Thai Chop salad and french onion soup at Panera Bread

Panera Bread, the national bakery, sandwich and soup chain has opened will open this week in Santa Rosa.

It’s pretty much what you’d expect from a national chain-type fast-food/cafe soup, salad and bread eatery. Good sandwiches. Tasty soups. Creative salads. Yummy cookies and breakfasty-stuff (croissants to mini souffles). Starbucks-esque interior with a cozy little enclosed fire and lots of windows.

You can go healthy (the chain has long been praised for its “healthy” options) or really pack on the calories. Best bets: You Pick Two. Pair a half sammie and salad or soup for about $8. The Thai Chopped Chicken is a hefty bowl of chicken, romaine, cashews, edamame, carrots and other goodies in a Thai Chili Vinaigrette. Yum. French onion soup was solid.

Bakery Menu | Salads | Sandwiches

The building went up quickly in the former CVS parking lot at the corner of Steele and Mendocino — in a sort of newly minted Golden Triangle of fash food chains (Five Guys, In N Out, possible Chik-fil-A) off the Steele Lane exit of Highway 101.

Interestingly (and maybe I just noticed this), Target has started carrying a line of Panera food items including dressings, dips and spreads. Like the restaurant (which is owned by St. Louis Bread Company), they’re well-researched to fit American food-profiles.

Meanwhile, the Baja Fresh in the nearby Safeway Shopping Center has, we heard, permanently shuttered. It’s not a huge surprise, considering the wealth of cheaper and better Mexican food nearby (Taqueria Santa Rosa, La Palapa, Jalisco) and the overwhelming popularity of it’s two neighbors — Five Guys and Panda Express.

Are you welcoming Panera with open arms. Or giving them the royal raspberry.