Is it just me, or are more restaurants opening at a faster pace in Sarasota than ever before?
It’s no secret that your SarasotaFoodies believe Sarasota is the mecca for foodies of all flavors, but even we are surprised how many regional and national chain restaurants have popped up in our market over the past year or two. We couldn’t help but notice that the concept gaining the most traction is fast-casual restaurants, especially those with an emphasis on freshness and big flavor.
A friend who is also a raving fan of Newk’s Eatery (back from his days in Tallahassee) enthusiastically recommended Newk’s, even calling us before they opened, making sure we knew “all about Newk’s.” And since I trust his culinary opinion, I was really looking forward to checking out Newk’s latest location near the University Town Center Mall.
Newk’s has a different format than you may be used to. Right inside the entryway, you’ll find a stack of menus, and a counter of friendly staff ready to answer questions and make recommendations. This is where you place and pay for your order, and receive a number card you take to the table of your choice. There are metal stands on each table where you place your order number card and in a few short minutes – voilà – your freshly prepared food arrives.
But don’t think for a minute that Newk’s has prepared “fast food” sitting under a heat lamp or on a buffet. Newk’s places a lot of importance on guests knowing what to expect from their kitchen . . . exactly as stated on their table cards! You can see the staff in the open-view kitchen, working in perfect lockstep and pulling together every single meal entirely of fresh baked, fresh chopped, and freshly sliced ingredients. Impressive, considering the breadth of selections on the menu!
I opted for the toasted Grilled Steak sandwich, a flame-grilled petite tenderloin (!) served medium rare, with caramelized onions and provolone on a house-made roll. Of course, all of the sammies are served with your choice of sides, so I went with their “Tippah County” caviar, consisting of black-eyed peas, green onion, and bell peppers.
Everything on my plate danced together in perfect harmony, but I’ll always give a tip of the cap to any restaurant serving up a perfectly flaky toasted bread that gives a crunch on the outside, then moves to a soft and light texture on the inside. You just can’t go wrong with bread this delicious.
Since I called dibs on a sandwich, Jill decided to choose a fresh tossed salad. She, too, went for the beef, in the form of the generously portioned Black & Bleu salad. Her medium rare Petite Filet was framed in a bowl of Arcadian mixed greens, crumbled gorgonzola, pecans, sweet grape tomatoes, red onion, and a house-made creamy bleu cheese dressing. There’s nothing overly complicated here, just crisp veggies and simply classic flavor. This was salad done right!
Oh . . . I almost forgot to mention Newk’s “Roundtable!” Situated in the center of the room sits a station for you to ramp up the flavor of anything you ordered with an assortment of sauces, oils, chopped pickles, peppers and croutons, various cheeses, roasted garlic cloves and crispy breadsticks! I love this idea!
And even though these two meals would be more than enough to satisfy the stoutest of appetites, we had to order one of the Artisan Pizzas, purely for journalistic purposes, (yeah, right! How often do I do this?)
All of the pizzas are prepared with hand-rolled dough and brushed with garlic olive oil or chili oil. Our Spicy Shrimp pie had broiled plump shrimp, red and yellow peppers, Roma tomatoes, house-shredded mozzarella, grated Parmesan, a sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes and a little fresh cilantro. I can honestly say that every ingredient was easily identified and presented the exact flavor profile as was described. The 10″ pizzas are perfect for one hungry patron, or to have as an add-on among friends.
In summation, the vast menu has something for absolutely everyone (Kid’s menu? Check. Vegetarian? Check. Gluten free? Check. Enough choices to keep me coming back for more? Check, check, and check.)
All in favor of fresh, delicious, fast and affordable food, please raise your hands . . . That’s what I thought!
Welcome to Sarasota Newk’s!