With hand-cut produce, meat and cheese, and handmade cakes, Newk’s Eatery is sure to make you feel at home.
“I know every restaurant says that they want to take care of their customers, but for us everything is focused on our guests,” associate manager Philip Stevens said. “Kitchen workers, dishwashers, doesn't matter who it is, they all know that that's really our goal.”
After over a year of anticipation, Newk’s Grand Opening Celebration was held Friday. At the event they cut a ribbon with the Chamber of Commerce, distributed free giveaways and featured UF cheerleaders along with UF mascots Albert and Alberta.
Overall, Stevens said that the first week of operation had gone well.
“It was really smooth,” he said. “So far that's been our busiest day, which is pretty much what we expected.”
For over a year, customers waited for its opening. Many said they felt excited.
“We were anxious waiting for it to open,” Biswadeep Dhar, a UF family, youth and community sciences junior said.
“We've had a lot of people come out and a lot of positive feedback online and in the store.” Stevens said.
Farmer’s Market Classic Sandwich
Although this sandwich is meatless, it certainly isn’t lacking in flavor. The earthy squash, zucchini, portabella mushrooms, caramelized onions and spinach compliment the house-made basil mayo sauce well. The 11-grain bread — soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside — completes the sandwich. The smoked Gouda and tomatoes are delicious additions, tying the sandwich together.
Deanna Lambert, a 43-year-old counter server, suggested this sandwich. As a vegetarian, she said there are many options for her at Newk’s Eatery.
“It's easy to eat here especially because I know everything is fresh in house,” Lambert said, “I think that makes a big difference in the taste.”
Five Cheese Mac & Cheese
This mac and cheese is a Newk’s family recipe. Tossed with a rich blend of Asiago, Vermont white cheddar, Parmesan and Ammerlander Swiss, the small dish contains a variety of flavors.
Under the top layer of cheddar cheese, the elbow pasta is cooked to a golden brown. While the sauce is a bit thin and the noodles lack a bite, the dish has a nice flavor throughout.
A California style pizza, it is thin and crunchy. The Campioni pepperoni is briny and slightly crisp, and packed a flavorful punch. With the addition of basil, tomatoes and cauliflower crust, the pizza is light, fresh and feels healthy. However, the pizza could benefit from a bigger portion of toppings, as it felt a little sparse.
“All of our pizzas come with a choice of traditional crust or you can get a side of cauliflower crust,” Lambert said. “It’s gluten-free and a lot of people like it more because it’s less calories.”
According to Stevens, this pizza is one of the most popular. While it manages to balance savory with sweet tomato sauce, the dish lacks the kick needed to set it apart from the standard American restaurant.
After moving from India eight years ago, Dhar said that the food at Newk’s is very different compared to his native food. “We love the pizza,” he said. “I don’t have any complaints, it’s a completely different taste.”
Dozen-layer Chocolate Cake
This cake is made from scratch in their Mississippi bakery, and it's not hard to tell. Decadent and moist with a silky icing, it leaves you wanting more. Unlike the produce and cheeses that are hand-cut each morning, it’s obvious that the cake was made a few days prior — particularly because it is presented in a plastic container. Even still, the taste and texture more than make up for the presentation.
Overall, Newk’s stayed true to their word in terms of hospitality. Full of welcoming faces and Southern charm, it really does feel like home. The food is pretty pricey but not unreasonable given the quality. While the mac and cheese and pizza didn’t stand out as anything great, the sandwich and cake make Newk’s worth a visit
Overall rating: 7/10