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Panera Bread is located across the street from the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Nelson Road (Michael Cooper / American Press)<br>

Panera Bread is located across the street from the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Nelson Road (Michael Cooper / American Press)

(Michael Cooper / American Press)<br>

(Michael Cooper / American Press)

Panera Bread more than lives up to expectations

Last Modified: Thursday, September 19, 2013 2:17 PM

By Michael Cooper / American Press

I am an unabashed, unapologetic carb addict. Bread, pasta, pizza and potatoes, these are some of my favorite things.

So I was excited when I was told we were finally getting a Panera Bread in Lake Charles.

I had never been to the restaurant before, never had the chance. But with all the talk and praise the place receives I had high expectations.

I am happy to report that Panera Bread, which is far more than just a bakery, delivered.

Alex Onken and I tried the place out this week and both left satisfied and full.

Alex ordered half of the tuna classic, a cup of autumn squash soup and a cherry Danish.

He said the soup was good but too sweet and rich for such a large portion. He also said the Danish was good.

I ordered a half of the steak and white cheddar panini sandwich, a cup of cream of chicken and wild rice soup, and a peanut butter dream cookie.

I have to admit that I didn’t like the sandwich at first. One of my least favorite condiments in the world is horseradish sauce, and the steak and cheese panini was covered in it. Because I didn’t see the sauce mentioned on the menu, I sent the sandwich back to the kitchen. To the staff’s credit, they were accommodating and fixed another sandwich, sans horseradish, and had it out to the table in under 10 minutes.

Without the horseradish, the sandwich was great. The bread, onion and cheese were good, and the steak, cut very thin, was cooked medium to medium rare. It was perfect for me, but I know a few people who can’t stand the sight of pink in their food.

The soup was the showstopper. It was thick, creamy and hearty. The little French baguette that came with the soup was also amazing. I plan on ordering this every time I go, even though I have been told that the creamy tomato and bistro onion soups are equally good.

The cookie was good too — just a little to big for me to finish. It was easily the best peanut butter cookie outside of my late grandmother’s kitchen.

Our bill was just over $20, not bad for a high-quality lunch break.

I was told by many people to try the mac and cheese dish, but I balked, preferring to save it up for the next time I go. Other Panera Bread items that my family and friends raved about are the bagels, souffles and breakfast sandwiches.

Expect to spend a little time in line if it’s your first trip because there are a lot of options on the menu.

You can break the restaurant into two parts — bakery and cafe.

In the bakery, they sell whole loaves of bread, bagels, cupcakes, cookies, brownies, pastries, muffins, rolls and scones.

A few of the breads offered: country, French, rye, ciabatta, sourdough and chocolate truffle babka. The bread is baked on-site every morning and can be sliced to order.

On the cafe side, there are sandwiches, pasta dishes, soups, salads, smoothies and souffles.

Panera Bread also has a decent selection of coffee, hot tea, espresso and iced tea. I really enjoyed the fresh-brewed sweet tea I had with lunch, and Alex said the acai berry iced tea was good.


Posted By: Stephanie On: 9/26/2013

Title: Love Panera!

I have been a big fan of Panera since I lived in St. Louis and was very excited to see them come to Lake Charles. I'm a regular at this one already. One thing I would like to share with everyone is a little Panera ettiquette: Please clear your table when you finish! While the food and service are amazing, in the end it is not a table service restaurant... Take your dishes and trash to the designated areas. Also, if it's one or two of you, please don't take up residence in a booth with your laptops and free coffee refills. Save those tables for larger groups please.

Posted By: Judy MorenoT On: 9/23/2013

Title: Left over food after cafe closes

I live in Houston eat at Panera Bread all the time and at end of day here in Houston left over bread and rolls and still eatable food goes to homeless shelters. Just wondering what Panera in Lake Charles will be doing.

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