I have nothing against Panera Bread’s new Cuban chicken “panini” (the correct Italian term would be "panino"). Actually, I rather like the layering of chicken, smoked ham, pickle chips, Swiss, chipotle mayo and sun-dried tomato mustard on grill-pressed focaccia. Sure, the interior of the one I get at the East Northport branch could be a bit hotter, but I won’t quibble about that. No, my beef lies elsewhere.
Panera's menu has a “you pick two” thing going on – a set price for half a sandwich plus a cup of soup or small “cafe” salad. Perfect, since all I want is half that Cuban chicken sandwich and something really light. I don't feel like the black bean soup suggested as a pair-up but notice that fresh fruit cup is listed as one of the "cafe" salads. Ideal.
“You can’t have fruit cup with half a sandwich,” the young woman behind the counter tells me. Er, why not? “It’s fruit, not a salad.” But, gee, it's listed as a salad. "No," she shakes her head, "Nobody orders it as a salad. If you want fruit cup, you'll just have to get a whole sandwich.” Wah, I don't want a whole sandwich.
Ultimately, I ask her to call a manager.
“Of course, you can have the fruit cup,” he says. In fact, he even puts two small fruit cups together to make one big one. It's more than I ask but I'm so glad to get it. For the record, I finish every bite.
Half my Cuban sandwich with fruit salad and an apple at Panera Bread in East Northport/Newsday Photo/Joan Reminick