Club sandwich from Newk's Jess Roberts

The Park Avenue Shopping center on University Avenue has a Panera Bread, Tropical Smoothie, and Cheddar’s, which means that the new Newk’s location that opened last week has jumped into a scene full of places to grab a quick sandwich or salad. Still, judging by the bustling dining room that greeted us on our visit for dinner the other day, the fast casual joint shouldn’t have a problem competing in the mixed-use shopping center that has become a thriving part of Little Rock’s Midtown.

There’s nothing really mind-blowing at Newk’s, but we still found a lot to like about the place. First, two of us were able to eat our fill for right around $20, which is a plus for anyone looking to get full for not a lot of money. Secondly, the service was fast and friendly, and our food hit the table in no time flat. The dining room at Newk’s is more spacious than it looks from the outside, and the tables are spaced well enough that we didn’t feel like we were right on top of the other diners.

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We went for a couple of basic items on our visit: the Club Sandwich and a Cobb Salad. The club was served hot, on some really nice toasted bread, and the melted cheese made for a nice gooey sandwich with flavorful meats and toppings. The vegetables on the sandwich were fresh, and they don’t skimp you on turkey and ham, which made for a good, balanced sandwich that was quite satisfying.

The salad didn’t fare as well, with the main selling point being that it is quite large. Despite the ample portion, we found it to be rather bland, which is surprising for a salad advertised as being made with Gorgonzola cheese. Unfortunately, the cheese wasn’t nearly as pungent as we like, and the dressing had a rather muted flavor, too. The salad also comes with pecans, but they were so small and scarce that they might as well have not been there at all. Luckily, Newk’s has a rather large table full of condiments and add-on ingredients, so we were able to spike the salad with some vinegar, salt, pepper, and croutons, which made it much better, if not great.

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What sets Newk’s apart from its neighbor Panera is a selection of personal-size pizzas, which we plan to try on our next visit. Our hope is that the pizzas are closer in flavor to the sandwich, which was quite good rather than the uninspired salad. Still, for the money, it’s a great place to drop in while you’re shopping, and I imagine that the residents of Park Avenue’s apartments will find it a great place to walk for a bite to eat.