Panera Is Testing 10 New Dinner Items, Including Flatbreads & Parmesan Broccoli

Courtesy of Panera

Panera has really been hitting it out of the park lately; between the mac and cheese bar and the lobster rolls, it didn’t really look like things could get any better than they already are. But hey, guess what? Panera is testing a dinner menu soon — and it includes not just a whole bunch of new items, but also three entirely new categories. How’s that for keeping your options open?

Panera has long been open in the evenings — heck, my nearest location is open until 10 p.m. every day of the week except Sundays (that’s the day it closes at 9 p.m. instead) — but if you head to Panera anytime from about 5 o’clock onward, you’re usually in the “Lunch-For-Dinner” boat. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; a good sandwich goes a long way, particularly when you're on the go. But if you tend to like your evening meals a little heartier than your lunchtime ones, then Panera’s upcoming dinner menu test might be exactly what you’re looking for. Here’s hoping it makes the cut for a wider release!

The test will begin in two cities starting in July and September: Lexington, Ky. in July and Providence, R.I. in September. If you’re located in one of these two places, you’ll be able to get your hands on the dinner menu test items from 4:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. every day. Ordering will be simple; the items will be available both at actual Panera locations and via delivery, meaning you’ll be able to use Panera’s digital ordering platforms, the Rapid Pickup service, and any of the delivery options in order to get ‘em. (Pretty much the only way you won’t be able to get a hold of them is through catering. Apologies to anyone arranging catered events this summer and fall.)

What exactly is on the test menu, you ask? There are 10 items total, spanning four categories: Dinner Bowls, Artisan Flatbreads, Signature Sides, and Hot And Hearty Sandwiches. The hot sandwiches are obviously not a new category — they’re a huge part of Panera’s regular offerings — but the bowls, flatbreads, and sides will all be making their debut as part of the dinner test. Here are some details about what you’ve got to look forward to:

1. Teriyaki Chicken And Broccoli Bowl

Courtesy of Panera

A blend of brown rice and quinoa makes up the base of this dinner bowl; it’s then topped with teriyaki-glazed chicken and steamed broccoli and finished off with cilantro and toasted sesame seeds.

2. Pesto Chicken Bowl

If you dig brown rice and quinoa, but teriyaki isn’t really your thing, give this pick a shot. Like the Teriyaki Chicken And Broccoli Bowl, it consists of roasted and seared chicken served over a blend of the two grains — but then, it’s topped with grape tomatoes, steamed broccoli, fresh spinach, pesto, and a garlic cream sauce. The pesto is nut-free, by the way; even though pesto typically contains pine nuts, you won’t find any here, making it an option for folks with nut allergies. Grated parmesan and fresh lemon add the finishing touches.

3. Margherita Artisan Flatbread

Courtesy of Panera

Is pizza your jam? Then Panera’s Artisan Flatbreads should scratch your favorite foodie itch. (And, I mean, let's face it: Pizza is most people's jam.) The Margherita Artisan Flatbread taps into what makes traditional Margherita pizzas so delicious, piling tomato bell pepper sauce, grape tomatoes, sliced fresh mozzarella, a blend of fontina and mozzarella cheeses, and a sprinkling of fresh basil on top of Panera’s artisan flatbread.

4. Steak and Blue Cheese Artisan Flatbread

For the carnivores in the house, this pick tops a piece of flatbread with grass-fed steak, caramelized onions, shredded fontina and mozzarella cheeses, blue cheese, and garlic cream sauce for a tangy hit of deliciousness. Fresh arugula and a balsamic glaze finish the whole thing off.

5. Chipotle Chicken And Bacon Artisan Flatbread

Bacon makes everything better, so of course it’s an option here. Like the other two Artisan Flatbread options, this one starts with a piece of Panera’s flatbread; then it adds smoked, pulled chicken, chopped bacon, grape tomatoes, a blend of fontina and mozzarella cheeses, garlic cream sauce, chipotle aioli, and fresh cilantro to the mix. Yes, please.

6. Parmesan Broccoli

Courtesy of Panera

One of the new Signature Sides, this meal accompaniment combines steamed broccoli with garlic cream sauce, grated parmesan cheese, and a touch of salt and pepper. Getting your greens has never been so good.

7. Tomato, Basil, and Cucumber Side Salad

If you’re looking change up your usual salad pick, this Mediterranean-inspired, leafy green-free option on the Signature Sides menu might be up your alley: It combines sliced grape tomatoes and diced cucumbers, tossing the mix in Greek dressing and topping it with fresh basil and sea salt. All that’s missing is a glass of ouzo to enjoy along with it.

8. Sweet Potato Mash

The last of the Signature Sides puts a twist on classic mashed potatoes. Instead of your standard russet or Yukon gold mash, it starts with a tender sweet potato; then it tops the mash off with pieces of roasted pecans and apple chips for a slightly sweet slightly savory meal accompaniment.

9. Toasted Pastrami Sandwich

Courtesy of Panera

It wouldn’t be Panera without sandwiches, now, would it? Off the Hot And Hearty Sandwiches menu, the Toasted Pastrami Sandwich offers Panera’s take on a New York deli classic, serving grass-fed pastrami, melted emmental cheese, caramelized onions, and a creamy mustard sauce on Artisan Ciabatta bread.

10. Toasted Tuscan Grilled Chicken Sandwich

If you ever wanted to combine all my favorite things in one sandwich, this would be the way to do it: Start with Artisan Ciabatta, slice it, then stuff it with citrus-pepper chicken, provolone, parmesan, arugula, a smoky tomato confit, and basil mayo. Yes, yes, and yes.

Panera’s dinner test menu will be available at select locations in Lexington, Ky. starting in July and Providence, R.I. starting in September from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. If you’re not sure whether your nearest location has it, you can find your local spot here and give ‘em a call to double check (once September rolls around, of course). Happy noshing!