The lunch-hour Loop crowd might think a chain imported from England with a French name would be a stuffy, sit-down affair. But Pret A Manger means "ready to eat," and the fast-food speed with natural-leaning foods have won over many Brits (and a number of Americans in NYC and DC). Offering a fast food-style layout with a Trader Joe's-like branding of everything they sell in the store, Pret is a simple take on high-end fast food.
The cooler at Pret is stocked with a number of sandwiches ($5-7) made that day. Cold options like chicken, apple & cranberry (grilled chicken, julienne apples, cranberries, mayo, baby leaf) or slim falafel tomato (tomato & spinach falafel, tomato, red onion, ketchup, spinach) are offered alongside wraps like an avocado pine nut wrap (avocado, toasted pine nuts, Mediterranean dressing, Parmesan, basil, tomato, cucumber, spinach) and salads that come with a complimentary tub of the dressing of your choice. Other sandwiches are "toasties" – just bring them up the counter for a quick heating and enjoy.
Morning visitors can grab one of the various fruit pots (banana, grapes, posh fruit salad) or a Ronnybrook Farms yogurt pot (parfait-style cups, the yoga bunny includes julienne apple, cranberries, raisins, and almonds). Or sit down with any of the delectables on their baking racks – croissants of several varieties and fresh cookies are only $1-3.
Pret even offers its own branded sodas – Pure Pret Ginger Beer, Pure Pret Apple, and others offer a can eschewing complex ingredients for juice extracts and sparkling water. The final test for any visitor to the restaurant are the desserts surround the register, the Love Bars (and their tiny siblings, the Love Bites) – a mix of dark chocolate chips, coconut, walnuts, almonds, chopped dates and raisins.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Dan Morgridge