Lifestyle

Restaurant review: Panera Bread serves a fine lunch

Panera Bread

Location: 2107 S. 320th St. (in The Commons at Federal Way parking lot)

Hours: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

Info: (253) 839-2499

Price range: $7-$11 per person for lunch or a light dinner

Ideas for reviews: E-mail editor@fedwaymirror.com

Atmosphere

Panera Bread is new to Federal Way. Its brightly colored yellow, orange, red, green and purple building is hard to miss. Inside, the atmosphere is similar. The cafe features an abundance of warm and welcoming colors and patterns. A blue tiled wall, decorative lighting, brightly colored walls, overstuffed arm chairs, bread-themed artwork, an abundance of natural lighting and free wireless Internet make this a welcoming place to meet friends or take the family for a fun and healthy meal.

Food

The cafe is perfect for a quick breakfast to go, lunch or light dinner. A variety of food is available and customers have plenty of options. Panera Bread bakes its own artisan breads daily. It also provides sweet and unique pastries, such as scones, brownies and cakes. Bagels in 10 different varieties, including cinnamon crunch and asiago cheese, can be bought by the baker's dozen or individually.

For those arriving for lunch or dinner, sandwiches, salads, soups or combinations of the three are provided. I have eaten at Panera Bread several times and always found the sandwiches to be filling, fresh and custom made per customers' requests. My order has never been prepared incorrectly. With each sandwich and salad, customers are offered a side of potato chips, a baguette or fruit.

On this specific visit, I ordered half of an Asian sesame chicken salad and half a smoked turkey breast on country sandwich, with a whole-grain wheat baguette as the side from the "You Pick Two" menu. The sandwich was not overloaded with condiments and had plenty of lettuce and meat on it. My baguette was soft and my salad fresh and delicious, with just enough sweet dressing to provide taste.

Service

I arrived for lunch at 3 p.m. on a weekend and was surprised to see a dismal crowd at the cafe. I asked my cashier, Chelsea, if it was usually slower on the weekends. She told me that the lunch hour — from noon to 2 p.m. — was the busiest time for the cafe. Chelsea was very helpful and even offered to make me a blended lemonade drink, which was no longer on the menu. She made sure to receive the correct spelling of my name so that when my order came up, I knew which meal was mine.

She then handed me a pager that lit up and buzzed six minutes later when my meal was ready. While the service on this day was fast, during the busy lunch hour one should expect to wait about 15 to 20 minutes to get through the line and receive one's food.

If work weren't buying, would I eat here again?

I would definitely return to Panera Bread. Beside the unique and appealing atmosphere and fresh food, I enjoy the fact that the company donates its leftover breads to churches and organizations in Federal Way for hunger relief efforts.

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