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The Location: Panera Bread, 4238 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, (703) 527-8701
The Price: $4.99
The Skinny: When I wandered into the Ballston location of Panera Bread last night, I first set my sights on a sandwich. Perhaps because I was looking to cure some lingering grumpiness over the weather—I ended up reaching for my winter jacket last night, for the first time this fall—I scrapped that plan when I saw that they offered soup (your choice) in a bowl carved out of sourdough bread. Sure, soup in a bread bowl is a simple idea, and it isn’t exactly a new one. But Panera’s cheaply priced version didn’t disappoint. The cheddar-and-broccoli soup I chose offered up broth that was thick, filling, and (natch) cheddary. As a whole, the dish followed a welcome (if predictable) trajectory—it started out as soup, became a doughier soup as I worked my way into the bowl, and then finally turned into a hollowed out chunk of bread, which I tore through, enjoying the tangy sourdough.