Battle Half-Sandwich-and-Soup Combo: Corner Bakery vs. Panera

CB_tuna.jpg
Edwin Goei
Corner Bakery
If I may overgeneralize, Panera and Corner Bakery are the fast-casual chain sandwich purveyors equivalent of Coke and Pepsi. Today, we measure the merits of one random item, bought at both: the 1/2 sandwich and soup combo. The sandwich will be the common denominator of tuna salad, and the soup will be whatever variant of cream of tomato they have on offer.

Cost:
Panera Bread, $6.99. Corner Bakery, $7.49.

Pickles: CB includes a pickle spear. Panera does not. Winner (by default): Corner Bakery.

Panera_tuna.jpg
Edwin Goei
Panera

Chips: Corner Bakery deposits their chips on the plate; Panera serves them in the bag. CB's chips are a touch greasier and slightly saltier. More oil seems to inhabit the potato pores in CB's than in Panera's. Hold them up to the light and light passes through as if they were stained glass. Panera's is not as greasy, not as salty, but also not as decadent. Both are of the crunchy, kettle cooked variety. We liked both. Winner: Tie.

Soup: Though both are topped with croutons, Panera's tomato soup seems to have already thoroughly engulfed its croutons and turned them into soggy cubes. CB's croutons seem to be able to resist the soup and remained crispy to the last spoonful. Panera's soup is fruity and tangy, as literal as you can get with tomato soup. Think of an upgraded Campbell's Cream of Tomato. CB's brew is darker, has more depth, and possesses a more rounded flavor that balances the sweet with richness and Italian spices. It is so close to marinara, in fact, that if you dipped cooked spaghetti into it, you can conceivably make another meal. Winner: Corner Bakery.

panera_soup.jpg
Edwin Goei
Panera

Sandwich: CB's tuna sandwich easily outweighs Panera's by double. If the two were set side-by-side, CB's sandwich is bigger and looks like a 1/2 sandwich should look: like it's cut from a full sandwich. Panera's constructs theirs starting from a halved piece of bread. Panera's choice of bread is moist, almost cake-like. CB's is more rustic, more textured with seeds and grain.

CB's sandwich actually had more of everything. More lettuce that it could constitute a salad; more tuna; and more things inside the tuna. I detected celery and onion in CB's. Panera went the basic route: just mayo and the fish. Instead of tomato and a ring of red onion in Panera's, CB's contained tomato, shredded carrots and sliced cucumbers. All this contributed to a better tuna sandwich experience (if there were such a thing). Winner: Corner Bakery.

CB_soup.jpg
Edwin Goei
Corner Bakery

Overall winner for this week's challenge: Corner Bakery.

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4 comments
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Mercuryg
Mercuryg

Half a sandwich? That's a sandwich! You cannot have half a sandwich!!!!!! Get real!

Sandra
Sandra

I have to disagree on the soup (I have not had a tuna sandwich on either). I do not like Corner Bakery tomato, I find watery. I love Panera's tomato soup's creamy consistency. But to each his own.

JB
JB

Believe it or not, I've never had anything from Panera Bread (should be believable when you come of age patronizing NYC neighborhood delis).  Early last decade my manager suggested I/(forced me to) cater a meeting with Corner Bakery and I thought the bread was very good.  And it was an evening meeting, too. 

For me, the real winner would be go to to Trader Joe's and pick up their EXCELLENT Albacore Tuna Salad ($3.99 for 10 ounces) and either grab a spoon or dump some of it over one of the EXCELLENT generic-y salads from Fresh & Easy (such as the Field Greens one). 

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