First, I’d just like to say it’s about darn time that Fargo got a Panera. I’m from Minneapolis, and it has always been one of my favorite places to go out with friends for a cheap and delicious lunch. I literally jumped up and down with joy to hear it opened the day before my birthday, which was such a thoughtful present from the universe.
Enough about me and my joy, I’d like to share some of my favorite delectable items from Panera for those who haven’t had it before. Prepare yourself for some serious yum.
The “You Pick 2” deal is simply amazing and a great place for newcomers to start. Customers pick two items among a cup of soup, half a cafe sandwich or half a salad. There are plenty of ways to personalize this and sample a lot of items Panera offers. Also, remember that, with a small price increase, you can order signature sandwiches and paninis instead. Along with this, you get options for different sides like an apple, potato chips or a baguette.
They also have a pretty new pasta collection, that is offered with a salad or a cup of soup. The mac & cheese is just divine. For your sweet tooth, there is the option to tack on anything from the bakery case for about a dollar.
On my first trip to the newly opened haven of lunch, I ordered half a steak and white cheddar panini with a cup of bistro French onion soup. With the delicious onions in the brothy soup pairing well with the caramelized onions and steak from the sandwich, it has always been my favorite option. Just beware the sandwich comes with horseradish, so if you aren’t partial, remember to ask for it without.
As per my usual experience with Panera, everything was delicious. I had no issue with anything, except that I was too full to eat more. I went around 3 p.m., assuming correctly that the attraction of a shiny new restaurant would draw in crowds. It was reasonably packed, but the wait wasn’t long. They still had open tables, but customers may find that some are still cluttered with dishes from the past occupants.
I believe there is some confusion with leaving dishes there and assuming they will be cleaned, or if customers are supposed to bring them to the station by the drinking fountain. The correct answer, folk, is to clean up after yourself.
On my second trip, around 11a.m. for a semi-late breakfast, it was much busier. There was a line outside the door, but the line moved reasonably fast, and it gave people time to weigh their food options. I ordered a cinnamon crunch bagel with the honey walnut cream cheese and a pumpkin iced latte.
Their bagels and cream cheese are a very fulfilling breakfast, and they have several varieties to pair up. The latte wasn’t the best I’d ever had, but I wonder if my mistake was getting it iced instead of hot.
The atmosphere was much louder, and it was considerably busier than my previous trip. The line was always to the door or beyond. There was an interesting mix of people, from the college crowd to the retired-ladies-who-lunch, but everyone seemed to enjoy their experience as much as I did.
All in all, it’s still one of my favorite restaurants, and even though it’s very new, it doesn’t disappoint. Just remember to have some patience, both with the long lines and with the servers. Remember they are new too, and think about coming at an unexpected hour to eat to avoid the lunch and diner rushes.
BY JESSICA FLEMING