Panera Bread's cafe menu needs to rise to the level of its bread

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J. Wohletz
Fresh fruit pastries at Panera Bread.
When I'm walking into a Panera Bread , it's hard for me to remember that I'm not headed into Starbucks. There's the same wafting aroma of espresso and suburban MILF perfume; the same mellow, snoozy music; and the counter employees are so gleeful I wonder if they've been threatened by tasers.

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J. Wohletz
Panera Bread.
But then, Panera Bread could be the Starbucks of bakeries. The stores are uniform, ubiquitous and popular, with solid baked goods and light-meal breakfast/lunch/diner items that are passably good. But there are better -- and definitely worse -- possibilities out there.

Panera's began life as Le Bon Pain Co. in 1981, when Louis Kane and Ronald M. Shaich started the first one in Kirkwood, Missouri. In 1993 the company acquired the St. Louis Bread Company; in 1999 Le Bon Pain sold off its current stores, was renamed Panera Bread, subsequently bought out Paradise Bakery & Café, and today operates 1,591 company-owned and franchise-operated bakery/cafes in 41 states and Ontario, Canada.

Panera is generally seen as being a healthy chain of restaurants, and it was in the vanguard of the movement to show nutritional information on all of its menu items. I've always found it interesting that a bakery-based restaurant like this one has managed to market itself as a bastion of nutrition -- props to Panera's marketing teams past and present for making gobbing down baguettes and cream cheese-studded pastries seem like no-harm-no-foul.

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J. Wohletz
Lemon chicken orzo soup in a bread bowl.
I went to the Panera Bread at 3700 Quebec Street, and although it was during prime-time brunch on a Saturday, the chow lines were short. Panera has three counters: one for breakfast and bakery items, one to order meals, and a small middle counter for such specialty coffee orders as espresso drinks and frozen coffee creations. The breads and pastries looked plenty tempting -- beautiful baguettes with bubby crusts and light, buttery sweets with shiny-glazed fresh fruit toppings. But I focused on lunch, ordering lemon chicken orzo soup in a bread bowl with a Caesar salad, penne Bolognese with a Greek salad, lemonade and a chocolate chip cookie. Baguette hunks were included with the meals, so I was all set.

Location Info

Panera Bread

3700 Quebec St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

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Never, ever order frou-frou coffee drinks at panera.  They are awful.  I love  mochas and used to walk another 3 blocks near where I worked just to avoid the coffee drinks.  Don't know if the regular coffee or plain espresso is as bad, but I am guessing it is.


I cant wait for real restaurants to be reviewed again... Reviews of Panera and CPK are a waste of time. Everyone knows exactly what to expect. I cant wait to hear about her favorite 5 Dollar foot long. 


Pretty sure Panera's predecessor was Au Bon Pain, not Le Bon Pain.  They used to be all over Boston.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

"suburban MILF perfume" ... lol!


So Jenny, how many of them would you like to ...?


I'd pay $1 to watch.


 @NoOneCares Couldn't Agree More waste of time and space. Panera is average. Big Surprise.


Why not have her do cheap eats reviews. I would bet that no one who reads this blogs cares about Chain's. We want to know about the denver dining scene, 

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