We Tried Panera's New Mac 'n Cheese Sandwich to See if It's Any Good

We can confirm that it's cheesy as hell.

Photo by Lee Breslouer for Thrillist

Have you ever worked in an office? Then surely you’ve been to Panera, that place you go when you’re craving a soup and a sandwich and you have an extra $11. If you haven’t been paying attention to the chain, it’s expanded its menu offerings, and now serves up grain bowls worthy of those expensive salad chains and a new line of flatbread pizzas.

Recently, it set the internet ablaze with an attention-grabbing lunch option: the Grilled Mac & Cheese Sandwich, which combines everyone’s favorite side dish stuck between two slices of white bread. We stopped by a Panera to see if it’s as good as it looks... or if it’s even better.

Panera’s mac ‘n cheese sandwich is its version of stunt food

The type of stunt food at chain restaurants that gets people excited are creative takes on comfort food (see: Crispy Chicken Sandwich Tacos, breakfast bacon cheeseburgers). And while Panera is never going to out-stunt the likes of Taco Bell or Burger King, it never hurts to be a part of the conversation. After all, the company just recently became profitable, according to an interview the CEO did with the Associated Press, and one way to stay profitable is to entice former and current customers with new, original menu offerings. Move over, you boring Baja Bowl with Chicken. Enter: the Grilled Mac & Cheese Sandwich.

Photo by Lee Breslouer for Thrillist

Tasting the sandwich-ified mac ‘n cheese

The mac ‘n cheese has been a Panera staple for as long as I can remember, with its Broccoli Cheddar Mac & Cheese debuting in 2020. Lest you think Panera isn’t trying to make waves with its menu additions, it paid Michael Bolton to sing about that strange combo. We wish Mr. Bolton and his luxury car all the best.

It cost about $11 (including tax) of our hard earned money to buy a sandwich overflowing with pasta and cheese. Shockingly, the macaroni adheres to the Classic White Miche bread (translation: soft, thick-cut white bread) so that the sandwich doesn’t fall apart when you pick it up. The fontina and mozzarella cheese also isn’t too drippy, which means you won’t need a moist towelette to clean yourself every time you pick this thing up.

Eating this sandwich is addictive. The bites you keep going back for are the ones where the decadent macaroni meets a crunchy hit from the parmesan crisps or the crusty part of the bread. For a sandwich that looks overwhelmingly cheesy, it strangely doesn’t feel like cheese overload. And if you’re someone who loves putting potato chips on your sandwich, use the complimentary side of chips to add another salty, delicious layer to your lunch order.

Next time, bring a friend

Once the weather cools, this hearty sandwich will pair perfectly with Panera’s many soups. That’s why we recommend taking advantage of its You Pick Two offering, which allows you to order half a Grilled Mac & Cheese Sandwich with a cup of soup like Vegetarian Autumn Squash, Turkey Chili, or Homestyle Chicken Noodle. Or you could always go back to your desk with the sandwich, $11 fewer dollars, and a big smile. Either way, you’ll be ordering it again.

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Lee Breslouer is a Thrillist contributor. Follow him on Twitter at @LeeBreslouer.