Review No. 138: Newk’s Eatery
1040 S. Amity Road, Suite J
62.9 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants
He Said: “Newk’s” sounds like a place where you go to get food heated up in a microwave. But no, turns out it’s a chain of eateries specializing in pizzas, sandwiches, soups and salads. There are around 100 Newk’s restaurants scattered about thirteen different states. The chain was founded in Oxford (Mississippi, not England) in 2004, and is now headquartered in Jackson. This is one of the newer restaurants in Conway, and we’d been trying for a week to get there when there wasn’t a huge crowd and we could actually find a place to sit. We finally squeezed in shortly after 11 a.m. on a Friday.
She Said: I’d had a rather grueling return-to-working-out work out at barre class, so I was hungry, but I was also eager not to undo any good I had done my body with junky food, so a place that offered a variety of food categories was appealing to me. We went early as we’d seen the lines for service and seats on another occasion, when we left to go get tacos.
He Said: The place is built for volume. It’s a large open eating area with lots of tables fairly close together. It seems new, but not exactly cozy.
She Said:It’s also loud. We could barely hear each other as we sat at the back of the dining area. As you enter there isn’t a lot of room for the lines to order, and then you move into the large area for tables, which also houses drinks, condiments and extra bits for your salads, soups and sandwiches on a round table. The colors are calming and cool, but there’s not much they can do when the place is full and buzzing. The open kitchen also contributes to the noise level, as it opens right onto the dining room.
He Said:They have Coke products, and you are given a cup to pour your own. They did have Barq’s root beer, and it was good, so I was satisfied.
She Said: I had iced tea, unsweetened. There was some confusion about the orders of our drinks. I ordered an unsweet tea, and got a large, plastic holiday Newk’s cup. He Said ordered a small drink and got a rather small, clear plastic cup. I hadn’t stipulated large, but that’s what I got without saying a size. He Said switched to get a big glass, too.
He Said: Looking for things on the low-fat side, I was drawn to the grilled chicken options. They have a grilled chicken sandwich that adds bacon to the grilled chicken (obviously not aimed at people who are getting the grilled chicken because of its low fat qualities), so I ordered the chicken pesto sandwich, which has no bacon. Newk’s has a “Pairing” option (where you can have, say, soup and sandwich, or soup and salad, etc.), so I paired my sandwich with a cup of chicken broccoli soup. Then on a whim that I justified by saying I had to eat a variety of stuff to be of service to our faithful readers, I grabbed a brownie that was just sitting there at the counter calling my name.
That, dear readers, was just the beginning of our adventure. This is one of those places where they give you a number and then somebody brings out the meal later. We got our number and sat down in a corner where one of the two or three remaining tables was situated, and sat down to wait. And wait. And then wait some more, watching all those around us get their meals, including those who sat down well after us. When the meal finally came, they brought me a regular chicken sandwich rather than the chicken pesto one. I didn’t want to complain, and I didn’t want to wait another twenty minutes to have them bring out the right order, so I took the bacon off the sandwich and gave it to She Said, and ate what they brought me.
The sandwich wasn’t bad (probably would have tasted better with the bacon, but that is anathema to my pancreas), but a little bit dry and not anything to write home about, as my mother used to say.
The cup of soup, which was a huge “cup” (apparently the full bowl of soup is something like 32 ounces here, which will drown a baby elephant) was the highlight of the meal. The cheddar was a bit sharp and had a bit of a tang to it (take my word on this, I’m from Wisconsin), and the broccoli added just enough flavor to complement it. As for the brownie, that was good, chocolatey, chewy and undry (She Said censors any version of the “m” word), tasty but not exceptionable.
Turns out I didn’t do my pancreas any favors with that meal, as I discovered when I looked online at Newk’s nutrition menu—something I should have done before I went. The chicken pesto sandwich would have only been 15 grams of fat, but the one they brought instead contained 27 grams. By casting out the bacon I saved a few grams, but not enough. The reason the broccoli-cheddar soup tasted so good was probably its 33 grams of fat. Good thing I didn’t have more than a cup. I could have made wiser choices there: the wild mushroom soup or the chicken tortilla soup (5 grams) would have been a much safer bet. Of course the brownie added another 13 grams of fat (though all other desserts had more), making a total of 73 grams—13 grams of fat over what should be my daily maximum. I could have eaten healthier at Newk’s, but I didn’t do the necessary preparation. I didn’t get a lot of help from the menu either.
She Said: Well, He Said, avoiding cheese soup might have helped your numbers! For my meal, I went for the shrimp and avocado salad. I did briefly consider pizza (I think about eating pizza 90 percent of the time), but as I said, I was eager not to undo a good week of working out in one meal. There are a number of good-looking salads on offer, and shrimp and avocado are two of my favorite things on greens, so I quickly put in my order (when I got to the front of the line).
The salad, when it came, was huge, a big bowl of arugula, feta, shrimp and avocado. There was plenty of shrimp and avocado, things that are often touted in menu descriptions, but don’t really show up in great numbers when the dish arrives. Just eating the shrimp filled me up, as I tried to get in bites of the greens and accompaniments. I ended up bringing so much of the left-over salad home, I couldn’t even fit it all in the to-go box. (I’ll put that arugula in an omelet, and at least eat some of it.)
The shrimp was perfectly cooked and the avocado was fresh and went well with the feta and green onions. I thought the dressing was too strong and overwhelmed the tastes of the ingredients at times. If I order this again, I’ll ask for light dressing or the dressing on the side. And, after being inspired by He Said to review at the nutrition information online, I will definitely put the brakes on the lemon-basil vinaigrette in the future: According to Newk’s nutrition calculator, the dressing doubledthe calories of the salad. Before the dressing, it’s a very healthy 340 calories; after adding the dressing, the calorie count shoots up to 680. Y’all, that dressing is not worth skipping supper!
He Said: Well, I got the wrong sandwich and I had aged several decades by the time it finally arrived, but at least the guy who brought it out (he seemed to be the manager) apologized for the delay and offered us a free piece of cake, which I would have taken him up on if I hadn’t already had the brownie.
She Said:The woman who took our order wasn’t particularly friendly and seemed a little irritated by our confusion over the size of drinks we were given, but the man who brought our food late was very friendly, apologetic and really wanted us to take him up on that cake. I did think He Said should have told him the problem with the sandwich, but I understood his not wanting to wait longer.
What We Got and What We Paid: One shrimp avocado salad, one “pairing” of one-half grilled chicken sandwich and cup of broccoli cheese soup, one brownie, and two fountain drinks (unsweetened iced tea and Barq’s Root Beer), all for $30.84. Which is, shall we say, a bit hefty for lunch, especially one at which (sadly) no alcohol was consumed.
Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 32 minutes.
He Said: In all fairness, there was a big crowd when we ate here and they haven’t been open long. The food was not bad, but you might want to wait until after Christmas shopping season to eat here.
She Said (or is it worth the weight I gained): I gained .8 pounds, although I did have French fries later in the day, so they could be the culprit—along with the salad dressing. The point of my order was not to gain weight, so …
Is Newk’s Good At What It’s Good For? If you like large portions of food in a loud dining room, sure! The food is good enough, but we won’t be back until it settles down and settles in.