The outside sign says "Panera Bread," but don't let it fool you. There are indeed all kinds of breads and pastries, but plenty of menu choices as well in the combination bakery/cafe in Turlock.
Diners can choose from sandwiches to soups, salads and even pizza. The moderate prices for almost all items (from $3.50 for a bowl of soup to $6.50 for a Fuji apple chicken salad) make it easy on the pocketbook.
And if you're in the mood for 1960s retro décor, you've come to the right place. Lots of modern Danish tables accented by floors, cushions and walls of burnt orange, avocado green and gold tones spiced up with modern mauve. Pendant lamps hang from the ceiling.
If you prefer to eat al fresco, there are patio tables with umbrellas. And if you can't stand to be without your laptop, there's a "Smart Room" in the back with couches, tables, chairs and free wi-fi.
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The restaurant works like this: You pass by the bread and pastry counter (if you can) and order your food. You're given a black plastic pager, similar to those given at other restaurants while you're waiting for a table, but this one buzzes when your food is ready to pick up at a nearby counter.
Portions are moderate and each entree comes with a choice of an apple, chips or portion of a French or whole-grain baguette. If you order, say, a bowl of soup plus a main dish salad, you get two sides.
Panera Bread opened April 20. There are more than 1,100 such bakery/cafes throughout the country, but this is the first in our area. More facilities are planned in the next couple of years in Modesto, Manteca and perhaps Merced, said José Guzman, general manager of the Turlock location.
Panera also offers baked egg soufflés in the morning until they're gone: four-cheese, spinach and artichoke, or spinach and bacon, each at $2.99.
The restaurant donates its leftover bread at the end of each day to local churches and other nonprofit groups that feed the hungry. It also offers catering service, including delivery, for groups of five or more.
WHAT TO KNOW
Restaurant: Panera Bread
Location: 3050 Hotel Drive, Turlock (backs up to Monte Vista Avenue); 632-6338
Hours: 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
Price ranges and house specialties: Sandwiches, $5.69 to $6.49, are served with your choice of side dish. (A fresh fruit cup is an extra 79 cents). Hot paninis include turkey and artichoke on pesto focaccia or portobello and mozzarella on rosemary and onion focaccia. Salads, $4.99 to $6.69, include Fuji apple chicken or the Fandango with walnuts, Gorgonzola, Mandarin oranges and fat-free raspberry dressing. Pizza is featured after 4 p.m., $6.99-$8.99.
A bakery with large selection of bread and smaller selection of pastries is attached.
Accepted payments: Cash and major credit cards
For children: Kids menu offers three sandwiches (grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly or kid's deli) at $4.49, which includes yogurt and choice of milk, chocolate milk or apple juice.