Thursday, April 13, 2006

There Is a God and He Put a Panera Bread in Cupertino  

SO as many of you may know I'm a big fan of coffeehouses and sandwich shops: they're quiet places where you can chill out, have a nice meal, focus on your book, and, if wifi-enabled, whip together a decent blog entry with free refills on your soda.

And my favorite of all sandwich places? A tight, long-running contest between Panera Bread (nee Saint Louis Bread Company) and Atlanta Bread Company (especially the one near Perimeter Mall in Atlanta).

Now, I've been eating and reading since I was a kid, but my love of sandwich shops I think really started with Le Boulanger in Menlo Park during my internship at SRI. Since then, however, Atlanta Bread Company and Panera Bread became my favorites because of their high quality, good portions, salad/sandwich combos, nutrition information available online, and good iced tea.

But it may take a while before Atlanta Bread Company comes to California, and as part of the Big Adjustment I've been looking for a replacement. Up till now I've had little luck - the sandwiches at the search engine that begins with a G are good but not Panera-grade, and Le Boulanger in Mountain View, while very nice, is somehow not quite the same.

So imagine my delight when I find that a Panera Bread has opened in Cupertino! I found it of course with Google Local, which lets you ask questions like "panera bread near mountain view, california" and get coherent answers, along with a nice map interface that will lead you right to a place like this on Steven's Creek Boulevard in Cupertino:

Cupertino is a bustling town perhaps best known for some fruit company, but its charm for me is that it's roughly midway between my new home with its Olive Tree and my new workplace at The Search Engine that Begins with a G. It's blessed with (normally) temperate weather, which is perhaps why when I first showed up the patio was filled with diners (most of whom had departed by the time I decided to start taking photos).

The real delight is inside, however. Panera has a truly staggering selection of breads and pastries, and can assemble these into a wide variety of made-to-order sandwiches and specials that are best topped off with a cinnamon roll that's as asymptotically close to the Platonic Ideal of a cinnamon roll as you're likely to get in this world. (Yes, I read the nutrition info on the cinnamon rolls, and so limit myself to one every other time I go. I enjoy being able to go through the door; this enables me to eat more cinnamon rolls).

So happily I drop in and order my typical Bacon Turkey Bravo / Asian Chicken Salad combo (with cinnamon roll, of course), get my iced tea, noticing some guy who'd ordered the same thing get his meal, and sat down to read a book on C++. SO I'm sitting there, reading, having a good time, getting hungrier and hungrier, and eventually realize "this ain't right". So I head up to the counter and ask, and the manager's face flushed and he said, "I'm so sorry, I think somebody snagged it. We'll make you another one right away." I slapped my forehead - the man I'd seen hadn't picked up a meal identical to mine, but instead in identity, mine. Not their fault - but they made me another sandwich anyway.

And gave me a bag of cookies.

So, Panera Bread rules!
-the Centaur

P.S. Thank you, God; normally you know I don't like to put your name in titles or stuff like that (name in vain and all) but, hey, that was really nice of you to drop one of those off there and you deserve the credit. Thanks!



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