Chef Jesse Sandlin of The Outpost American Tavern in Federal Hill/Riverside will open a new restaurant, called Sally O’s, in the longtime home of Highlandtown watering hole The Laughing Pint. The Baltimore kitchen veteran and onetime “Top Chef” contender said Thursday morning that she wants Sally O’s to both serve the community she calls home and show it off to outsiders.
“I hope that people realize that Highlandtown is not upper Canton, and it’s not a scary place—it’s great!” she said.
The chef’s Highlandtown roots run deep. She noted that she lived above her aunt and uncle’s restaurantat Eastern Avenue and South Macon Street during her infancy. She named Sally O’s after her grandmother, who bought groceries in the East Baltimore neighborhood and influenced Sandlin’s passion for food.
“We would go to my grandma Sally’s for Thanksgiving, and she always made homemade cornbread and biscuits,” Sandlin said. “She was really the person in my life who was doing all of these things made from scratch.”
Sandlin’s own culinary career took her all over the city. In the near-decade after “Top Chef,” she worked at such restaurants as Abacrombie and Smokehouse. While she declined to reveal much about her plans for the Sally O’s menu, she revealed that it will include a few ongoing items (including a burger) alongside a rotating list of special dishes. She added that Sally O’s will be more focused on food than The Laughing Pint.
“I’m really looking forward to Sally O’s being not only a creative outlet for me, but almost having the ability to experiment and try things I maybe haven’t tried before,” she said. “Having this freedom of it being 100% my own place also will afford me the opportunity to test things out, go through and find things that I’m really inspired by and try it out for the world.”
The Laughing Pint’s owner, Shannon Cassidy, revealed in early November that her neighborhood bar will close on Thanksgiving after 13 years in business. Cassidy and Sandlin have known each other for several years, since Sandlin lived close by and her boyfriend, Peter Enny, worked there for two years. Cassidy said she was excited to turn the space over to another woman and praised Sandlin’s work ethic, as well as her fresh perspective.
“I’m not a chef, and I think that’s something that this neighborhood could use,” Cassidy said.
Sandlin added that she will keep the bar inside The Laughing Pint while renovating most of the space.
“I think [that] if you have a restaurant that is successful and is bringing people to the neighborhood, that it only inspires growth for that neighborhood, and I hope to accomplish that in some way, like Shannon did,” Sandlin said. “But it is going to be a different place.”
Sandlin said she plans to open Sally O’s for business in February.