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Panera proves great for those on the go

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By Andrea R. Solis

Panera’s Strawberries and cream pastry with a cafe mocha. (Andrea R. Solis)

By Andrea R. Solis

“Give your taste buds a kiss on the cheek,” suggested the slogan on the sign. It’s not a guarantee that I will go this far on every first date, but the sandwich I savored at Panera Bread swept me off my feet.

A quick drive from Riverside City College will provide you with a cure-all for your palate’s problems.

Panera Bread is located next to Wendy’s at the newly renovated Riverside Plaza on Central Avenue near Magnolia. You may have to circle the busy shopping center to find parking for the bakery/café (the limited parking in front is either 15 minutes or one hour if you can get it) but it will be well worth the effort.

Panera Bread, open at 6:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, is the perfect pit-stop for a nourishing egg soufflé or a freshly baked bagel on your way to class. While you may not be able to afford the full fare five days a week Panera’s prices are pretty affordable. Breakfasts start at $1.39 for a bagel, and lunch items range from $3.69 to $6.99.

In fact, the food is quite a bargain when you compare the fresh ingredients being served in comparison to the fast food alternatives who charge nearly the same.

Panera even provides an easy to read pamphlet of nutritional information right there in the lobby.

Other amenities include free Wi-Fi high speed wireless internet access, spacious indoor seating as well as dining al fresco, and attendants to clear your dirty dishes for you. You can even fax or call in orders ahead of time for pick up.

The smell of fresh baked bread and steamy lattes will lure you in the door where you can feast your eyes on the glistening array of decadent baked goods. You will want one of each. But before you gorge on the goodies make sure you try one of the deliciously wholesome daily soup offerings.

Vegetarians will be extremely happy with this establishment for providing several items to suit their diets as well.

If you aren’t sold on the food alone, Panera has a social conscience too. Through their “Operation Dough-Nation” program the café donates unsold bread at the day’s end to America’s Second Harvest to help feed the hungry, said general manager Marc Konowal.

Patrons can do their part as well. Cash donations made in the store will be matched by the company and donated to Operation Safe House, a local shelter for runaway teenage girls.

Ah, and now back to my meal. The “You Pick Two” option served me well. I relished every bite of my zesty Turkey Artichoke sandwich along with my half portion of the colorful and yummy Fandango salad. I even got an apple with my meal to round out my food groups. I finished my afternoon affair with a smooth and silky strawberry and cream pastry and a frothy café mocha. I feel so decadent, pampered, relaxed and satisfied.

Panera definitely provides the pleasure it promises.

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