Before I went gluten-free, Panera Bread was one of my favorite restaurants. They serve two of my favorite things: bread and coffee! How awesome is a restaurant that gives you bread as a side item when you order a sandwich? Amazingly awesome! I enjoyed every sandwich, soup and coffee drink I had from Panera, and was pretty disappointed that I wouldn't be able to eat there anymore once I discovered my wheat intolerance.
Recently, however, I heard about Panera's secret menu. The secret menu is full of gluten-free dishes like the Power Breakfast Egg White Bowl with Roasted Turkey and the Power Chicken Hummus Bowl! I was excited about the prospect of being able to eat at Panera again, but also nervous. I read on a few gluten-free sites that some Panera locations didn't seem to offer the secret menu (or the server that gluten-free diner spoke with wasn't aware of the secret menu). There's also a high risk of cross contamination with wheat and gluten in a restaurant that is full of delicious bread.
Despite these risks, I decided to try eating at Panera again after finding a list of gluten-free items found at Panera, including what is on the secret menu (you can read it here - thank you Gluten-Free Guide HQ!).
I planned on ordering the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad just in case the Panera on the East side of Columbus didn't have the secret menu (this salad is a regular menu item). I really appreciated that the server and manager double checked their ingredients binder to ensure everything on the salad was gluten-free for me! I asked the manager about the secret menu and she said that they do have it, and that some stores may seem like they don't have it because people don't order off it very often.
The salad was delicious! The apples on the salad are dried apple chips - which added a nice crunch to the salad. All of the ingredients tasted crisp and fresh and it was very filling! I didn't order a coffee drink this time (although all lattes are gluten-free at Panera), but I definitely will next time!