Carnegie Mellon Dining: Au Bon Pain



Atmosphere: ABP is a restless intermediary situated near the front of the University Center. I say this because it is located in an indent in the wall, but does not have an open storefront. There are doors on either side, and the place feels like a shotgun shack converted into a store. The tiling and lighting create a tan glow on every surface, and the entire place feels like you’re looking at a slightly oversaturated image. There’s an open fridge on the left containing sandwiches and boiled eggs in a cup, and there’s the famed pastry wall on the right. The store’s middle has two tables with vats of soup and mac n’ cheese, and in the deepest part of the store is the ordering wall. 

ABP is always filled with people coming and going, which is why it feels restless. The man eyeing the cookie shelf one moment could be paying and gone the next. Despite this, ABP has a very friendly feeling to it because you know everyone’s name. You reveal it twice, once while ordering, and once while responding to your sandwich being made. It’s like being home during Thanksgiving; you know everyone there but also you know they’re leaving and also you don’t want to talk to any of them and they don’t really want to talk to you. You and they both understand that you’re here for the food. 

Outside, there is the Skibo eating room and some tables along the wall. The tables look like they’re for two, but really they’re for nobody because nothing can fit on those tiny things. The Skibo dining area is neat, except for the fact that the 4 speakers spaced across the ceiling don’t get synced at all. I often feel great anxiety listening to Shape of You with a 0.3 second delay between that ginger man’s voices. Ruins my sandwich every time. Anyway. The booths and tables are highly coveted seats, and anytime you need an outlet you are guaranteed that someone is already sitting near one. The variety of seating in Skibo actually makes it one of the better spots to eat, cause you can convert your lunch session into a homework session without fear of people spilling stuff near you. 

Actual Food: I’ve been here around 12 times, and have ordered the same thing on all but one occasion: The Chipotle Turkey and Avocado sandwich:d  (https://www.aubonpain.com/(GetProductDetails)/menu?id=182) 


avocado turkey chipotle au bon pain


This sandwich is godlike. The prosciutto+arugula+tomato pizza that every fancy Italian restaurant offers consists of much the same ingredients as the CTA sandwich, and that is my favorite pizza of all time. So, it only follows that this sandwich is one of my favorite sandwiches. The ciabatta bread combines perfectly with the chipotle sauce soaking it, and the turkey and cheese slab never comes apart. The arugula and tomatoes feel like they were added on top as an afterthought, but that just means you get to eat bag arugula (like bag fries) later. The avocado is just icing on the cake, and balances with the sun-dried tomatoes which are sometimes a little sour. 

The only other thing I have ordered here is their Thai Peanut Salad with chicken, which I heard was good. I agree with the sentiment as far as you can “enjoy” eating leaves. If your salad has any protein and enough dressing that you can taste it, the leaves are just obstacles at that point, and you might as well have gotten the Thai Peanut [Protein] + Avocado sandwich made with leaves cause it has the same ingredient composition. 

But the true hands-down, uncontested pro of eating at ABP is the glorious pastry wall. The cookies, the muffins, the croissants (CWA-sohn). All glorious breakfast or anytime snacks. The muffins are nearly the best on campus, and the cookies will leave you reeling at their tastiness. I truly did not understand how tasty a cookie could be until I tried Au Bon Pain’s English Toffee Cookie (not sponsored). Best of all, you can nab two cookies legally with a dinner block on the dining plan. 

Rating: as an 'eh' dining location that is only slightly less 'eh' than any other dining location, Au Bon Pain's pastry wall props up its oversaturated interior and mid-tier sandwiches. 12/19 aruguleaves


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