Tampa Bay diners will have another fast casual restaurant choice tomorrow when Newk’s Eatery opens in Clearwater Mall, the brand’s first location south of Jacksonville.
FoodieFrog was invited to their media event on Saturday which included a variety of food samples and an exclusive behind the scenes tour by David Baker, Director of Operations. “It’s actually a second generation fast casual concept” according Baker “that focuses on fresh, distinctive flavors”.
Almost everything is made in house and made-from scratch, right down to the salad croutons which are made from the cut ends of the sandwich loafs.
The tour began at the front registrar signature “round table” where diners can help themselves complimentary capers, pickles, shaved parmesan cheese, breadsticks and the house-made croutons and roasted garlic.
Like typical fast casual restaurants, you order & pay at the counter and they bring the food to your table.
Diners also have a “Grab-n-Go” option for quick pick-up of phoned in to-go orders and/or pre-packaged items.
Next was kitchen tour, which included both the front house open kitchen and the back prep area.
Obviously everything was shiny & new. Even the pans used to roast the garlic in-house looked right out of the box.
I was impressed when a worker accidently dropped a spoon on the floor and the rest of the staff immediately shouted “In The Sink!”. Kudos to the back-house trainers.
Now for their food.
Shrimp and Avocado salad – All lettuce is hand cut in-house. No cut bagged lettuce here.
Very impressed with the large, broiled shrimp and the fresh arugula. Loved the lemon basil vinaigrette.
Newk’s Favorite salad – This mixed green salad included an impressive portion of sliced of chicken along with a unique combination of sliced grapes, crumbled gorgonzola cheese, dried cranberries and artichoke hearts.
Cobb Salad – Again, a mixed greens salad with generous serving of sliced chicken, crumpled bacon and gorgonzola cheese, grape tomatoes, pecans and a blue cheese dressing.
Six Cheese Pimento with Bacon – We shared a small side and OMG, this was the BEST macaroni & cheese we’ve ever had. Nice kick with the house-made pimiento. Very cheesy and the Applewood bacon on the top was perfect with tons of flavor. Next time I’m ordering the entrée side.
Newk’s “Q” specialty toasted sandwich – Sliced grilled chicken, thick-cut bacon, Swiss cheese and their signature white BBQ sauce. The sauce has lots of flavor and is made with a proprietary blend of spices. The NY bread was impressive. Soft & airy inside and lightly toasted.
“Tippah County” caviar – A name unique to Newk’s Eatery, this is a zesty mix of black-eyed peas with green peppers and onions.
Chicken Noodle Soup – Not a broth – more like a stew with lots of huge chicken chunks. Small batches made in-house. Very hearty with a good balance of noodles, meat and vegetables. They offer a selection of four daily soups.
Strawberry Cake – Couldn’t help but finish the meal with a slice of cake. These are made by the company kitchen and shipped to the stores. Certainly looked and tasted like home-made.
The frosting was creamy and had lots of strawberry flavor. The cake itself also had lots of strawberry flavor; in fact, we could almost see the strawberry seeds. Whole cakes are available for purchase at the front counter.
Bottled water $1.69 – ten cents from every bottle is donated to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.
The franchise team behind tomorrow’s opening has committed to opening 11 Newk’s Eateries in the Tampa Bay area over the next several years. “The Sarasota location is scheduled to open in March” said Baker “and we’re looking on a Tampa location shortly down the road.” That Tampa location is planned to be near the Dale Mabry and Kennedy intersection. Fifteen more locations will follow over the next several years.
For Monday’s opening, the first 50 guests to walk through Newk’s doors will be awarded a year’s supply of exceptional flavors from Newk’s, along with a gift package of Newk’s premium items. The next 50 guests in line will also be given a gift package stocked full of Newk’s signature merchandise.
Newk’s Eatery is located at 2613 Gulf to Bay Boulevard.