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Cuban crisis: Standoff at Panera Bread

Cuban chicken panini, fresh fruit cup and an

Cuban chicken panini, fresh fruit cup and an apple at Panera's

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.

There are Paneras all over Long Island. To find the one nearest you, go to the website.

Half my Cuban sandwich with fruit salad and an apple at Panera Bread in East Northport/Newsday Photo/Joan Reminick

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