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The long-awaited Newk’s Eatery held its grand opening at 3332 Lake St., on Monday and will now operate daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“People are excited that we’re here and it’s so close to campus,” said Reginald Holmes, the location’s general manager. “The turnout was busier than expected. We had about 100 more guests than we did during the soft opening.”

The 4,200-square-foot building, formerly a Gatti’s Pizza, was gutted then rebuilt to include an open kitchen and customized

finishes, such as the interior brick walls. The space is able to hold 150 guests with an additional 70 on its outdoor patio.

The restaurant’s proximity to LSU’s Student Health Center makes it a convenient dining option for students, faculty and staff on campus.

“We’re just really happy to be in this market,” said Mary Branton, Newk’s catering sales coordinator. “This location has been a long time coming.”

With its opening on Lake St., the Newk’s chain of restaurants now includes 80 locations in 13 states with plans for further expansion in Baton Rouge and a new location in Lafayette by the end of this year.

Newk’s places special emphasis on its sizeable menu of healthy items, fast Grab-N-Go options and its roundtable of homemade complimentary toppings.

Customers recognized these emphasized features at the grand opening. University alumni Kassidy Herring and Kai Jackson said they would frequent the location because it was the “healthier choice.”

The crowd favorite at the opening was the Newk’s Favorite salad, which, according to the website, is a medley of “sliced flame-grilled chicken breast, Arcadian mixed greens, crumbled gorgonzola cheese, sliced grapes, artichoke hearts, pecans, dried cranberries, house-made croutons and made-from-scratch sherry vinaigrette.”

Although technically considered a fast-casual restaurant, Newk’s tries to maintain an upscale feel with contemporary decor, complimentary items and an entirely homemade menu.

The culture and mission statement are carried in pocket-card form by members of the staff, according to Candace Gandy, elementary education junior and Newk’s counter server. First time Newk’s customer and renewable resources senior Abigail Sevier described the location as having “a welcoming vibe.”