Eat This Now: Chicken Panini at Panini Café
I've eaten many a panino in my 20 years of existence, so I have a right to say this: enough with the ham and cheese. These Italian pressed sandwiches have been around since the days of Spartacus (okay, maybe not that long--really, the 1970s in Italy, and the 1990s in the U.S.), yet cafés and delis continue to mass produce the same ones over and over until paninis become as indistinguishable and tiresome as the umpteenth carne asada taco. Though some restaurants try to expand their horizons with Korean this and turkey that, what sets Panini Café apart from others is their Italian-Middle Eastern influenced menu. The result of this compatible fusion? Their chicken panini.
#8 on the menu, with the phrase "Highly Recommended!" stamped beside it and different from their #6 Chicken Panini, the Chicken Panini is the chain's most popular dish. The chicken breast is grilled Middle Eastern-style--juicy, tender and with a charred orange tint from the marinade ala a kabob. The chicken is then paired with artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes, a surprisingly refreshing combination not expected from two starkly different vegetables. The fillings are then smashed between two crunchy pieces of grilled bread, already smothered in thick layers of Fontina (no classic Mozzarella here) and pesto: Fertile Crescent zest.
And there's no need to worry about ordering seconds: the panino size is huge, and every order comes with a side of soup or salad. I always arrive extremely famished and I still end up leaving with a to-go box (the best leftovers for tomorrow's breakfast or lunch)--and if you can fill a college student, then you know the fixings are good.
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