Feed Me

The dish on Long Island's restaurant and food scene.

Panera Bread may be America's most popular restaurant chain according to the latest Zagat Survey, but it's not so big in my book. A recent lunch at the branch in the Walt Whitman Mall in Huntington Station proved a major letdown. I decided to try a new addition to the menu, a tomato, mozzarella and basil salad. What I got bore little resemblance to the following description, on the chain’s website:

“These days it’s hard to find a tomato that actually tastes like a tomato. That’s why we only use fresh vine-ripened tomatoes to make our new Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil Salad. Marinated in a balsamic vinaigrette with cucumbers, onion and fresh basil, our tomatoes are plump and juicy. And they go perfectly with fresh, bite-sized mozzarella and freshly baked Asiago croutons. Lunch doesn’t get any better.”

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I'd have to differ with the above assertion. True, I did request the dressing on the side, but my supermarket-quality tomatoes had not been marinated in anything. What's more, there wasn't a hint of basil in the bowl. When I went to the counter to ask for some, the answer I got was, “The amount is portioned out.” I persisted and received a cup of basil leaves, some brown at the edges, others with stems attached. 

Makes me want to hit the farm stands and make for myself the tomato-basil-mozzarella salad so beautifully described on Panera’s website.

Panera Bread is at Walt Whitman Mall, 60 Walt Whitman Rd., Huntington Station, 631-424-0060

My tomato, basil and mozzarella salad at Panera Bread