So, sometime last week, our local Panera Bread cafe was converted to the second-ever "Panera Cares
," a non-profit cafe where all the prices are converted to a "suggested" donation level and customers can pay what they can afford. So, my most excellent spouse and I went there last night to check it out. Verdict? Well, the menu is pretty much standard Panera fare. I had the black bean soup in a bread bowl while he had a combo from their "pick two" menu. We each had a peppermint mocha and bought a cookie for later. The suggested donation price? More than twenty-two dollars.
Yeah. I paid it, being a hard-working virtuous citizen, but that sums up why we never went to the place when it was just a regular Panera Bread. Their food is good but not spectacular, their baked goods are crazily oversized and consequently way overpriced ($7.00 for a day old
loaf of bread!), and their menu selections are apparently designed to be frustrating. Example: my husband calls the "pick two" option "pick two, as long as one of them is something you don't want"-- the salads that come with the combo default to Caesar, Greek, and house instead of the Signature salads that people actually go to Panera for
. In a town filled with excellent Coney restaurants featuring wonderful Greek salads, I'm not paying Panera prices for a so-so Greek salad.
Panera was a regular haunt of mine back when I had dial-up Internet at home; I really do like the soup in a bread bowl. But as an overall experience, Panera Cares is more something to support out of community spirit than it is a place I'd go for a nice, reasonably-priced meal.