June 21, 2011

Au Bon Pain opens at Medical Center Plaza

Vanderbilt’s newest dining option is now open.

(John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

Au Bon Pain officially opened its doors June 21, taking over the renovated space formerly occupied by McDonald’s on Medical Center Plaza. The fast-casual dining spot will serve people who work in or pass through the hospital each day.

“It’s been a busy first day,” said Robert Grace, associate manager. “People were waiting to get in when we unlocked the doors at 5 a.m.”

(John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

Au Bon Pain, which means “the fresh bread” in French, offers healthy foods along with

cupcakes and baked goods, including a soup bar, salad bar, made-to-order sandwiches and fresh-made smoothies. Pre-packaged meals also are available. The restaurant has plenty of seating and a private conference room for small groups.

Menu items are marked with caloric content, and a computer kiosk is on hand for customers to look up any nutritional questions about the food they might have. Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and soy-free options are available.

(John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

“I think this will help with congestion in the cafeteria,” said Crizel Quinn, medical technologist, who sat down to share a bagel with co-worker Susan Sefers. “It’s a better option than we had before, and I know it will be a great place to have breakfast and lunch.”

Au Bon Pain is known for its baked goods, and sandwiches are available on fresh-baked baguette, focaccia, ciabatta and bagels among others. Pastries include croissant, scones, muffins and strudel.

“We are proud to be associated with Vanderbilt,” said Richard Morin, owner and general manager. “We know that people are concerned about health and what they’re putting in their bodies. So we’ve put the calorie content on everything – good bad or ugly, people need to know what they are consuming beforehand, so they can make smart choices.”

(John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

Morin is in talks to open Au Bon Pain kiosks in Vanderbilt Law School and Owen Graduate School of Management, he said.

This is the Boston-based chain’s first location in the Southeast, but not its first at a university medical center. Au Bon Pain operates at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, University of Maryland Medical Center and Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, according to its website.

Au Bon Pain’s operating hours are 5 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday, and 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., on Saturday and Sunday.