Au Bon Pain
I am fond of Au Bon Pain. Granted it's a chain, but it has served me well during my visits to Boston, which happens to be its birthplace. As much as I like eating at new restaurants in new cities, sometimes the agenda doesn't leave a lot of room for experimentation and you need something quick while you're on the go. Au Bon Pain fits the bill.
Buffalo happens to have its own Au Bon Pain, a revelation perhaps to those that don't spend time in the Medical Corridor. It is the only location between here and Pittsburgh to the south, Syracuse to the east. Located in the Doubletree Hotel on High Street, it is abuzz at lunchtime and in the off hours it maintains a steady volume of business with the hotel's clientèle by providing meals through its nice dining area and room service.
I stopped in on my way home from work last Friday. It being a holiday of sorts, there were few lunch options in the city. The weather left me in the mood for a cup of soup, but at 1:30 in the afternoon, the hotel, chock full of holiday guests, had cleaned them out. That's okay, there were plenty of fresh sandwiches, salads and wraps still available.
Au Bon Pain was one of the first major chains to capitalize on the "less deli, more cafe" style of lunch fare that has become increasingly popular in the last decade or so. Since then, many others have followed suit-most notably in Buffalo is the soon to be ubiquitous Panera Bread Company, a chain that has historical connections with the Au Bon Pain corporation.
But enough about that, let's talk about the food. Au Bon Pain's menu is appealing with a focus on on fresh ingredients and an eye on food trends. Where chains structured like this often fall short, besides service, is execution. Fresh food leaves more room for error than perfectly(?) microwaved burger patties. But our Au Bon Pain succeeds.
Service is friendly and uber efficient, though I have to admit that I avoid visiting in the midst of the lunch hour. I've had quite a few of the items on the menu over the years and found all to be satisfactory or better. On this visit I picked up lunch for two; an Arizona Chicken sandwich and a Roast Beef and Brie wrap. The Arizona Chicken sandwich was warm, a glorified grilled cheese made with Au Bon's aromatic tomato herb bread, perfectly moist chicken, cheddar, lettuce, tomato and a flavorful, but not too spicy, chili dijon spread ($5.50). The roast beef wrap was nice with a good portion of very tender, savory roast beef, brie, ranch dressing, lettuce and tomatoes wrapped in a sturdy lavash which ensures that you won't return to the office with a soggy snack ($5.29). My only suggestion for this selection is that you skip the dressing, the wrap's flavor and texture is improved by its ingredients being given room to speak for themselves.
There are fifteen other handheld lunch items on the menu along with a number of salads. Nothing costs more than $6.50, making Au Bon Pain an easy choice when you're in a hurry and in the area. They also cater to the breakfast crowd, showcasing the breads and pastries that made them famous and an assortment of breakfast sandwiches. Catering for office lunches and meetings is also available.
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Au Bon Pain
Doubletree Club Hotel
125 High Street, Buffalo 14203