Au Bon Pain has launched a dozen new menu items that are part of a platform the bakery café chain is calling “Sandwich 2.0.”
Stefano Cordova, the chain’s executiveand senior vice president of food and beverage innovation, said the sandwiches are designed so that “each bite counts." Each sandwich’s “architecture” is meant for maximum impact on the palate, generally with high-flavor sauces on the bottom of the sandwich and protein on the top.
“Our mouths are designed that way,” he said. “we have canines on the top to bite, and the bottom is more designed for texture and smoothness.”
Each sandwich also is meant to be a complete meal, nutritionally, with protein, starch and vegetables.
Cordova, who started at Au Bon Pain in April of 2011, following a stint as corporate chef at Italian casual dining chain Bertucci’s, said he developed the items from June to November and started gradually rolling them out in December. The 11 permanent new items were rolled out systemwide in April, and a summertime lobster roll that’s part of the new platform will be rolled out next week for $12.99.
Cordova said that, although the chain will accommodate special orders, “the majority like the way they are constructed. We don’t get many of those requests. Most of the sandwiches are accepted the way they are."
The new lobster roll, called the lobster salad BLT, is made with lobster claw and knuckle meat mixed with light mayonnaise and topped with applewood smoked bacon and sliced tomatoes. It’s served on a lightly toasted eggless brioche that Cordova developed, replacing the croissant that was used for Au Bon Pain’s lobster salad sandwich last year.
Cordova said they found that a majority of his customers preferred eggless bread and didn’t like it as sweet as typical brioche. “The sweetness only comes from the butter in the brioche,” he said, adding that he hopes to introduce a new bread every few months at the restaurant and develop a sandwich to go with it.
Of the 11 permanent new items, which vary in price depending on the market but range between $5.79 and $6.99, the most popular is the Napawrap with avocado, according to Au Bon Pain executives. For that item, a low-sodium flour wrapper is spread with a lemon chive aioli and rolled with avocado, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and lemon-marinated grilled chicken.
The second most popular item is the grilled chicken avocado, served on a toasted baguette with applewood smoked bacon, tomatoes, mesclun, Dijon mustard and blue cheese dressing.
The other new sandwiches are:
•and Swiss on a multigrain baguette with tomatoes and a honey pecan spread made with cream cheese, goat cheese, honey and finely chopped pecans. “I think the combination of sweetness with the turkey is almost like a Thanksgiving dinner,” Cordova said.
• Black Angus roast beef and herb cheese on a multigrain baguette with arugula and tomatoes.
• Black Angus roast beef and Cheddar on ciabatta with tomatoes, mesclun, mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. Cordova explained that the roast beef sandwich on ciabatta has bolder flavors to balance the milder bread.
• Black Forest ham and Cheddar on a multigrain baguette with tomatoes and honey mustard.
• Chipotle black bean burger with avocado — a vegetarian offering on ciabatta with chipotle Cheddar, caramelized onions, tomatoes and chipotle mayonnaise, served warm.
• Grilled chicken on ciabatta with tomatoes, mesclun and lemon aioli. “If someone wants a nice sandwich that’s plain but also flavorful, this is the one you want,” Cordova said.
• Mediterranean wrap with red pepper hummus, feta, field greens, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, cucumbers and a sun-dried tomato spread that Cordova describes as “a very thick sun-dried tomato vinaigrette with onions and garlic." He added, "It’s something to refresh your mouth from the cheese and the other vegetables.”
• Southwest tuna salad wrap with chipotle Cheddar, romaine, tomatoes and chipotle mayonnaise.
• The Veggie — a multigrain baguette with grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, arugula and lemon aioli. Cordova said the mozzarella for this sandwich is delivered to each restaurant two to three times per week.
Boston-based Au Bon Pain operates and franchises 318 units worldwide.