Restaurant review: Pub grub at under-the-radar Eight & Sand deserves more recognition

G.A. Benton
Fried Yardbird Sandwich at Eight & Sand Tavern and Refuge on the South Side.

I first visited Eight & Sand to investigate whether a tip I’d received about a quirky bar with limited food offerings would translate into a place worth writing about. This review attests to the success of that expedition.

After my second visit to Eight & Sand, though, I thought twice about publicizing this best-kept secret of an operation subtitled “tavern and refuge.” Did I really want to call attention to a laid-back, Hungarian Village hangout that’s obviously treasured by its regulars?

Clearly, I did. Because the cheeky establishment and its scratch-cooked, stylish pub grub deserve more recognition.

About that name: “Eight and Sand” is an old rail workers’ expression that loosely means “godspeed.” Sand’s website explains that the bar appropriated the phrase as a “nod to the rich train history” of the South Side.

I didn’t notice any locomotive allusions inside Sand. What primarily struck me is that it’s one of the tidiest and friendliest dive bars I’ve stepped into lately. The pleasant little getaway serving since 2018 (in the dramatically rehabbed space that once housed crusty, old Buddy’s Place) has a wooden floor; pew-like banquettes; a few TVs; color-alternating overhead light strings; and a genial, bohemian clientele fond of hoodies.

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I liked what I saw on Sand’s gray walls, too: amusing Edward Gorey-style sketches of Danny DeVito (from a since-concluded local artist’s show titled “31 Dannys”) and framed concert posters of Motorhead, Interpol, Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss.

Chalkboards heralding specials merit attention, as well. During my visits, selections from Sand’s eight draft beers — most are Ohio-produced and usually sell for $5 — were discounted to $2. The tavern also offers an everyday, on-brand bargain that’s hard to resist: $6 for a shot of Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey plus a 16-ounce can of Midway Light (think the Elevator Brewing Co. answer to Coors Light).

Three Curried Vegetable Hand Pies for $8 is a great deal, too, especially since the fried-crisp, empanada-meets-samosa turnovers are hefty, fashioned with house-made pastry and served with a thick and addictive house chimichurri sauce plus seasoned tortilla chips. Inside the pies are chickpeas, sweet potatoes, carrots and kale; honey-yogurt drizzles decorate their exteriors.

Locally sourced red peppers and sharp, 2-year-old cheddar lend distinction to the zippy Pimento Cheese Dip ($6). It’s a rewarding, large serving presented with celery and an assortment of nice crackers, but I still missed the absent, menu-promised house pickles.

The dip resurfaces in Sand’s highly recommended Pimento Cheese Smashburger ($8). Here, it plays second fiddle to a delightful, griddle-crisped patty that’s smoky-flavored from the ample bacon in its proprietary blend. Counterpoints arrive from pickles, pickled peppers, butter lettuce, red onion loops and jalapeno-curry house mustard.

Sand’s Fried Yardbird Sandwich ($8) is another highlight. It stars good fried chicken — a thick-and-juicy, deboned thigh encased in a golden-brown, crunchy coating — adorned with rosemary-garlic mayo, butter lettuce plus jalapenos and pickles.

The inhalable ’Douille Dawg ($6) is Sand’s riff on a corndog: a large andouille sausage link with a snappy casing enveloped in sweet cornmeal batter lightly flecked with jalapenos and fried until crisp but not overly oily. The snack-on-a-stick comes with coarse, spicy-sweet mustard plus multicolored pepper garnishes.

The only item on Sand’s tiny menu I haven’t yet mentioned is its good shoestring House Fries ($4 buys a big serving). Typical for this lily-gilding place, they come with flavorful house sauces — an intense tarragon aioli plus a thick, tangy and tomatoey ketchup — and arrive sprinkled with what tastes like lemon-pepper seasoning. I’ll likely order these again on my next visit to this endearing tavern and refuge, which I suspect will be soon.

76 E Innis Ave, Hungarian Village


Eight & Sand Tavern and Refuge