Food Critic’s Corner: 8 Fresh

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Hamilton’s newest restaurant, 8 Fresh, brings Tex-Mex to Upstate New York.

Tristan Niskanen

8 Fresh, located across the street from the Colgate Bookstore and next to the Old Stone Jug, is Hamilton’s newest restaurant. It’s a Mexican-inspired grill that offers everything from quesadillas and burritos to wraps and salads, providing a casual dining experience that mimics Chipotle and Qdoba, among others.

The new location is the second 8 Fresh to open in the Upstate New York area. There’s already one located at 8 College Street at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. The restaurant boasts plenty of room with booths, tables and even a few couches by a TV. On every table sits a Magic 8 Ball.

I walked into 8 Fresh after strolling by my favorite restaurant in town, Royal India Grill. Although I could’ve gone for some curry, I was determined to try the new place in town. At 7 p.m., an hour before 8 Fresh closes, the place was empty. A song by Tears for Fears played on the radio and a mysterious metal outline of a lizard adorned the wall.

8 Fresh’s menu is organized by two broad categories: “Fresh Mexican” and “Lettuce Eat.” I ordered the Super Bowl with chicken from the “Fresh Mexican” menu. The dish is basically a customizable burrito bowl. I made my bowl, added hot sauce and went to my table where the Magic 8 Ball sat staring at me. I picked it up and asked, “Will I have a good meal?” The Magic 8 Ball replied, “Outlook not so good.”

I pushed past the Magic 8 Ball’s warning and hoped for the best. My first bite was guacamole and it was, of course, delicious. The next few bites were a bit disappointing, however, because the flavor was missing a certain “it” factor. Though the ingredients were all fresh, the overall taste was bland. The hot sauce was mild until you added extra Tabasco. My Super Bowl wasn’t bad but it wasn’t as tasty as I wanted it to be either. For a $10 meal, I was not satisfied, and if I wanted to add a bottled drink, I would have to add an extra $3 plus tax. The price is a little steep for what you get.

What disappointed me was not so much the food, but rather 8 Fresh’s untapped potential. This restaurant has the opportunity to be the number one spot. It’s healthy, convenient and could be delicious. To capitalize more on its potential, 8 Fresh should extend its hours and improve its spices. The Jug is next door, so why not stay open later? You can get a good pre- and post-Jug crowd at 8 Fresh. Add some kick to your sauce, and don’t be afraid to spice up your already fresh ingredients. Combine your “Fresh Mexican” and “Lettuce Eat” menus to avoid an identity crisis.

Although I did not have a good first impression of 8 Fresh, I will not let that control my opinion of this establishment because I welcome new restaurants to this small college town. Some people already have the 8 Fresh craze and are very happy with the food.

“As a Californian, I’m a bit of a Mexican food snob but I liked 8 Fresh,” senior Alex Rosenthal said.

“It’s good, much better than Chipotle with comparable prices,” junior Nicholas Poche said.

There seem to be mixed reviews on 8 Fresh, but the same goes for the infamous New York Pizzeria, better known as “Slices.” You’ll hear that Slices is the best pizza ever or that it tastes like cardboard. The same goes for 8 Fresh. Try it and find out for yourself.

Contact Tristan Niskanen

at [email protected]