By Aubry Bracco, Beach News Staff Writer
Special to the Atlantic News

Beach News, Thursday, August 3, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News / Beach News.]

69 Ocean Blvd.
Hampton Beach, NH
(603) 926-2166

HAMPTON BEACH — Stepping into the Sandpiper Café feels like stepping into an old friend’s house for a home-cooked meal and a bit of relaxation. The customers are smiling, the dining room is cozy and restaurant owner, John Conlon, manages the place like a pro.

At first glance, one would guess the café has been a favorite refueling station among hungry beach-goers for well over a decade.

But, the Sandpiper Café opened just six weeks ago.

In just over a month, John Conlon and his wife, Debbie, have already developed a reputation for delectable cuisine and stellar service.

John Conlon has been in the restaurant business for 25 years. But this is his first time in charge, and he is loving every minute of the experience.

“This is what I have wanted all my life,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to own something and I decided that it was about time [with the Sandpiper].”

Aside from his ownership duties, Conlon can also be found in the kitchen, whipping up scrumptious bites for his growing and already loyal clientele.

“I do most of the cooking,” Conlon says. “I love it.”

The restaurant, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serves a wide variety of reasonably-priced dishes that are sure to satisfy even the most picky eaters.

Looking to start your day off on the right foot? You’re in luck. Conlon offers omelets, French toast, bacon, sausage, pancakes, fruit and cereal for his morning guests. “The Hungry Sandpiper” will do the trick for customers with ample appetites and a children’s breakfast menu will keep the little guys happy.

Stop back in for lunch and dinner and choose from an array of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, meat, poultry and pasta. To keep the kids smiling for lunch and dinner, the restaurant offers a full children’s menu which includes “Lunch in a Beach Pail,” just right for a mid-day pick-me-up.

And don’t forget the seafood. People are already talking about Conlon’s clam chowder, and the restaurant owner says he already has a signature seafood dish, the “Seafood Medley.”

Conlon says a customer recently came into the restaurant with her ideal dish already in mind.

“She came in wanting something with shrimp, pasta and cheese sauce. She made it up (the dish) and I whipped it up for her — pasta, haddock, shrimp and scallops surrounded by steamers,” he says.

When Conlon brought the dish out from the kitchen, the customer was thrilled.

“She said to me, ‘I don’t want to eat it. I just want a picture,'” Conlon says.

Conlon says the woman spread the word about the “Seafood Medley” and 10 to 15 people have since come into the restaurant and asked about the dish.

At the Sandpiper Café, such personalized service isn’t occasional, it’s constant.

“I check in at every table I can and if something is wrong, I’ll fix it myself,” he says.

Customers notice the effort. Conlon has already gained a loyal clientele including Meredith Belesca, who has returned to the restaurant multiple times after she first came to the Sandpiper Café when her six-year-old son wanted lobster.

“They had the best prices for lobster on the boardwalk,” she says. “I don’t know how to crack a lobster, so [John] came out and cracked it for me.” She adds, “The reason we came back is the personalized service. How many brand new restaurants open like that and have their stuff together? [John] knows what he is doing.”

The Sandpiper Café is located at 69 Ocean Blvd. The restaurant serves breakfast daily from 6 a.m. to noon, lunch from 11:30 a.m. through 4 p.m. and dinner from 4 p.m. to close, so customers can find something to eat at any time of day. The Sandpiper Café will remain open after Labor Day, offering a full menu through mid-October. For more information, call (603) 926-2166.