East Hampton Sandwich Company was Dallas’ first foray into the world of "fine-casual" dining. Owner and St. Mary’s School of Law dropout Hunter Pond operates 10 locations of the upscale sandwich shop in Dallas and Houston, with more planned, as the company is growing at four locations a year — and he’s only 30.
“Before this, I was in law school. I dropped out, moved back to Dallas. My girlfriend at the time," he says, glancing at his wife, "broke up with me. My parents weren’t happy with me … so I got a job washing dishes at a pizza place called Eno’s in the Bishop Arts District, and I just started developing a business plan.”
According to Pond, he knew he'd hit bottom and that he had to make it work. He turned himself around and used experiences from his upbringing to catapult himself into his own small business empire.
“I’d go to R+D Kitchen with my parents a lot,” Pond says. “They have this carnitas sandwich, and it’s this big beautiful roasted pork sandwich. The presentation was spot-on, the flavors were complex — they just punched you right in the mouth — and I thought that there really needed to be a concept out there where you can get quality of a sandwich, but you don’t have to wait for your parents to take you to get the $18 version. Make the $10 version and set it in a fast-casual environment.”
Once he opened the first location five years ago, customers were able to see that there was a difference in his sandwich and one made by the chain down the street. They responded well, he says, allowing Pond to grow his sandwich empire exponentially. According to Pond, his only limitation to East Hampton’s success is his commitment to quality — and his abhorrence of everyday deli meat.
“We roast all of our meats in house, we hand-make all of our sauces,” Pond says.
To keep the menu fresh, Pond and his team keep fan favorites on the menu but seasonally rotate in specials and offerings based on a Limited Time Only program. This LTO system lets Pond and his research team come up with exciting specials curated by a team of, according to Pond, sandwich geeks who get to have some fun in the kitchen.
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“So we get together and we start working on random recipes, random sauces and think about some creative proteins to bring in and start mixing and matching," he says. "We’re not going crazy on the first one we did: a high-end Italian sandwich called the Il Soprano. It’s got that summer tomato vinaigrette, that fresh basil pesto aioli and instead of a typical salami and pepperoni, we do spicy capicola, a house-smoked country ham and this imported Italian salami.
"That summer tomato vinaigrette, we probably worked on for, like, a full week — just that sauce," he says. "We’re really pumped about this program because we’re going to come up with some really funky stuff. We’re not a Michelin-starred sandwich restaurant, right, but this program allows us to kind of scratch our creative itches from time to time.”
East Hampton has locations in Dallas, Fort Worth, Frisco, Plano, Southlake and Houston. They will be transitioning to their fall/winter menu, according to Pond, in early October. Until then, the shop boasts classics like the Fried Chicken Jack, the lobster roll and the turkey bacon avocado sandwich.