This week the husband and I traveled to the big city, Little Rock, for some doctors’ appointments. We stopped at Panera for a reasonably healthy dinner. Now I’d heard about Panera’s “secret” menu for years but had never had the opportunity to give it a try. The closest thing Helena has to Panera is our little Corner Market which serves deli sandwiches and plate lunches. Excited, I walked up to the cashier and said, “So I hear you have a secret menu. Are you allowed to tell me what’s on it?” His response was a total letdown as he promptly offered to read me the entire secret menu. Apparently it’s not been a secret for quite some time, except to this country bumpkin. We ordered two of the power bowls, which were great. The spinach and other simple fresh ingredients made them standout from the other Panera salads I’ve had, which have been loaded with fillers like tortilla strips and dried fruit. You can view Panera’s entire hidden menu here: https://www.panerabread.com/en-us/articles/access-into-paneras-hidden-menu.html.
The funny thing about Panera is that every time I go to one or even just see their sign, I think of Mil. The first time I ever set foot in a Panera was in 2008 when I visited Mil over her spring break at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. It was our senior year and I was finally able to visit her for the first time. We ate and shopped our way around both Evanston and Chicago. Deep dish pizza, Chicago hot dogs, dollar burgers at Bar Louie, and You Pick Two at Panera Bread. As an annoyingly indecisive orderer, I felt like this menu option was made for me. I love soup and I love salad and for once I didn’t have to decide between the two. Kapow. Mind blown. Also, Seattle (where I went to school) didn’t have a Panera, so it was a delightful novelty. For years after that trip, whenever I saw a Panera I would demand a stop.
By now the novelty has worn off, but the association remains. Memories and associations are a funny thing.
What associations do you have with restaurants or other places?