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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Thai Tuesday at Panera

Everyone has their menu trigger words, right?

You know those words that, when you spot them while scanning an eatery's food selections, make you stop in your tracks and take notice? And I'm not talking about general words such as "steak" or "salad." I mean more specific terms such as "Cajun," "smoked" or "Cuban."

Those last three are a few of mine, but my two biggest are "chipotle" and "Thai." Put one of those words in the name of your dish or its description on the menu, and I'm going to at least consider it. And, most likely, select it. (If I ever see, say, a "Thai chipotle chicken pizza," that bad boy is getting ordered -- no questions asked.)

So when I realized that Panera Bread at some point fairly recently had added a Thai Chopped Chicken salad to its menu, I knew it was only a matter of time before it and I would get to know each other a little bit.

Here's the description from Panera's website: All-natural, antibiotic-free chicken, romaine, Thai cashews, fire-roasted edamame, red peppers, carrots, fresh cilantro & wonton strips all tossed in low-fat Thai Chili Vinaigrette and drizzled with peanut sauce.

Um, yes, please.

I believe at the new Willoughby location, the salad sent me back about $8. Like most items at Panera, it's a little pricy for my liking -- with a regular soft drink my bill was more than $10, more than I want to pay at a place where you order at a counter as opposed to being waited on -- but it was a great-looking, tasty and filling salad. (And I had a lovely view of Target from my table on the patio.)

The salad boasted a bit too much cilantro for my liking -- I never really like much cilantro in my Thai dishes -- but that didn't stop me from inhaling it. Yes, I was really hungry, but it was simply good.

Really, the worst thing about it is that now I have a choice of two salads I like at Panera, as I've been a regular orderer of the Asian Sesame Chicken for years. (And yes, count "Asian" and "sesame" among my trigger words.) Just as I always knew I'd be getting the Thai wings at The Winking Lizard before the spicy sesame flavor showed up, I used to have my go-to salad order at Panera. No more. Ah, life used to be simpler.

Anyway, if anyone knows where I can get that Thai chipotle chicken pizza, be sure to let me know.

-- Mark Meszoros | | @nhfeatures


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