing a pastry with another friend of hers (I gave them their privacy. :-)). It was pretty busy at Panera that morning, with a bunch more people working on their laptops, conducting job interviews and just enjoying a good breakfast. I never would have guessed there would be this much activity on a given weekday morning.

They tempt you with a slew of pastries right as you enter the door!

Obviously, I wasn’t going to leave without trying the panini. It was about time to pick up my daughter from preschool so I took home a selection of three sandwiches to-go:

Turkey Artichoke Panini at Panera Bread
Turkey Artichoke Panini at Panera Bread
Tomato & Mozzarella Panini at Panera Bread
Tomato & Mozzarella Panini at Panera Bread
Cuban Chicken Panini at Panera Bread
Cuban Chicken Panini at Panera Bread

A number of you mentioned the panini at Panera Bread among your favorite sandwiches when I asked for suggestions last week – the Turkey Artichoke was mentioned a few times, in particular, so I made sure to pick up one of those. I’ve noticed one thing they do really well at Panera is layer flavors. Just like with their baked egg soufflés, each of their panini use big-flavor ingredients. The Turkey Artichoke uses smoked turkey, rather than the typical oven-roasted variety, and a zesty spinach-artichoke spread. The Tomato & Mozzarella uses not only fresh tomatoes but also roasted ones as well. The Cuban Chicken is finished with a chipotle mayo and sun-dried tomato ale mustard. It’s these flavorful touches that make their panini taste better than many I’ve had in other cafés.

Did I have dessert? Yes, I indulged in a rather delicious Toffee Nut cookie. Did I take a picture of it? Nope, it was gone before I remembered to pull out my camera. 🙂

To find a Panera Bread in your area, click here.


KathyPanini Happy, online since 2008, is more than just a sandwich blog. Here, you'll find hundreds of my original panini recipes, my guide to choosing a panini press and a whole lot of other creative uses for the panini press.
~ Kathy Strahs
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  1. The breakfast sandwiches are to die for. Love them. I also LOOOVE the toffee nut cookie. It’s like crack it’s so good.

    Posted 1.20.11 Reply
  2. Anne wrote:

    I love Panera’s (or originally known as St. Louis Bread Company). I like how their website allows you to build your own menu. Which is really important to me. I am down nearly 70 pounds and have to be careful when making food selections when out and about.

    Posted 1.20.11 Reply
    • Kathy wrote:

      I didn’t realize that about their website – what a great feature!

      Posted 1.20.11 Reply
  3. Sara wrote:

    I heart Panera! But my husband has boycotted them because he loves to have an espresso (latte or mocha) with is panini and the last two times he was there the espesso machine was broken (well, after waiting 20 minutes for his drink). So, now we love the Corner Bakery. But, I may have to sneak back and try a breakfast sandwich! Yum!

    Posted 1.21.11 Reply
  4. I like Panera Bread because it’s a comfortable place to blog when I want to get out of the house. Their new Thai Chicken Salad is pretty good.

    Posted 1.22.11 Reply
  5. I’m a fan of Panera myself and I work across the street from one so I treat myself at least once a week.
    I’ve always gotten a salad tho…after reading this I feel I’ve missed the Panini train.

    Thanks for the info…I will switch up my lunch next time.

    Nice blog…glad to have stumbled across you today.

    Posted 1.26.11 Reply
  6. Christina wrote:

    I adore Panera. My husband and I go there at least once a month to have lunch. Right now we’re obsessed with their soups but I’m gonna have to give some of these panini’s a try.

    Posted 1.27.11 Reply
  7. They do have good sammies there! I didn’t know about the “souffles,” either. Kind of a loose interpretation of a souffle. But they sure do sound good anyway. 😉

    Posted 1.31.11 Reply
  8. Scott wrote:

    I want to love Panerra, but I have tried several of their sandwhiches and not really impressed.

    The last one and final one was the Tomato Mozzarella Panini.
    It was very greasy and not what I was hoping for at all.

    It’s too bad, because this particular type of panini could have been a good light option, and still pack full of flavor if the recipe was reworked.

    I know the Asian Chicken Salad is a hit with so many folks, but I could really taste the artifical sweetner in the dressing, which was a mega turnoff for me.

    I think I just dont ‘get’ Panera, but I’m glad others do.

    Panera is really convenient for me during my lunchtime walks, but I am starting to look for another route with other lunch options.

    Posted 5.1.12 Reply
  9. Memoria wrote:

    I love Panera as well. The only sandwich I get there is the Frontega Chicken panino. My aunt ordered the Cuban Chicken panino and was disappointed. She tried my panino and said, “I should have ordered that.” haha I love that they have the olive oil mayo and more than one type of mustard packet as well. I love their broccoli and cheese soup, too. I never get the dessert (unless I get a free one with the Panera card) because I prefer to eat my homemade desserts over others haha.

    Posted 6.14.12 Reply