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Sandwich vs Panera Chapel Hill, NC

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Sandwich vs Panera Chapel Hill, NC

rfgiersch | Mar 4, 2007 09:53 AM

Yesterday afternoon I ventured out to find something tasty for lunch. As it was a beautiful Spring like day the lawn of Weaver St. Market was calling. Unfortunately, it was calling to everyone else in town so I did a quick mental inventory of lunch spots and came up with one that I had not yet tried and had come highly recommended from a friend in the area. Scott, you know who you are. Sandwich was the destination and I was very much looking forward to giving it a shot.

The cooler by the front door was stocked with drinks, including a couple interesting sounding house brewed teas. I placed my order for the “Mr. Crunch” consisting locally made cured sausages, a fresh mozzarella and greens on a house made baguette. I got the order to go with the plan of eating in the sun on my patio. The total for just the sandwich was $9.80 ish. Seemed kinda pricy to me but I figured what the heck, all local and supposed to be one of the finest sandwiches around. I got to my car and couldn’t wait to give it a shot so I unwrapped it to have a bite before I head home. Initial thoughts: Kind of small for nearly ten bucks, bread had a fantastic crust though and the combination of the excellent bread, soft mozzarella, and salty well seasoned cured meats was really great. Still though, I wanted to compare this to something a little more mass market to see how it stacked up.

Off to Panera, about ¾ mile down Franklin St. to get something that was similar / comparable. I’ve been to Panera exactly one time several years ago so this was going to be a relatively “new” experience as well. I got the Italian combo in cibatta along with a bag of chips and an iced tea for around $8.50. I hopped in my car and headed for home looking forward to a little taste test. When I got home I unwrapped both and took a look. The Sandwich (S) sandwich was about 2/3 the size of Panera’s (P) in all respects. I took a bite of the italian from P and was hit by a hit of onion and a mostly flavorless mass of various types of meats. The bread had no crust / crunch to speak of and had a HEAVY amount of flour dusting the top of it. It wasn’t awful, just not really great. Something that I could have replicated with a two day old Whole Foods cibatta and some inexpensive deli meats. There was a smear of mayo on the P sandwich and well, it was a big sandwich with a drink and chips for a buck less than the S sandwich. However… I then took a bite of the S sandwich and from the first crunch of the crusty bread to the wonderfully soft and salty combination of the cheese and meat then a nice hit from a really good understated pesto, the winner was clear. The flavors of the S sandwich were well balanced and worked well together. Panera certainly wins if one wants to buy food on a dollars per pound basis but for pure quality of the product and balance of flavors, I’ll be spending my lunch money at Sandwich.

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