While chains like Panera Bread continue to diversify their side choices, Panes Bread Cafe keeps it simple. This family-owned and operated restaurant doesn't care if you want an apple or a whole wheat baguette with your sandwich—you're getting chips, and a lot of them. So many, in fact, that you'll wish they came in a bag to take home with you, along with the other treats you're sure to purchase.
Baskets stuffed with savory and sweet breads create a partition between the cash register and kitchen at this Lakeview spot. Painted porcelain suns and tribal decor adorn the muted orange walls and a list of daily specials including sandwiches, salads and pizzas hangs on a dry-erase board near the dessert-stacked counter. You won't find an item on the menu over $8, but you will find 50-cent truffles infused with orange and ginger. Get the truffles to go and try the white chocolate cheesecake with peanut butter chunks and a thick graham cracker crust; at $3 a slice, the only thing you'll be splurging on is calories.
After convincing myself that pastries alone are not a suitable lunch, I moved on to the list of 18 "original sandwiches." Out of the only two vegetarian options, my meat-loathing companion chose the grilled portabella with homemade pesto and fresh mozzarella. The pesto's lovely appearance wasn't enough to make up for its lack of flavor and the cheese was sparsely rationed. The robust slices of sun-dried tomato bread with fresh herbs, on the other hand, made everything between irrelevant.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Stacy Warden