Looking for something different for lunch the other day, we decided to stop in at Panera Bread near Triangle Town Center. It’s across Capital Boulevard from Triangle mall, in the same plaza as Total Wine and Best Buy. It is easy to get in to this location, but sometimes parking can be a beast especially during a busy lunch hour. Based on our experience, it seems better to arrive a little early for lunch or much later to beat the crowds. A word of warning: this is a pretty busy area and it can be difficult to get out of this shopping center when utilizing the light to get back on to Old Wake Forest Road. It is easier most times to get directly onto southbound Capital Boulevard and make a u-turn if you need to go northbound.
This location has an outdoor patio that is fairly nice, and the inside of the restaurant is also nice with plenty of seating unless you arrive smack in the middle of lunch! There’s a fairly steady flow of movement in the restaurant, so there is usually a place to sit by the time you get your food, if not then it’s only a short wait on a busy day.
The menu is posted above the registers and it is a little hard to take in since there are so many choices to pick from; grabbing a paper menu near the front door seems to be an easier way to pick what you want while you are waiting in line. Orders are placed fairly quickly so be ready to go to the next available register so they don’t have to wave you over.
We decided to get panini sandwiches (flattened and grilled bread): I got the smokehouse turkey hot panini sandwich, and my friend got the chipotle chicken hot panini sandwich. I ordered chips for my side and he had an apple. We both had fountain drinks.
The sandwiches made it out pretty quickly considering Panera was pretty busy. My smokehouse turkey was nice and hot, but the chipotle chicken was lukewarm and the bread not grilled very much at all. We didn’t feel like taking the sandwich back and so decided to go ahead and eat.
My smokehouse turkey panini was pretty good: apparently it was on three-cheese bread (it tasted like regular to me) with smoked turkey, applewood-smoked bacon, smoked cheddar cheese and “sun-dried tomato ale mustard.” I love sundried tomatoes so this sandwich sounded perfect for me. Unfortunately, the flavor was nothing to write home about. It tasted like smoked turkey, cheese and mustard on bread. I was hoping the sandwich would have a more unique flavor to it but it really didn’t.
The chipotle chicken was on toasted french bread – although we’d use the term “toasted” lightly here! Literally! The cubed chicken was paired with applewood-smoked bacon, smoked cheddar, tomatoes and ancho chipotle spread. As mentioned, the chicken wasn’t that warm so our cheese wasn’t very melted or gooey, and the tomato slice was a little under-ripe so we took it off the sandwich. The flavor of the ancho chipotle spread was pretty good, however, and gave a nice flavor to the sandwich.
In all, these weren’t sandwiches that earned their $7.19 price tag. Our lunch definitely wasn’t worth the $20 we forked out for mediocre sandwiches. We did, however, add on a $3.00 pastry for .99 because we bought lunch. It was a cheese danish and it was delicious: it reminded me of a cheese danish I used to buy when I lived in Germany a long time ago!
We’ll probably give this Panera another shot, but considering the prices, the potential for a long wait, and the difficulty to get in and out of the parking lot, it won’t be our first choice any time soon.