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Laughing Gorilla fills Kitchen’s void

Restaurant temporarily rents out breakfast joint, serves ‘global street food’ for lunch, dinner

Federal Hill’s Kitchen is known for being a small breakfast restaurant with a big line of people outside, serving classic American fare and extra-thick slabs of bacon. But at the end of August, Howard Crofts, the one-man owner, chef and server, decided to take a six-month break for his health.

Meanwhile, the owners of Laughing Gorilla, a new catering company that launched this spring working both festivals and private events, were looking to put down roots. They found out about the vacancy at Kitchen sometime in September, said co-owner and business manager Leigh Vincola, and they quickly reached a deal with Crofts to run their own restaurant in the space until he was ready to come back.

Vincola is grateful for the opportunity. “A permanent brick-and-mortar spot has always been the goal,” she said. “So this allows us to test the water and see how things are going.”

Vincola’s co-owners are Jason Timothy, the catering company’s chef, and Sean Larkin, an award-winning brewer in charge of beverages. Together, they create what Vincola calls “global street food,” an international mix of flavors that is down-to-earth, hearty and delicious.

Laughing Gorilla is taking advantage of the pop-up structure by playing with different menus, Vincola said. In any culinary setting, Timothy “likes to keep things different and keep things moving,” she added.

Some of the flavors featured on the menu stem from personal influences. Timothy, her partner, is half-Jamaican and draws from jerk flavors in his cooking, Vincola said. Her own Italian heritage has yet to make an appearance, she said. “We keep most of the pasta at home.”

Laughing Gorilla is open for lunch and dinner, and each week’s menus are announced on Instagram and Facebook.

At lunch, the restaurant serves several different sandwiches, including this week’s olive oil-poached tuna sandwich with baby kale, pickled shallots and lemon-caper mayonnaise on toast.

“It’s not your run-of-the-mill sandwiches,” Vincola said.

Laughing Gorilla announced Wednesday that it is now making lunchtime deliveries in partnership with DASH Bicycle Shop.

Certain days of the week bring special offerings.

Every Thursday, Laughing Gorilla hosts a “taco shop,” an afternoon of loud music and a selection of fish, chicken and beef tacos.

“Fridays and Saturdays, (there) are a little more elevated dinner services” featuring multiple courses, she said. The menu for a recent weekend included pan-seared scallops with bacon and onion jam, monkfish in pesto, braised pork ribs and a chimichurri ribeye special.

While Laughing Gorilla will continue serving elaborate lunches and dinners until Kitchen reopens, part of the agreement with Crofts was that it not serve breakfast, preserving a special niche for Kitchen until it returns.


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