Panera Bread Gluten Free Menu 2016

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On a sunny evening during the first hot week of May in Michigan, I entered Panera hoping to find a refreshing dinner. Known for their bagels, pastries, and sandwiches, this doesn’t seem like the wisest first choice for a gluten-free customer, but it was close to my kids’ golf lessons and I was sure there had to be something I could eat. After all, I know they have salads, and their seasonal Autumn Squash soup is one of my favorites.

As I stood in line looking over the menu, I realized they really did not have as much to offer that is gluten-free as I had hoped. I realized it was definitely not going to be a family-friendly place for us as two of our kids have to eat gluten-free and that only one out of the seven items on the kids menu did not contain gluten. That option is a side salad, which I would love to say my two young boys would enjoy, but the odds are not in my favor on that one.

When it was my turn to order, I asked the woman behind the counter if they had a gluten-free menu, or if she could answer some of my questions regarding ingredients, and she became flustered and nervous. She told me they didn’t have a gluten-free menu and hesitantly pointed to the salad options. When I asked her about the Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad, she said she would call a manager over. The manager asked if I was Celiac or just had a gluten sensitivity. When I told her it’s a sensitivity and I react to gluten, she seemed relieve and told me the Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken would be fine, but she did warn me about there always being a risk of cross-contamination. I was thankful she mentioned it, and took note that someone with Celiac should probably just steer clear of Panera.

I ordered the full salad, thinking I would take what I couldn’t finish home for lunch the next day. That didn’t happen. Before I knew it, I had eaten the entire thing. It was delicious. I could even see my kids eating it, with it being loaded with some of their favorite fruits like strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, mandarin oranges. The seasoning on the chicken was perfect. The poppyseed dressing was light and summery.

I ordered a smoothie to go thinking it would be a great treat. Looking over their choices, I decided on the Superfruit Smoothie. Sadly, I was disappointed in the taste. I took it home to my husband, who loves just about any kind of food, especially if it contains fruit. I was surprised to find that even he didn’t really enjoy it. We both thought it tasted like a watered down version of a smoothie that was heavier on the yogurt than fruit. He did say that he is a fan of the Green Passion Smoothie, so I can’t say all their smoothies aren’t worth a try.

My overall thoughts on Panera Bread Gluten Free Menu: If you are looking for a meal that is more than a salad, or a couple soup options, you’re not going to want to stop here. They don’t have gluten-free bread options so don’t go in looking for them. Afterward, I decided to look around online a bit and found that Panera does actually have a gluten-free menu on their website. It would be wise for the stores to print this out and have it on hand for customers who have gluten-free questions. As for my meal, I really enjoyed my salad and would definitely go back for it again. It was satisfying yet light so that I didn’t feel as if I was sluggish afterward.

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