Well, first off, let me say that I don't think Panera needs an actual review because it's PANERA and chains just don't need reviews.
Second off, I almost got the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich, because I thought, "That would photograph better for the blog..." But after almost a year with no Panera, I had to go with the Turkey Artichoke, which comes with smoked turkey, spinach artichoke spread, Asiago-Parmesan cheese, tomatoes and caramelized onions on fresh baked focaccia. Now THAT is a panini.
Third off, I just want to say that of all of the "new" food openings that I came home to this past year, I may have been most excited about Panera. Sure, it's a chain. I acknowledge it and I recognize that it goes against my character to support them. But when I walk in and see smart-looking Waterburians using their (free!) Wi-Fi, sipping on some fresh squeezed lemonade and munching on their soup/half sandwich combo, I almost feel transported back to the academic ambiance of Boston. Sitting outside on their patio, you almost forget you are on Wolcott Street, one of the noisiest and busiest roads in Waterbury, and among the scariest places to be behind the wheel. It becomes irrelevant that within walking distance there is a Wal-mart, TWO over-sized (and over-visited) "Chinese" buffets, and possibly the world's busiest Wendy's. This little yuppie oasis in Waterbury is the perfect place to get away for a few minutes and enjoy a delicious meal or pick up some freshly baked artisan bread. As long as in the process you don't forget about Waterbury's locally owned delis and sandwich shops, which I promise I will address soon.
920 Wolcott Street
Waterbury, CT 06705