Just down Mission Road from East, Panera Bread is my go-to spot for breakfast, lunch, study groups and coffee dates. Low prices and good food combine to make the lunch hour line go out the door.
However, a new franchise is looking to provide a little competition for Panera. In November, The Corner Bakery Cafe opened in Leawood at 117th street and Roe Ave., looking an awful lot like my comfortable favorite.
The Corner Bakery Cafe started as a, you guessed it, bakery on a corner in downtown Chicago in 1991. Since then, they’ve added many franchises in several cities, and are looking to open a total of five in the Kansas City area.
It was a Saturday afternoon, past lunchtime, and my mom and I decided to venture into south Johnson County to try the new Panera-look-alike. The interior gave a quaint impression, removing me from the exurban setting with flower pots and tapestries hanging on the wallpapered walls.
Just like at Panera, the menu offered pastas, sadwiches, salads, breakfast foods and soup along with a variety of baked goods. The notable difference is that the Corner’s menu had a more extensive selection for breakfast and more dinner-like entrees. The lack of bagels was disappointing, however.
My mom and I decided on coffees and a couple bakery items to share — a cream cheese brownie and two muffins (the second one was free that day). Functionally, the Corner operates similarly to Panera, from the menus mounted above the registers right down to the self-serve coffee.
But instead of having to get up and get my food, our meal was brought to us at our booth by a waitress. As someone who likes to be waited on, this was a welcome difference. My hazelnut coffee was fresh and hot, but the first bite of the cream cheese brownie was more of a disappointment. It was dense without being flavorful.
The muffins were much better, light and moist with a bit of crunch on the outside. I could taste real bright blueberry and banana, which shows that the Corner’s commitment to fresh, wholesome ingredients is for real. I found myself eyeing the meals of the other customers around me with envy, wishing I could try their delicious-looking pastas and sandwiches.
I could tell that the Corner Bakery Cafe was going to give Panera some real competition with its good prices and wholesome food. Though the distance and lack of familiarity will get in the way, I fully expect other devoted Panera customers to flock to the Corner.
After my mid-afternoon indulgence, I left knowing that I would be coming back.