Watts for Dinner: ‘The Take’ on Panera’s latest food offerings

Will Watts

We can all see the similarities between say Burger King and McDonalds or Wendy’s. To be fair, there are differences. With fast casual, those differences are even more pronounced. PDQ is a far cry from Chilis, for example. 

I’ve often been attracted to our next dining destination, Panera Bread. Its “fresh ingredients promise” lures many. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always live up to my expectations – at least in certain areas. But that’s as much about my expectations as the restaurant’s delivery.

Speaking of expectations, I’ve been looking forward to trying Panera’s new-ish chicken sandwich, “The Take” ($12.29, 570 calories). It’s seasoned and seared chicken “raised without antibiotics,” with parmesan crisps, emerald greens and garlic aioli on a brioche roll.

My take on “The Take?” The chicken looks good but felt like it had been cooked for a while. The bun is super soft and delicious. The parm crisps seem out of place, especially in contrast with the bun. It was also a little dry. 

Maybe next time, I’ll try the “The Spicy Take.” At just 10 more calories, this sandwich adds spicy Buffalo sauce and crispy pickle chips.

My second pick for the night was the “Broccoli Cheddar Mac & Cheese” ($9.89, 740 calories – plus 180 calories if you eat the accompanying baguette). It’ shell pasta in a blend of creamy cheese sauce and tangy white cheddar, simmered with seasoned broccoli and carrots. I loved this dish. I’ll be back for more. 

My dining companion selected the “Mediterranean Bowl” with chicken ($12.19, 640 calories). It features cilantro lime brown rice and quinoa, arugula, grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives, cucumbers, hummus, lemon tahini dressing, feta and Greek yogurt. 

This is a big bowl with plenty of chicken. It was a little heavy on the rice mix. And hummus may have been a better choice over the Greek yogurt. But not bad at all. 

For his second pick? The Bistro French onion soup ($7.59, 310 calories). It’s sweet-caramelized onions in a savory broth with a sherry wine vinegar gastrique, sea salt and topped with cheese and homemade black pepper focaccia croutons.

Very good, unless you compare it to more tradition soup bowls. This dish also comes in a bread bowl. 

Panera is fresh and calorie conscious. And the drink selection is superior to most. And for what you get, the price is right. Happy eating!  

More:‘Watts for Dinner’:  Margarita’s – Quality, consistency and community

More:Hey Marco Island, looking for a place to eat?

This newspaper pays for all meals related to dining reviews. We do not solicit or accept free food. Not all dishes are featured in print, but you can find a gallery of all reviewed dishes online at marconews.com. 

If you go

Panera Bread

  • 12720 Tamiami Trail E., Naples
  • 239-963-0351
  • panerabread.com