Steppin’ Out – Panera Bread, Folsom

Some time ago my daughter and I visited a Panera Bread restaurant in Sacramento. It was not a good experience: very poor service, the order was screwed up and some of the ingredients should have been tossed rather than served. I was not happy, so I contacted both the store and the company itself. They never even replied. Thus, I wrote nothing about them.

Jumping forward a few years, my friend Russ Salazar has been after me for some time to go to the Panera Bread at 380 Palladio Pkwy, Ste 301 in Folsom. We had driven by it several times, but never stopped.

I am sure you recall, he loves good bread, so a few weeks ago he gave me a gift card to Panera and told me that now we had to go there. After all, they deserved another try.

We has originally planned on visiting Taqueria El Dorado in El Dorado Hills, but when we got there he mentioned that later he wanted to visit the Hospice Thrift store in Folsom. I told him that if we were going to Folsom, we might as well visit Panera at the same time. So, we did.

Indoor parking is available right next to Panera, so, depending on the time, you might be able to park only a short distance from the front door. For some reason, we ended up on the second story of the parking structure, but since I have traded my walker for a cane, it was okay.
At Panera you order at the counter and then find a table. Or, you can order electronically from some computers they have. This was Russ’ first time, so he decided to do the ordering and from a real person.

There was a couple in front of us ordering when we arrived and it seemed to be taking way too long for them. Why would become apparent to us when we ordered.

The menu is a bit confusing to a first-timer, with several sizes of sandwiches and a lot of opportunities to order what they call a “Pick Two.” On top of that, both Russ and I were having a very difficult time understanding the person taking the orders.

Oh, it wasn’t a language thing, he was speaking English, but just too low and too fast. It just got more and more complicated as we tried to order two different sandwiches, a soup and a salad, all to share.

Finally we ordered a half Roasted Turkey and Avocado BLT and a half Steak and White Cheddar Panini, along with a Watermelon Feta salad and a cup of Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice soup. Russ added a soda, I chose water.

The sides came with a choice of a soft dinner roll, whole grain roll, a baguette, chips or an apple. We chose the baguette, it being a bakery and we wanting to try as many of their breads as possible.

While Russ went looking for drinks other than coffee, the vibrating unit that they handed us went off. As I stood there, a kind lady directed me to where to pick up the food. Next time I will know where everything is located.

The two sandwiches were both excellent. The Turkey BLT was on sourdough bread and the panini on a Hoagie roll.

Most of the greens in the Watermelon Feta salad were arugula, which I really like and thought went well with the watermelon and the bit of added mint. Unfortunately, to Russ arugula is like eating cilantro, something he does not do. But, he was game and tried it.

Russ really liked the Chicken and Wild Rice soup. He thought it reminded him of that served by Canter’s, a famous Jewish Delicatessen in Los Angeles. I liked it, but thought it was lacking both in chicken and wild rice.

The baguettes were disappointing. Russ thought they would be crunchy on the outside, but they were really kind of tough. He felt that a place known for its bread would have better baguettes. Taste-wise, they were okay, especially when slathered with butter.

Russ kept going to the drink area and trying the various juice combinations. Then he would come back and say, “Try this.” There was some really unusual combinations of juices, but he thought they all tasted a bit watered down. It turned out they were flavored waters, not juice drinks and, therefore, weak. They need more signs to explain things like that.

Panera Bread has quite a large menu of very different salads, soups and sandwiches, along with their baked goods, a kid’s menu and, yes, breakfast items including sandwiches, yogurts and souffles.

Because they try to use the freshest ingredients, some of their menu items are seasonal, such as the watermelon salad. You can read and even print both their regular and catering menus at www.panerabread.com.

The Folsom Panera Bread restaurant is open from 6 until 9, every day but Sunday, when they don’t open until 7. For more information you can call (916) 984-4953.

Free Wi-Fi and there were a number of people there with their computers, nursing a cup of coffee.

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