Panera Bread, Stuart Street, Theater District, Boston

Over a year ago, Panera Bread opened a flagship in on Boylston Street in the Back Bay  and the fast casual group have been growing rapidly throughout the area. Panera Bread actually has origins with Au Bon Pain (BMH’s review of Au Bon Pain, Copley Place). Most of the items from breads, bagels to the pastry dough are pre-made at a central commissary and then baked off fresh in store, unlike Dunkin Donuts, whose products are typically delivered completely made.

This was our first visit to the Stuart Street location, which opened only several months ago. This location is near Chinatown and in the former 7-11 location, across from Market by Jean-Georges, W Hotel. A good majority of the patrons are tourists, folks popping in before a musical or play and Tufts Medical employees and students.

We have been to many Panera Bread locations and enjoying their baked goods, sandwiches and coffee. It’s great to have a communal place open from 6AM until 10:30PM, which has solid baked items and a way to plug in and an easy, well lit space to get some work done.

From time to time, our workplace would cater lunches from Panera and we have enjoyed the various signature sandwiches including the Napa Almond Chicken Salad, antibiotic-free chicken, diced celery, seedless grapes, almonds on a sesame semolina bread. Another lunch favorite is the Asiago Roast Beef, roasted beef, smoked cheddar, red onions, creamy horseradish sauce, on an asiago cheese demi bread.

The other locations we have previously we patroned  include the Huntington Street, Landmark Center in the Fenway and Brookline locations. In fact, our father, a baguette afficionado gets his french baguettes from main two places Japonaise Cafe & Bakery in Brookline and Panera Bread. Our father loves the the baguettes. According to our father, the french bread is described has a nice crust, a tender center and is really some of the best french bread he can get his hands on in the area.

We LOVE the seasonal shortbread cookies, they are the perfect balance of buttery sweetness. Right now the shortbread is in a flower shape, but we especially loved when the cookies were orange pumpkins in the autumn. In fact, we reviewed the shortbread cookie and caffe latte on Tasted Menu.

There were fresh cookies were just being baked off and we have the opportunity to check out the baking area, proof boxes and the generously sized baked cookies. Baking beings at 1AM, an impressive time. There are also egg souffles which we heard are pretty amazing and baked off every hour. The ham and cheese are the ones which we still need to try.

We tried the new Peanut Butter Dream cookie with toffee with almonds & peanut butter flavored chips which were sweet and peanut buttery. The Chocolate Chipper and Candy Cookie topped with milk chocolate candies were both warm in the center, gooey and full of chocolate.

We will need to try the Carrot Cake with Walnuts the carrot walnut cake filled and topped with cream cheese icing, then finished with a carrot décor piece.

The Cherry pastry with pastry cream topped with whole cherry filling and white icing was also a favorite. Super flakey, lightly tart and sweet, it was great with a tea in the morning.

We gave our Panera card to the friendly staff to log our loyalty points. We received a buzzer to indicate when our iced drink was ready. The super sweet cinnamon flavored iced chai latte hit the spot, but we needed a glass of water.

When we were students, we loved buying boxes of Panera’s Signature bagels to share with our colleagues during meetings and breakfast events. Panera’s  non-traditional and more creative bagels including the Asiago Cheese bagels and Cinnamon Crunch bagels are awesome. We enjoyed a toasted Cinnamon crunch with reduced fat honey walnut cream cheese spread. The cinnamon and vanilla chips in the bagel, topped with a sweet, crunchy cinnamon and sugar crust.

Our friend tried the Lemon Chicken Orzo, but felt it was a bit too salty for their taste. We’ll definitely have to return to try their Vegetarian Creamy Tomato with tomato puree and fresh cream and Asiago croutons.

We really enjoyed the Strawberries and Cream Scone with dried infused strawberries, white chocolate chips and strawberry bits in a cream based scone.

Our favorite cookie was a Chocolate Duet with Walnuts. The chocolate cookie dough with walnuts, semisweet chocolate chunks and bits of white chunks were unbelievable divine.

Our other absolute favorite pastry was the Bear Claw. We were very surprised by the luscious almond filling center, drizzled with icing and sliced almonds. It was so delicious and will plan on having another in the near future.

We also deeply appreciate there are several locations in Chicago, St. Louis, Dearborn and Portland of Panera Cares, a new non-profit concept makes the “Panera” experience accessible to everyone regardless of their means. Panera Cares Cafes do not have prices and is based on individual decision on payment a patron can determine how much they would like to contribute.

The company has been a huge support to the community and from July 16th through 31st, Boston area Panera Bread bakery-cafe’s donate 25 cents from every Lemonade and Frozen Lemonades sold to Boston Children’s Hospital.

Disclaimer: We purchased our own beverages and soups, but received complimentary pastries. The opinions and reviews expressed are our own.

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