::Disclaimer:: Cincinnati Moms Blog received free product and experience in exchange for this post, however opinions are 100% our own and genuine.
Lately I’ve found myself thinking about things that make my life easier. As a mama of two it seems that there are many conveniences to be had, you know, things that make more calm in the chaos. Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Tasting Event at our local Panera, and I discovered a couple more things to add to my list.
Upon arrival we were given a behind the scenes tour of the facility. As someone who has worked in food service, I had a keen eye out for things that would concern me, and I saw none. The “back of the house” was neat, clean, and all the food appeared fresh and well-kept. We also had a close-up look at the new drive-thru area and how it works. (Let us all stop for a moment and take in the joy that you can now get your tasty cinnamon crunch bagel in your sweatpants and no one has to see you! Breathe that in for a minute mamas, DRIVE-THRU Panera*).
Since Panera is far from your typical fast food joint and their yummies aren’t prepared in advance, they actually have to have an entirely separate area where they create food ordered through the drive-thru. Apparently it has become a hot spot for breakfast items, bagels to go, and pastries for your next group event, not to mention the ever-popular choice for busy mamas grabbing dinner for the family. If you aren’t close enough to a drive-thru – not to worry – they also have “Rapid Pick-up” where you can order and pay online in advance, then waltz in and skip the line all Disney Fast-Pass style, and grab your already paid for food off the Rapid Pick-Up Shelf – how cool is that?
After the tour we enjoyed tasting some of the newest menu items, including the “Broth Bowls”. I was pleasantly surprised at how flavorful the Lentil Quinoa bowl was (hipster alert: it also has kale!). In fact, it was the favorite among the attendees. I also really liked the Soba Noodle bowl with Chicken, which was much lighter in flavor, but still unique. Both were delicious and the flavors were not as exclusive as I would have anticipated. I’m certain that even my husband (whose palette is less fine-tuned than mine) would have enjoyed them immensely. In case they weren’t yummy enough, they max out at 410 calories, which is impressive for such a filling meal. In case we hadn’t had enough deliciousness, they offered us a triple-berry scone for dessert which had the same amount of calories as the entire noodle bowl, but every single one of them was worth it.
If I’m being honest, I haven’t typically considered Panera as a quick dinner option for my family. It’s pricier than my beloved chicken joint, for sure, but you get what you pay for. The quality is high, the options are healthy and well-balanced, and they are working hard to make it easier to enjoy their food – kudos to them!
*Visit Panera.com for your closest drive-thru location. In the Cincinnati area: West Chester (Union Center), Colerain, Newport, and Florence.