By Mike Thayer
Panera Bread has entered the chicken sandwich war that's been going on in fast food and now fast casual since 2019 and they've brought a couple of pretty formidable sandwiches to the battle.
Here's the description from the Panera website: The New Panera Chicken Sandwiches have arrived! Choose from our Spicy Take Chef’s Chicken Sandwich with zesty buffalo sauce or the Signature Take Chef’s Chicken Sandwich smothered with a secret garlic aioli. These Savory or Spicy Chicken Sandwiches feature a tasty brioche bun and are sure to satisfy every craving.
I'm a sucker for a good chicken sandwich and did a sampling of fast food chicken sandwiches in a Bachelor on the Cheap Challenge last year.
Apparently feeling left out, fast casual restaurants and the likes of Panera Bread want in on the war for who has the best.
So today I checked out a nearby Panera Bread to see just how good this new sandwich of theirs is.
Walking in about 11am, there were a couple customers ahead of me placing their order at the counter. Perusing the menu, I decided to take advantage of the "You pick 2" option to go with the Signature Take Chef’s Chicken Sandwich with the garlic aioli and Parmesan crisps. Along with a side choice of kettle chips, an apple or a French baguette, you get to choose from mac & cheese, soup or a half salad. I went with a bag of chips (for later) and the mac & cheese. For a drink, I tried their new charged lemonade with strawberry, mint, guarana and caffeine.
Panera makes a pretty darn good chicken sandwich! The chicken was perfectly prepared, seasoned well, tender and juicy. The garlic aioli was delicious but it wasn't exactly smothered on, it was a bit light handed in the squeeze bottle application. The greens provided a nice freshness to the sandwich, the brioche roll was pillowy soft but what puts this sandwich over the top are the Parmesan crisps. Not only do you get the flavor punch from the Parmesan, but the crunch they deliver almost makes you think you're eating breaded and fried chicken rather than seared. Sadly, I didn't get crisps in every bite.
The mac & cheese side was quite satisfying, it's the best mac & cheese I've ever had in fast food or fast casual. The pasta was cooked perfectly and that creamy cheese sauce was spot on! The charged lemonade was very enjoyable as well. Thirst quenching, I picked up all the flavors, the lemonade hits you first, complimented by the strawberry and the swallow finishes with a hint of that mint.
Costing me $20.93, this was a pricey fast casual lunch but quite tasty. Not exactly Bachelor on the Cheap friendly, I'm giving Panera Bread and their Signature Take Chef's Chicken Sandwich 4 out of 5 Bachelor on the Cheap stars. They make a good chicken sandwich, but what prevents it from earning 5 stars is the lack of toast on the Brioche roll, to few Parmesan crisps and the sandwich wasn't smothered as advertised with the the aioli, it was under-dressed. And while it's a tasty sandwich, the price ($12.19 for just the sandwich) prevents it from being a repeat buy. I would like to try the spicy version, but not at that price.
The Panera Bread visited on this occasion is located at 1605 N Rock Rd, Wichita, KS 67206. The service was polite, professional and fast, the restaurant was clean and orderly.