Charlotte media has a hit it and quit it relationship with restaurants.
The cycle goes like this:
New restaurant is announced > New restaurant is hyped > Opening date is announced > New restaurant is hyped > Soft opening takes place > New restaurant is hyped > Media moves on to the next announced restaurant > Restaurant closes after two years.
I don't blame the local media for it. There's a lot more views in talking about what's new than reminding people of what's old. Despite only opening two months ago in early September, Eight and Sand feels ancient in Charlotte media time.
But having a fertile food scene means we can't always run to the newest thing while forgetting what's impressed us along the way.
We should call it the "Sushi Guru Phenomenon." A restaurant can be hyped, well-designed, and serve delicious food, but if it gets lost in the shuffle following its opening, it can still suffer a shuttering.
Eight and Sand doesn't deserve to get lost in the shuffle. As more and more hyped spots open around it, Eight and Sand remains intricately designed, visually appealing, and pretty damn tasty, making it a sneaky contender in a crowded Southend scene.
[Note: Eight and Sand stylizes their name as Eight+Sand, an SEO manager's nightmare that we can't in good conscience participate in.]
Eight and Sand's location places it just off South BLVD in the shadow of The Waterman and the soon-to-be-open Link and Pin. Walking into its clean, modern design feels like a welcome return to civilization after the dirty site of all that Southend construction.
It has the kind of knickknacks you'd expect in a hole-in-a-wall bar. Natural light illuminates little trinkets, books, baskets, and jars. The furniture is a little IKEA, but I have to admit it looks cute in the right light. The ample seating and high ceilings create a food hall vibe as sound reverberates through the building.
I went around lunch, and the crowd was mostly women and men in their early 30s and a couple of people on laptops. This isn't a quick lunch spot for a working type. These folks don't seem like they work a typical work schedule.
My suspicions were confirmed by my whopping 15 minute wait for food. Eight and Sand is going to want to cut that time down significantly if they want sustained success from the Uptown lunch crowd.
And I don't need my cashier staff to Stepford Wife me, but they came off as especially unengaged and uninterested. If I ask "What do you suggest?" the proper response is not "I don't know." If I feel like the workers aren't excited about the food to the point they can't even name a favorite dish, it sours me to the food before it even shows up.
My wait and my bored cashiers put a damper on the whole peace and love, positive energy, unironically vote for Marianne Williamson vibe Eight and Sand has going.
Luckily the food holds up.
I ordered the panko chicken sandwich and the mushroom melt. My total was $24 with tip.
This chicken sandwich was supa dupa thick. The social media world is arguing about Popeyes and Chick-Fil-A, but it's nice to be reminded that chicken sandwiches can be an art. The red cabbage slaw is sweat and crunchy, a very nice touch. I wish the breading was more flavorful, and that could be accomplished with a different choice in panko perhaps. The tenderness of the chicken suggests a lot of attention to detail during cooking, and in a market that tends to overcook its meat, I appreciated that.
On first bite, the mushroom melt is nearly perfect. The texture of the country bread combined with the smells of the muenster cheese and mushroom mix makes for a multi-sensory experience. It's a thoughtful and layered dish, that unfortunately got a bit soggy as the meal went on. I'd suggest less oil while cooking the mushrooms and experimenting with the bread.
But on balance, these sandwiches can hold their own against anything else in the neighborhood.
Will it? The types who pay attention to food outlets tend to move on quickly. Hype is a slippery dragon to chase.
Hype aside, Eight and Sand deserves a spot in the rotation.