Panera Bread opened on Wednesday in Mashpee Commons filling the corner spot where the old Star Market used to be. My family stopped in Friday morning to check it out and give the breakfast menu a try, something we had never done before.
The store front is on the corner of Steeple and Greene Streets with outdoor umbrella seating along both sides of the building. As we entered I noticed a few workers were busy assembling several patio heaters, which will be a welcome amenity as we move into autumn. The entrance was smaller than I expected, most of the other franchise locations I have visited have a very open floor plan.
Arriving at 7:30 am had its advantages, there was no line. I would imagine that a moderate crowd would cause the line to spill out the door and onto the sidewalk rather quickly. In fact I overheard an employee stating that opening day was crazy with lines going on forever. Inside, seating was divided into two sections. The inner seating area has cozy booths, several tables and access to the bathrooms (both the men and women’s have diaper changing tables). There is a gas fireplace that I expect will add some nice ambiance when the weather cools. The seating along the exterior wall is separated from the inner seating area by a glass wall. All of the exterior windows within the glass-enclosed section of seating can be opened, providing two options for patrons who choose to sit inside. The interior seating adjacent to the food pick-up area is air-conditioned, the seating adjacent to the windows is open-air. I do believe that Panera has sacrificed some additional seating at the expense of providing these options and felt the door to access the open-air seating was in an awkward location. However, the divisions dampen the acoustics and unlike the majority of the other Panera Bread establishments I have patronized, this one has a cozy feel. I will be interested to return during the peak lunch hour rush to see how a crowd of people impacts the line as well as the noise level in the interior seating area.
I am going to admit this up front. I am a bit of a foodie. I can spend absurd amounts of time surfing food blogs before traveling to figure out the best places to eat. I tend to avoid chains and seek out local restaurants and cafes. However there are times when I do not have the luxury of researching my
food options in advance or the only options available are chain restaurants. There are some advantages to chain restaurants, especially when traveling. The standardization of food means consistency. You can order the same sandwich at the Panera in Indiana and the Panera in Cape Cod. Same menu. Same preparation. The comfortable expectation of a decent meal.
Panera Bread is one of those fast-casual restaurant chains that I enjoy eating at. They strive for a café-like atmosphere and their menu has a variety of options from salads to sandwiches to soups. I ordered one
of their “signature” breakfast sandwich selections; steak, egg and cheese on a sweet onion and poppy seed bagel. My husband ordered a “power” breakfast sandwich; ham, egg and cheese on whole grain bread. We ordered a mango smoothie for my son. The eggs on both sandwiches were cooked well. I appreciate a well cooked egg and these were just set, not overcooked and hard. My sandwich was hands down the better choice. I believe that all of their bagels have a sourdough base, which I love, and the sweet onion flavor went really well with the steak, egg, and cheese filling. The whole grain bread in the power sandwich my husband ordered was tasty, but it was one long slice of bread cut in half. For those conscious of carbs, this may be a good option but while I was satisfied after finishing my bagel sandwich, my husband was still hungry. Using the excuse of “research” I went back up and ordered a gruyere and sausage soufflé.
I’m glad I did. The soufflé was delicious.
Meanwhile my son had been happily sucking down his mango smoothie recognizing that this was a rare sugary breakfast treat. Made with mango puree, ice, and Stonyfield Farm vanilla yogurt, the smoothie may be low fat, but it had a
whopping 48 g of sugar. The minute the soufflé hit the table he pushed the smoothie aside. Perfectly creamy eggs and sausage were layered with gruyere cheese and surrounded by pastry. Having already consumed a whole bagel sandwich I only planned to have a taste, you know for “research” purposes.
After one bite I was clamoring for more. My son agreed and we kept greedily watching my husband waiting for him to offer each of us another bite. He made the mistake of setting down the last bite to use his napkin and my son wasted no time snatching it off the plate and popping it in his own mouth. The added bonus, it was cheaper than either of the breakfast sandwiches.
Panera is a nice addition to the shops in Mashpee Common.
I would certainly consider it a family-friendly establishment. They do have a kids menu with the expected options such as macaroni and cheese or peanut butter and jelly, as well as turkey (advertised as vegetarian fed and antibiotic free) ham and roast beef sandwiches. But use our soufflé experience as an example and keep in mind that standard menu items may also appeal to little taste buds. Organic apple juice and milk, yogurt, and fruit cups were available in the refrigerated section next to the register. There were ample high chairs, accessible in several locations. The booth seating is a nice option forcorralling kids into one area and the multiple seating sections have the added benefit of providing some sound proofing. Next time I’m in Mashpee Common you can bet I’ll be popping over to Panera to pick up a soufflé.
*** Cape Cod Mommies did receive a gift certificate to Panera in order to facilitate this review, however the review and the thoughts are the author's own.
The photo includes: Selectmen in attendance include: Carol Sherman, Michael
Richardson, Tom O’Hara and John Cahalane. Town officials in attendance: Town Manager Joyce Mason, Town Clerk Deb Dami, Assistant Town Manger Thomas Mayo, Fire Chief George Baker, Planning Board Director Thomas Fudala, John Renz and Mary Derr from the Mashpee Commons. Additional individuals are Mashpee Commons staff and special guests.
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