I Hate Au Bon Pain

AuBonPain.jpg

I don’t like Au Bon Pain. When I walk past it and look at the people eating inside, they always look sad. There’s a reason they look sad: the food is not good. I’m not against fast food–I enjoy Wendy’s, In-N-Out Burger; I also enjoy sandwichey fast food places that are in the same genre as Au Bon Pain, places like Panera Bread. Do I love Panera Bread? No, I don’t. But do I hate it as much as I hate Au Bon Pain? Not even close.

Why do I hate it so much? Maybe it’s because I associate it with airports. When I fly to Florida from LaGuardia, the only food options are Au Bon Pain or that sticky, expensive pretzel place. Who wants to eat a sticky, expensive pretzel before sitting on a plane for four hours? I don’t! And that leaves Au Bon Pain. The sandwiches are pre-made, wrapped in plastic. You unwrap them and you feel like you’re on a chaperoned tour of London with “lunch included” and, suddenly, the chaperone, who also drives the bus, opens a giant cooler and passes out pre-wrapped sandwiches that smell kind of funky. That’s what Au Bon Pain tastes like to me. And I hate the design: the colors, the lighting. Who wants to eat in a room with flourescent lights and yellow and white colored walls? I don’t!

Hey, if you like Au Bon Pain, I don’t want you to feel bad. This is all subjective. But, believe me when I say: I hate it. I really do. I really don’t like going there. Please let’s not go there when we meet for lunch, ok? Oh you didn’t know we were meeting for lunch? Never mind then, you like Au Bon Pain and we probably won’t get along. You’ll probably pick your nose and say “oooh, this sandwich is so good, isn’t it?” and I’ll sit there uncomfortably. It won’t be fun, trust me. But I’m not judging you, I respect you. I really do, really.

35 comments

  1. I’ve heard that the color yellow makes people angry, which is why Subway changed their color scheme. Apparently customers were very unhappy when eating there. Of course, if the food is bad, it’s bad…

  2. I worked with the CEO/Pres and upper team of ABP for a while last year trying to get them onto a major transportation link here in the States.

    Although this probably wont directly affect your point-of-view, their demands for quality are actually much higher than others in their genre. Baked goods need to be tossed quickly, sandwiches are also tossed after just a few hours.

    Also worth noting is that they have different “store models”. For example, on the high-end at Union Station in DC…sandwiches are “made-to-order” which differs greatly than a typical airport locale.

    All this being said, Im not much of a fan of ABP b/c they have pre-cut meat and there are simply too many other good options in NYC that are higher quality, that deliver, etc. (i.e. Sandwich Planet here in Hell’s).

    I still dont understand how Subway gets customers here on my block. That silver color around the border of their “roast beef” slices is just disgusting. And that S’way baking bread smell is less like a bakery and more like a warmed, sweaty sock.

  3. I have to say, I might not hate ABP, but I don’t love it, for sure. My knitting group meets there once a week so we are kinda force there, but it’s a non-airport one and it’s actually kinda nice. It doesn’t have a lot of crazy yellow and the sandwiches are always made fresh, although they do have the pre-wrapped ones in case you are in a hurry. Then again, it’s in Yale so I guess maybe the standard is a little higher? I’ve never been to other ABP so I can’t judge.

  4. I avoid ABP as much as possible. I don’t enjoy the sandwiches. The service in the many stores I’ve been in Washington, DC is lacking and they are often over-priced for what you are getting. And on top of that, I’ve often gotten to the register to find out they don’t take a credit/debit card.

  5. The airport ones are terrible–and the service is some of the worst I have ever had. The ones outside airports are better, but I think they have gone downhill over the past 6 years or so–or maybe my taste has just improved!?

  6. Have you ever tried the soups or stews at Au Bon Pain? They’re really good and a good value. Also, don’t they make sandwiches to order at the normal (non-airport) locations? I’ve never had one but they look fresh to me. Maybe you should give one of their regular locations a shot.

  7. LaGuardi sucks in general if you forgot to eat before heading to the airport. It sucks cause there are no sit down places or bars once you go past security. If your sister sent you to the airport from Brooklyn 2.5 hours too early, it’s a long time to wait without at least a beer.

  8. LaGuardi sucks in general if you forgot to eat before heading to the airport. It sucks cause there are no sit down places or bars once you go past security. If your sister sent you to the airport from Brooklyn 2.5 hours too early, it’s a long time to wait without at least a beer.

  9. LaGuardi sucks in general if you forgot to eat before heading to the airport. It sucks cause there are no sit down places or bars once you go past security. If your sister sent you to the airport from Brooklyn 2.5 hours too early, it’s a long time to wait without at least a beer.

  10. I always think that ABP (the ones that make sandwiches to order) should be good, because they have decent-looking combinations and lots of variety. But it’s just not. Somehow it just never works and always smells kind of weird.

    But it’s still better than Cosi.

  11. There’s an “Au Bon Pain Bistro” across the street from my office park outside of Boston. It’s a newish concept for them and I have to say it’s far better than the average ABP (which I used to frequent in Cambridge and Somerville, MA). Basically it’s an ABP that’s trying to be more like a Panera. They have “good” sandwiches, soups, and salads (“good” for quick, easy, cheap lunch next to an office park) and lots of indoor and outdoor seating. They have the best tuna salad sandwich in walking distance of my office and I crave tuna while pregnant so that’s important to me (it has far less mayonaise than anywhere else). Their macaroni and cheese is pretty horrendous. It’s like cheddar cheese soup with mushy noodles in it (I became a takeout mac and cheese connoisseur in the beginning of my pregnancy–Whole Foods was the best, hands down).

  12. Let’s see. I’ve eaten at ABP in Harvard Square, South Station (Boston) and in a food court at a mall that is now closed in Worcester, MA. I’m pretty sure the mall was going to close anyway, but the ABP certainly didn’t help!

    It just seemed really overpriced for the mediocre sandwiches that they produce. The bread always fell apart. That’s a deal breaker for me.

  13. I’ve never commented on your blog, but I have to tell you that I have bad memories associated with au bon pain as well. I spent 18 hours in LaGuardia in which I could not sleep because I had to guard my two ginormous suitcases that weighed more than me- the bastards wouldn’t let me check them. Throughout the night, au bon pain was the only thing that was open and I had like six cups of their coffee while drowning my sorrows in pastry- BAD pastry.

    So, yeah, I hate it too. I completely understand why everyone in there is sad.

  14. This might sound dumb, but I thought that Panera Bread was limited to only my state for some odd reason. I’m glad that you semi-approve of it because Panera and I are tight when I’m cramming for exams.

    What do you like at Wendy’s??

    I’ve only eaten at Au Bon Pain once, and that was in 2002 in Harvard Square. My family and I thought it was pretty good, but that might because we had no idea where to eat in Cambridge and had some terrible food. Anything was better than the pho that we had in Cambridge; it saddened us what that restaurant did our country’s staple dish.

  15. If you hate it so much then don’t go. I rather eat at Au Bon Pain than Wendy’s. Sorry. At least you can find a semi-healthy selection.

  16. I love love love almond croissants from ABP. I don’t care much for their sandwiches but the soups are OK. Try the almond croissants…..

  17. This looks like a good lead for a post on airport food, given the reduction in in-flight meals (to nothing on most flights besides peanuts or crackers) and airlines being liberal about people bringing food on-board.

    What are the best airports for food? the worst?

  18. This looks like a good lead for a post on airport food, given the reduction in in-flight meals (to nothing on most flights besides peanuts or crackers) and airlines being liberal about people bringing food on-board.

    What are the best airports for food? the worst?

  19. i liked ABP ok. They built one close to where my parents live. i went there occasionally for soup. Loved their soup.

    Then it closed down. After a year or so. Haven’t missed it much, but it was the only quick place with good soup besides chili at Wendy’s.

  20. I have never eaten at Au Bon Pain. Sounds like I should be glad. I have many other fast food regrets in my life though, so don’t you worry that I might be deprived.

  21. @ Drivingrain: I have thought for YEARS that most Subways smell more like vomit than sweaty socks- to each his own putrid smell, eh? I could never work there or near one even just because of that SMELL…ugh.

    @ TikiPundit: You’re so right about the lack of food service on plans. That should definitely be a topic of discussion somewhere.

    I can’t say much else about this post because I’ve never eaten at ABP…not even sure where the closest one is (Chicago, perhaps?) but it doesn’t sound like I’m missing anything.

  22. i don’t mind them for a quick cup of joe once in a while, although the quality of their coffee was far better when they were using peets.

  23. I love ABP. There food is FRESH and people are very helpful. Actually thanks to ABP food I lost 27 pounds. I love, love love ABP food….

  24. Who wants to eat anywhere with “pain” in the name? Do you know there are delivery trucks in Colorado with “Bimbo” plastered in huge letters on them? What are people thinking??

  25. GRAVY not SOUP: Someone Needs To Do A Serious Investigation of the Soups at Au Bon Pain. I used to go to Au Bon Pain for soup 3 to 4 times a week. Then I began to notice that the soups began to have less and less substance. The lentil soup used to contain a nice amount of actual lentils. No more. Now the lentil soup seems to be brown gravy with some lentil hulls suspended in the emulsion. The same is true for many of the other soups. Most lack a significant amount of the items on the label. The Harvest Pumpkin Soup also seems to be made up of some emulsion flavored to taste like pumpkin with a few (very few) shreds of actual pumpkin suspended in the emulsion. You would think that at $4+ and $5+ for 12 and 16oz, the soup would contain the actual vegetable and meat items listed on the label. …. It’s as if the ABP Company started off with a goal to provide real food soups for a good price, then it was taken over by a bunch of some Food Chemists and Flavor Chemists that figured out how to save money by cutting down on meat, onions, carrots, beans, lentils, etc. Just create soup-like emulsions, make them smell like the real thing and sprinkle a few dehydrated remnants that float in the emulsions. Notice how the substance items (carrots, beans, onions, etc, seem to float in the emulsion. Normally these items sink to the bottom. Something’s not kosher at Au Bon Pain.

  26. just a little fyi for the person that said who wants to eat at somewhere with the name pain in it… au bon pain means the good bread in french… pain=bread

    anyway you should all give au bon pain a chance. everything there is fresh and the sandwiches can be made to order. there are also a selection of soups that are actually quite good. the bread and baked good are made fresh everyday and periodically throughout the day so stop talking trash!

  27. oh my god i totally agree. I was actually sitting at work and typed in “i hate au bon pain” in a moment of particular loathing. Its the only decent non-mcdonalds place in my office building that i can pay with a credit card at and i just wish they would go out of business. The food is revolting and i hate everything about them.

  28. There two things in this world I hate.

    1) People who are intolerant of other cultures and their foods, and 2) Anything French.

    But I must say that I absolutely LOVE Au Bon Pain! If you don’t like the pre-made sandwiches then try something else. The made-fresh ham and cheese croissants are out-of-this-world CRAZY delicious! I’ve driven an hour one way into the city on a Saturday morning for one. The one next to my office building makes oatmeal dry and firm like I want and the french roast is the only coffee I will drink anymore. Keeping in mind that I “grew up” on Starbucks and hate anything French; this is my favorite eatery/snack shop. My only complaints are the prices are high–but you’d expect that in a big city–and there is some inconsistency in some of the baked daily selections day to day; especially between different shops in the same area.

  29. NOT fresh! i had their turkey chili yesterday and felt certain it was at
    least five-year-old and spent all that time in some hideous, ginormous
    can…

  30. I had APB’s chicken, chickpeas and tomato snack/salad a week ago Friday. It ruined my weekend, as my Saturday travel plans had to be cut short, as in many roundtrips from the bedroom to the bathroom. Guess I won’t be having that again.

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