Newk's brings a new flavor to Greenville

Part of the dining room at Greenville's new Newk's Eatery, with open kitchen on the left.

By Jane Hudson

Newk's Eatery, opening Monday, Aug. 6 in La Promenade center, brings Greenville a taste of the Deep South (with a bit of an Italian twist) on a daily basis. The restaurant is in the original Panera Bread location.

Newk's is a fast-casual restaurant offering soups, sandwiches, salads and pizzas.

What sets it apart from the other chain sandwich shops? An elevated menu selection, scratch-made fare, an obsession with quality ingredients, creative comfort food balanced with healthy options ... and more.

Newk's Greenville General Manager is John Kurnat, who has lived in Pitt County for nearly a dozen years and previously managed the hospital-area Starbucks.

Newk's was founded in 2004 by the Newcomb family team that created the McAlister’s Deli concept and is headquartered in Jackson, Miss. The company website notes that many of the chain's staple menu items were adapted from family recipes and the name "Newk's" is an abbreviation of the family's name.

A few signature items include:

* Newk's Chicken Salad made with white meat chicken, sliced grapes, diced red onions and pecans.

* Two takes on mac and cheese -- Five Cheese, with Asiago, Vermont white Cheddar, Parmesan, Ammerlander Swiss and yellow Cheddar; and Six Cheese with the addition of pimento cheese (with a tangy kick) and crumbled bacon.

* The Debra Pizza with sliced grilled chicken, Roma tomatoes, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and basil pesto sauce.

Sandwich offerings include:

* The Farmer's Market Sandwich with grilled squash, zucchini, portabella mushrooms, caramelized onions and Gouda cheese topped with house-made basil mayo, sliced tomatoes and fresh spinach served on 11-grain wheat bread.

* Pesto Chicken with sliced, flame-grilled chicken, red and yellow bell peppers, creamy goat cheese with basil and garlic pesto sauce served on 11-grain wheat bead.

Sandwiches come with a choice of side: cole slaw, Tippa County caviar (a black-eye pea and bell pepper marinated salad with a jalapeno bite) pasta salad, fresh fruit, or chips by the bag.

Also on the menu:

Newk's Pepperoni & Sausage Pizza (photo from company website)

Newk's 10-inch pizzas are created on hand-rolled dough brushed with garlic-infused olive oil. Varieties include Pepperoni, Veggie, Margherita, Spicy Shrimp, Mediterranean, and BBQ Chicken.

Entree salads include Grilled Salmon Caesar, Cobb, Ahi Tuna, and Shrimp Remoulade. All salad dressings are made from Newk's recipes.

Soups selections, which vary daily and change seasonally, include Corn and Crab Chowder, Mississippi Black-Eyed Pea Soup, Pepperjack Crawfish, Loaded Potato, Tomato Basil, and Chicken Sausage Gumbo. (You can view each day's selection on the company website.)

Newk's 12-layer Strawberry Cake (photo from company website)

Desserts are made from scratch for Newk's, include brownies and slices of 12-layer chocolate cake and 12-layer strawberry cake, and caramel cake.

Only 32-ounce beverages are offered -- in a plastic Newk's take-away cup. You fill your own cups with tea (included some sweetened with Splenda) and Coke products.

The Kid's Menu -- for ages 12 and under -- includes toasted grill cheese sandwiches, pepperoni or cheese pizzas, and mac & cheese, all with a child-size beverage.

The restaurants have kitchens that allow patrons to watch as food is prepared. The Greenville Newk's even has a dining bar directly in front of the windowed food prep area.

The Roundtable at Newk's offers eclectic condiments.

And each restaurant has a complimentary condiment bar called The Roundtable, which you pass as you walk into the dining area. It's stocked with roasted garlic, hand-grated Parmesan, capers, packs of thin and crispy bread sticks, croutons made in-house, and sliced jalapenos and more.

When you walk into the Newk's entrance area (on the Greenville Boulevard side of the restaurant), you are greeted by a hostess and directed toward the register in the front left corner. After ordering, you are given a number to take to your table.

The entry and registers for ordering at Newk's.

Newk's is decorated with a light wood floor and walls painted in earth tones of olive green, orange, red, yellow and tan.

The restaurant has been remodeled for 154 patrons, with a variety of seating options. There also is an outdoor front patio with an awning and wrought iron tables with umbrellas.

Staff members -- there are 80 employees -- deliver your food, offer beverage refills, and clean up the table when you finish eating.

A Greenville sign in the dining room at Newk's eatery.

A grab-n-go case is offered at all Newk's locations, but the Greenville restaurant has added a new twist to its Newk's Market Express: it opens at 6 a.m., at the suggestion of Kurnat. The early hours make it easy for third-shift workers -- and others -- to procure something other than breakfast. Just pop in the back entrance (in the La Promenade parking lot) and look in the glass-front refrigerator to find food prepared that morning to grab and take with you.

The Charleston, SC-based group that owns the local Newk's franchise also plans to open restaurants in Wilmington and Charleston. They selected to open the Greenville location first because of the university population, Kurnat said.

Among Newk's more than 120 restaurants are locations in Cary, Charlotte, Fayetteville and Greensboro.

(Editor's Note: My family, along with hundreds of other area residents, signed up for a free entree during Newk's training days. We were not compensated in any other way for this article, and the opinions are my own.)

On Friday, Bill and I and my mother-in-law Kathryn were treated to lunch at Greenville's new Newk's Eatery.

General manager John Kurnat greeted us and explained that the menu had been divided up for each training day, so staff could focus on perfecting different parts. We had arrived on Shrimp Day.

Shrimp Po'Boy

Kathryn ordered the Shrimp Po'boy, with shrimp, olive oil, lettuce, tomato, pickles, sliced red onion, and a side of cocktail sauce on French Parisian bread.

Shrimp and Avocado Salad

I opted for the Shrimp & Avocado Salad: a dozen large broiled shrimp on a bed of peppery arugula greens tossed with a tangy lemon basil vinaigrette. The salad also included creamy avocado, tangy feta crumbles, sweet grape tomatoes and sliced green onions. I added some capers from The Roundtable.

Newk's Q (photo from company website)

And Bill ordered one of Newk's best-selling sandwiches (one that didn't feature shrimp!): Newk's Q sandwich with sliced grilled chicken, bacon, Swiss cheese and signature tangy white barbecue sauce served on French Parisian bread.

We all enjoyed our choices -- and the servings we so big we brought leftovers home.

The staff was friendly and accommodating. Although the restaurant was nearly full, we didn't feel crowded.

And we all agreed that we can't wait to try the 12-layer cake when Newk's opens.

Newk's Eatery

516-A SE Greenville Blvd.

Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily; Newk's Market Express opens at 6 a.m. 252-351-8393

Jane Welborn Hudson, a native of Greenville, wrote The Daily Reflector's Hot Dish restaurant column for 12 years and the Greensboro News & Record's Short Orders restaurant column for 8 years. Email her at