Friday, September 11, 2015

Panera's secret weapon

Posted By on Fri, Sep 11, 2015 at 10:55 AM

click to enlarge COURTESY OF PANERA BREAD
  • Courtesy of Panera Bread

Food friends, your old pal Michael is getting a little soft in his old age, and it's not just because of all the gas station pizza I eat. A couple of years ago, I used this space to slag off the Panera Bread restaurant chain, which at that time had only just begun to pop up in central Arkansas. I referred to their dining rooms as "antiseptic and blandly decorated." I called the tomatoes on their sandwiches "spongy." I believe I even went so far as to compare the place with new age musician John Tesh

It must have been something I ate.

Now, don't get me wrong, this isn't going to turn into the sort of mea culpa post I've done in the past about joints like Local Lime and Maddie's Place. There's been no great dining experience at Panera that's changed my mind about the place, and I don't expect there to be. But I've found myself making the Panera near my house a regular Sunday breakfast stop here lately, and there are two main reasons for it: First, the people who run that location are decidedly friendly and efficient. More than two people in line? They'll bring someone up to carry the load. Don't see a pastry you want on the shelf? They'll check to see if any are baking and give you an estimation of when things will be done. I love friendly service (who doesn't?), and I get it from my local Panera in Midtown on the regular.

The second reason has everything to do with a severe and crippling addiction that I've had for years: coffee, particularly iced coffee. Many a summer Sunday I've awoken, parched and sleepy, and all that sounds good to me is an ice-cold drink laced with glorious caffeine. And while Panera isn't serving iced coffee in the same league as folks like Mylo Coffee Co., they do theirs in a way that keeps me coming back again and again—they let customers make their own. And they let you get refills. I'm hooked.

Self-serve coffee is nothing new, of course. I can recall many nights of sitting on Dickson Street at Emerald Coast (now Common Grounds) drinking cup after bottomless cup of the various flavors available. But iced coffee never seems to work that way. From McDonald's to Starbucks (not that I see much difference between the two), you pull up, you order, and you're at the mercy of whoever is making drinks as to what you get. At Panera, I can decide how much ice I want in my coffee (My wife wants lots; I like far less). I get to adjust the amount of half-and-half that goes in. And when I sit down to tap on my laptop, I get to get as much of it as I want, because Panera keeps their iced coffee out on the drink station along with the soda machine and the tea dispensers. Glorious! 

I'm still not wild about Panera's pastries or sandwiches. And this coffee is never going to win awards. But it's cheap, it's perfectly fine...and you can drink a lot of it. And when it comes to getting my wake-time buzz on, that can make all the difference.

Tags: , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Speaking of...

Related Locations

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Michael Roberts

  • Little Rock Margarita Festival is coming May 4

    Cinco de Mayo. The holiday in which tequila is consumed in the United States in honor of a Mexican holiday that is not as widely celebrated in Mexico.
    • Mar 10, 2017
  • Arkansas Times Recommends: Indian Grocers, nerdcore documentaries, "Pepe the Frog" explainers, Anne Carson and more

    Arkansas Times Recommends is a series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.
    • Oct 21, 2016
  • Arkansas Times Recommends: The Think Edition

    Arkansas Times Recommends is a series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week. In anticipation of Arkansas Times' Festival of Ideas this Saturday at the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, we recommend things that make us think.
    • Sep 23, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • A sneak preview of Fourquarter Bar in Argenta

    A look at Fourquarter Bar in Argenta, brought to you by the folks behind Midtown Billiards. Beer, barbecue and killer cocktails abound!
    • Feb 23, 2016
  • Coming Monday: Little Rock Black Restaurant Week

    MoTown Monday is Ceci's Chicken and Waffles. Tasty Tuesday is Sims BBQ and Brewster's Soul Food Cafe. Wing Wednesday is Chicken King and Chicken Wangs. Soul Food Thursday is Lindsey's BBQ and Hospitality House and Food Truck Festival Friday is @station801. It's the first Black Restaurant Week.
    • Mar 8, 2017

Most Shared

  • Conspiracy theorists

    Back in 2000, I interviewed Rev. Jerry Falwell on camera in connection with a documentary film of "The Hunting of the President," which Joe Conason and I wrote.
  • The health of a hospital

    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.
  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
  • Real reform

    Arkansas voters, once perversely skeptical of complicated ballot issues like constitutional amendments, have become almost comical Pollyannas, ratifying the most shocking laws.
  • That modern mercantile: The bARn

    The bARn Mercantile — "the general store for the not so general," its slogan says — will open in the space formerly occupied by Ten Thousand Villages at 301A President Clinton Ave.

Visit Arkansas

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Underutilized waterway is a hidden gem in urban Little Rock

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation