By Caryn Coyle
The Laughing Pint, named number one on the Baltimore Sun’s list of Baltimore’s best bars, is owned by ceramic potter, Shannon Cassidy.
“When I worked as a potter, I owned The Laughing Pot Studios,” explained Cassidy.
She did not want to use the same name for the charming, comfortable tavern she has owned for five years at the corner of Conkling and Gough in Highlandtown.
“We do not have a television set in our bar,” she added. “You will hear plenty of laughter, the atmosphere is one of fun.”
A pool table takes up a large corner.
“People come to talk and to eat and the food changes quite a bit,” Cassidy said. “We use all local ingredients and we do not have a fryer.”
Bartender John Woods, a graduate of St. John’s College with two master’s degrees in the classics, will announce what he is making at the Laughing Pint on his Facebook page. The Laughing Pint will fill with his friends who want to try, for example, his jalapeño, cilantro and cucumber margarita for $6.
“It’s a flavored explosion,” declared Pete Roper of the jalapeño margarita.
Roper moved to the neighborhood, in part because of his 20-year friendship with the Laughing Pint’s owner.
“The heat of the drink stays with you and then the cucumber kicks in,” he said.
A small cup of sliced cucumber was placed on the bar top if he wanted to take the edge off the drink.
I ordered the mac ‘n cheese, $8, which was recommended by Cassidy and it was fabulous. Creamy, with a burst of flavor, the mixture of the cheddar and havarti cheeses pulled apart in steamy strings from the dish. The seasoning of spring onions was surprising and good. The Laughing Pint also serves a Southwest version of the mac ‘n cheese with spicy chicken, black beans and corn for $10 and the mac ‘n cheese with steak and blue cheese is $11.
Woods described the ingredients in the “good summer wheat beer” he recommended, Erdinger’s Hefeweizen. With a light, satisfying flavor, the Hefeweizen comes in a tall, “laughing pint” that is actually 18 ounces for $5. He added that The Laughing Pint sells 20 different kinds of draft beer. Woods also reported – reluctantly – that that he was a poet who favored sestinas, a complicated structure of stanzas and repetitive words. He won the St. John’s poetry prize for his sestina, “Diana’s Poem.”
Woods recommended the Laughing Pint’s Olive’s apple panini for $8. The crisp apple and Havarti cheese with creamy, homemade ranch dressing was delightful. The panini was warm, slightly salty in a good way and cheesy. The blending of the apple, cheese and ranch dressing was memorable and the homemade coleslaw had a hint of mango.
Among the other menu choices are half pound burgers on Kaiser rolls with lettuce, tomato and onion for $10, a bacon cheeseburger with caramelized onions and a choice of cheddar, Swiss, havarti or blue cheese for $11 and a Thai wrap with apples, spring onion, carrots, grilled chicken or marinated tofu in the Laughing Pint’s spicy peanut sauce for $9.
Cassidy opens her tavern to local artists who display and sell their work from the walls of the Laughing Pint. On the second Sunday of each month, a new artist is featured. Brandy Somers was the current artist, who displayed her paper cut collages. Woods added that “the Laughing Pint does not take any profit from the art displays which typically sell for a reasonable $8 to $12.”
Ron Russell, a grateful local artist, created the Laughing Pint’s clock on the wall above the liquor display. It hangs just beyond a string of paper squares over the bar that reads, “Welcome.”
Caryn Coyle lives in Baltimore. Her fiction and non-fiction have been published in more than a dozen literary journals and the anthology City Sages: Baltimore (2010) from City Lit Press.