Cons: Inconsistent menu, "all items not avaiable at all locations," and high calorie counts
Au Bon Pain has two curious distinctions:
* it is the only "quick-serve restaurant" (translation: fast food joint) that I have tried to reproduce a dish from at home
* it has one of the silliest uses of French I've seen south of the 49th parallel, second only to perhaps "bleu cheese." (It is blue cheese or fromage bleu. Come on, you knew that.)
The Au Bon Pains are not reliable from place to place, making it somewhat awkward to review -- though that in itself is a bit telling. The food is reliably good, but the menu is inexplicably different.
This is okay, unless they're missing the two critical items: the tomato-spinach-pasta soup (this is what I duplicated[*]), and the spinach-stuffed croissant.
They serve some amazingly tasty food for a "QSR" establishment (somehow, I am having a hard time calling it a fast-food place), and I have never had a bad experience, save for one ridiculously busy Boston franchise that had, horrors of horrors, a dirty toilet. (The place was absolutely packed; I let it slide.) The oh-so-chewy not-quite-authentic bagels covered in cheesy goodness: ah, yes; this was what fast food was meant to be.
The one caveat with Au Bon Pain is that it is a dangerous habit. At some point many years ago I had a room-mate who was actually daft enough to believe that croissants were some sort of health food. This seems to be a bit of wide-spread belief. Do yourself a favour and check out calorie counts before taking up an Au Bon Pain habit: they have done a great job at disguising junk food as healthy food (must be all that spinach) -- undoubtedly the rub of the menu itself.
[*] Really, really easy: more or less canned tomatoes, some broth, chopped spinach, and pasta of your choice. Season with basil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, whatever you like...