Pret a Manger is a new sandwich shop imported to the U.S. from Britain. But don’t let that deter you! (Sorry ;-)) The pilot has already taken off in (notoriously cutthroat) NYC, which now has about 20 restaurants. Sometime around January 2009, Washington finally got one, too. I tried Pret yesterday and can happily report that it’s a welcome new lunch option downtown.
The concept is in the name. “Pret,” I’m told, is French for “ready,” as in, “ready-to-wear fashion.” So “Pret a Manger” puns on the phrase “ready to eat,” meaning both prepared food and hunger. Pop into one of the slick cafes and you’ll find a wall-length refrigerator stuffed with an impressive assortment of “just made” sandwiches, wraps, salads, yogurts, and juices. The sandwiches can be purchased in whole or halves—convenient for soup-n-sandwich types and variety lovers. On Friday, I fell into the latter camp: And the food?
It’s GOOD! I had grilled Bell and Evans chicken with mayo, bacon, tomato and mesculn on granary (whole grain) bread and Applegate roast beef and aged Parmesan with mayo and arugula on baguette. Both were extremely fresh and tasty. The chicken surprised me a little because it was chopped, with a chicken salad-like texture. The roast beef wasn’t rare enough for my taste (as someone else said, I like it “so rare that it tries to graze on my salad“), but the sammy was still delicious. In both cases, the bread, made with only unbleached flour, was really fantastic. The baguette was perfectly crisp and chewy, and the granary had nice bits of nuts and seeds and was very soft.
Pret promises to use “organic when we can,” and this bears out in the quality of the food. Everyone at my table agreed that although the sandwiches were pretty simple, there was something special about them. As one person put it, “I feel silly paying for this chicken and avocado sandwich, since I know I could make the exact same thing at home, but something they do here makes it taste so much better!”
One thing’s for certain—it’s not MSG pumping up the flavor. Take a look at Pret’s don’ts:
Fortunately, fresh and natural don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Pret’s prices are pretty average for lunch in D.C., with whole sandwiches costing around $6.00 and halves coming in at $3.00. And the best thing about Pret? Not a limp slice of American processed cheese or shredded iceberg lettuce in sight.
Pret a Manger
1825 I Street, NW,
Washington DC, 20006