Monday, May 23, 2005

Chain of Fools: Panera Bread

I can tell that life is sucking ass right now 'cause all of a sudden food is there more as sustanance than as pleasure. The gluttony hasn't been quite as "daily" lately, and I apologize. I even have a confession to make: I ate lunch at a chain restaurant recently. And it was my idea.

OK, before I go any further, let me put a disclaimer out there. There is a difference between dining at a chain restaurant, like say, P.F. Chang's China Bistro, for convenience, and dining there for a gourmet experience. If you chose such an establishment because it's near the office and it's easier to please a group of people that varying degrees of food pickiness, then it's OK. If you chose such an establishment because it's Saturday night and you're going out to a "nice" dinner with your boyfriend or whatever, well then, I'm sorry. I mean really, really sorry.

I could have taken my coworkers elsewhere, but somehow Panera Bread seemed like the safest, most convenient option. Maybe no one would looooove it, but certainly no one would hate it either. (Unlike the times I've suggested stuff like Pho or Lebanese food to people outside of my normal lunch crowd--That's why they're not my true friends.)

I opted for the "You Pick Two" special--your choice of any two half sandwich, soup or salad for $7.95--with the Bacon Turkey Bravo sandwich and a Caesar Salad. Mediocre at best, my lunch tasted like all the other lunches I've had here. At Panera Bread, smoked turkey, smoked gouda cheese, lettuce, and tomato, on tomato basil bread tastes awfully similar to roast beef, smoked cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions and horseradish sauce on asiago cheese bread which also tastes surprisingly similar to pepper-mustard chicken, pesto aioli, field greens, tomatoes and red onions on rosemary and onion foccacia . Catch my drift?


...tastes like this!

Panera's menu is full of culinary catchphrases that lure the unknowing diner into thinking that this place is up to date on the very latest food trends. It's a place where Joe and Jane Average can feel like they've stepped outside of their meat and potatoes box to become a little bit more worldly. Armed with new culinary vocabulary like "foccacia," "ciabatta bread," "aioli," "caramelized onions," "smoked cheddar," "field greens" and "vine ripened tomatoes," Joe and Jane can then brag to their next door neighbors, Bob and Susie Simple, that they have become fine gourmet diners. And gee, how funny--somehow all these "unique" ingredients manage to taste the same when put together by Panera's people. I don't know what these chain guys do to achieve such uniformity; it's scary sometimes.

For about 8 bucks, my hunger was subsided, I didn't have to hear anyone's bitching, and I went right back to tackling the day's stresses. So yeah, I got what I came for. But man, I've gotta get back on track. Today, I actually went with some of my Stepford-esque coworkers to the Olive Garden, and I feel fucking disgusted with myself. I for sure ain't writing anything about that experience. I'm too embarrased for having said anything at all.

Panera Bread
12131 Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604
(818) 762-2226
Various locations throughout Southern California, but who cares?


MEalCentric said...

OK so the food sucks, but how was the bread? There is a location next to my house and I am always in search of a good loaf.

Daily Gluttony said...

Hmm, good point. I've never actually bought any bread by itself here. I'm not blown away by the bread they use to make the sandwiches, but then again , they probably don't use the freshest of what they have for the sandwiches. Either way, I'm more of a fan of La Brea Bakery.

Anonymous said...

All the food tastes the same? I work there and tried just about everything and I cant say anything tastes the same. Like anything, the dressing and the bread make the flavor. Try different flavor breads and dressings.

andy said...

Some guy probably eats at Panera Bread where he can get his side of a baguette( no butter available) or a shitty apple and then smiles when he eats his overpriced sandwich with 3 paper thin slices of "meat" while listening to Kenny G and thinks of more namby-pamby bullshit to feel self satisfied with. I say this in all kindness. May these folks go away to their recumbent bikes.