Kneaders Bakery & Cafe

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Kneaders is a newer sandwich and bakery-style restaurant in the same vein as Paradise Cafe or Panera bread.  They have been operating since 1997, but only have stores in five western states: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon and Utah.

The gimmick of Kneaders is that they push you toward the hand-made and bakery items.  How else to explain these combo menu choices?

So, want a “standard” combo of a half sandwich, chips and a drink?  Too bad, the closest you will get is Combo #3, which requires you to get a pastry too.  I asked if they would sub chips for the soup or salad in Combo #1 – no.  And Combo #2, a half sandwich and a smoothie seems kind of random.

Observations?  One that seems to hold out, at least here in Arizona.  Kneaders is popular with moms.  I’ve eaten at our new Gilbert location twice in the last month, both for lunch, and both times male guests were outnumbered five-to-one, at best.  And those ladies seemed to be having a blast.  Chatting, eating, standing outside and chatting some more.

The food is tasty and fresh.  The bread choices are good, but the sandwich quality seems hit-or-miss.  On our first visit, my wife and I had a turkey sandwich and pastrami sandwich, respectively.  They both seemed decently-sized with generous amounts of ingredients.  Last week, we both had “Dave’s BLT” and were shocked to find two wafer-thin strips of bacon on an otherwise large-sized sandwich.  This, mind you, was the full sandwich, not a half.  Disappointing, especially when I could walk across the parking lot and get more bacon on a sandwich at McDonald’s or around the corner at Subway.

Price is another concern.  If you do the math on just the menu sample above, you will see that any combination of a sandwich and sides will easily set you back between $7 and $10.  In my book, $20+ for two is dinner territory.

It’s nice to see a drive-thru at a restaurant of this sort.  Aside from Panera, I rarely see a drive-thru at a restaurant where all of the menu items are so custom build-to-order.  Drive-thru service was fast, but this was where I got the thin BLT’s.  The thicker sandwiches were counter-ordered.  I’m not suggesting they cut corners on drive-thru orders, but maybe they build the sandwiches faster during rush and there is just plain less care.  I’d have to try some more.

My overall opinion is this is a good alternative to fried or traditional “fast food” fare, but you have to be seeking one of their more unique menu items (or craving a pastry) to beat a more affordable sandwich found elsewhere.

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