Carb-lovers rejoice. Modesto’s second Panera Bread is open and ready to serve up fresh-baked pretty much everything at the Vintage Faire Mall.
The new restaurant opened Thursday on the site of the old Elephant Bar on Dale Road. Built from the ground up, the free-standing Panera features indoor seating for more than 130 as well as an outdoor patio and drive-thru.
This will be Modesto’s second Panera, the first opened in 2015 at McHenry and Bowen avenues. Like its counterpart, the restaurant offers baked goods, sandwiches, salads, soups and more.
The chain emphasizes its “clean food” menu meaning ingredients without artificial preservatives, sweeteners or flavorings. And speaking of carbs, glorious carbs, the Dale Road Panera has a selection of about a dozen kinds of bagels and loaves of bread, as well as about 20 different pastries, all made fresh daily on site.
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What also helps set the company apart is its myriad ordering options. You can walk into the store and talk to a cashier, like normal. Or you can go to one of the four kiosks near the entrance and place your order on its touch screen systems and wait for it to come to your table via a light-up pager. Still too much human contact for you? Order ahead online and pick it up on a shelf inside the restaurant.
“Everything is fresh, we make the food daily. You can order online through Rapid Pick-Up, you walk in and we’ll have it ready for you on the shelf, no waiting in line,” said Panera Assistant Manager Josh Rivas. “The kiosk too, you don’t have to wait in line, just go right in, order your items, and we’ll have it ready for you at the table.”
The menu also gives diners plenty of offerings. Panera has seasonal specials as well as year-round favorites like the Napa chicken sandwich, bistro French onion soup and the green goddess Cobb salad. One of the more popular lunchtime options is the “You Pick Two,” which allows you to mix-and-match half of any two of their soups, salads or sandwiches and runs from about $10 to $12. They also sell specialty coffee and other drinks.
The inside of the restaurant is open and airy with large windows and tables or booths. Store manager Emerald Santiago has hired 80 employees to staff the site, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.