Cary, N.C. — Set to build six to seven more locations in the Triangle, the fast-casual Newk’s Eatery has started its regional expansion in Cary. Transforming the dark wood and bar feel of the former Hibernian Pub into a motif of bright colors and an open air kitchen, the arrival of Newk’s Eatery marks the latest competitor in the crowded fast-casual marketplace.
Strategically placed in the middle of the flow of foot traffic is what Newk’s considers to be the heartbeat of its restaurants, the Roundtable. Adorned with a dramatic centerpiece and house-prepared condiments such as roasted garlic and shredded Parmesan, the Roundtable is Newk’s center of customization and community. Shoulder to shoulder with other guests, eaters are invited to load their dishes with the variety of freebies.
Dishes from this Jackson, Miss., based franchise aren’t inspired by any particular region or cuisine, but the theme that the brand builds itself on: made from scratch in-house. A dish like the ahi tuna salad has a flair of Asian flavors but all of its elements, such as the chopped lettuce, seared tuna, and ginger dressing, are all prepared on location. A generous stack of seared tuna tops the freshly chopped greens, making for a wallet friendly entree coming in at $12. Soups aren’t neglected by Newk’s made-from-scratch mantra. While the bowls of crab bisque are made in house, the soup is noticeably not as creamy and velvety as some of its competitors.
While the Triangle is in the middle of the battle between eastern and western barbecue sauces, Newk’s white BBQ sauce offers an alternative that doesn’t require a pledge any regional allegiances. This tangy, mayo-based sauce traditional in Alabama is smothered on many of the dishes at Newk’s, most notably the pizza sharing the restaurant’s namesake, the Newk’s “Q." The pizza’s fresh dough provides a decently crisp base for Newk’s to pile on toppings such as sliced jalapenos and deli chicken.
Pimento cheese is a familiar dish to the Tar Heel state, so many might not find many reasons to be excited for Newk’s version of the classic Southern sandwich. The bread, baked in-house, is a treat in texture as the pillowy roll tears softly with each chew. However, the spread inside is lacks the sharpness from the cheddar that a fan looks for in a exceptional pimento cheese.
With a vast array different voices in the fast-casual discussion, Newk’s might get muted in the conversation. But for families seeking something made fresh and fairly priced, they might hear Newk’s loud and clear.