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Restaurant review: Sandpiper, La Jolla

The crispy shrimp at Sandpiper is topped with scallions and sesame seeds.

Sandpiper Wood Fired Grill & Oysters has been luring locals since opening in June 2022 thanks to an appealing smoke-and-fire–kissed menu centered on fresh seafood and grilled meats.

Its culinary pedigree helps too: Sandpiper’s older sibling is revered La Jolla icon George’s at the Cove, also owned by veteran restaurateur George Hauer and acclaimed chef-partner Trey Foshee.

Smash burger with a side of fries

Smash burger and fries.

The breezy patio particularly hops at happy hour, when the marquee special is a complimentary dozen oysters with every bottle of Champagne purchased. Less-lofty delights include crispy shrimp dressed with Sichuan chile aioli, scallions, and sesame seeds; a satisfying smash burger with perfect french fries; and a Baja-style fish taco, a holdover from the restaurant’s previous life as a gourmet taquería.

The quieter dining room and bar, still open to the ocean air but shielded from the elements, is a better spot for dinner.

Trout topped with charred chile

Snake River trout.

Executive Chef Marty Fay uses a Santa Maria grill to cook or finish many of the dishes, such as Snake River trout rubbed with savory adobo seasoning, and grilled octopus spiked with lime vinaigrette and burnt habañero salsa. The wood fire also adds complexity to vegetable sides like charred cabbage enriched by Calabrian chile butter and lime.

House-made breads come in cast-iron skillets: an earthy blue-corn cake studded with fresh corn and sweetened with spicy matcha agave, and a plush focaccia accompanied by house-made smoked butter and fresh honey ricotta.

On Friday and Saturday nights, slow-grilled prime rib, napped with au jus, comes with a baked potato loaded with bacon, cheese, and sour cream. A luxe version of the California burrito served at Sunday brunch subs the prime rib for carne asada in a tortilla-wrapped creation that includes fries, sour cream, guacamole, cheese, and pico de gallo.

Banana pudding layered in a glass cup

Banana pudding.

The best desserts are pleasingly retro, from a rotation of seasonal pies to a layered banana pudding that dares anyone not to sink a spoon into it.

Best dishes at Sandpiper

Crispy shrimp, smash burger, pork chop, trout, skillet corn cake, banana pudding

Dinner prices

Starters, $15–$22; entrées, $20–$65; desserts, $12

Info

2259 Avenida de la Playa. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

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