Christian Frangiadis is looking to bring smoke, fire and plenty of sauce to a new restaurant planned for a long-empty building in Garfield.
After successfully opening his new restaurant Spork on Penn Avenue in March, Frangiadis and his partners are moving across the the street and a block away in which to launch a new Texas barbecue restaurant at the corner of North Aiken and Penn.
Along with large new smoker ordered recently from Texas, which will be used on an open lot next to the established restaurant, Frangiadis and company picked a name for the new restaurant to work in tandem with the other.
They’re calling it Spork Pit.
“Spork is going fine and I just kind of have this passion for barbecue,” said Frangiadis, known for spearheading such lauded local restaurants as Isabela on Grandview, Southwest Bistro and others.“We think Pittsburgh is woefully underserved for barbecue.”
Partnering with the property owner, Frangiadis and investment partner Andy Tepper are looking to take a restaurant building that last operated roughly 18 years ago as a place called Ghengis Cones to operate as Spork Pit. Expect a basic approach, said Frangiadis, who is positioning the restaurant to function mostly as an outdoor venue by building a large deck over the parking lot in front of the building, which he estimated can seat about 30 inside.
“This is really going to be a downscale kind of a thing,” he said, describing the goal of Spork Pit as cooking incredible barbecue that serves everybody. “There’s no bells and whistles. It’s strictly about the quality of the meat.”
The menu is expected to feature of mix of beef, turkey and pork along with a host of sides.
Frangiadis and crew will set up the pit on a lot neighboring Spork and begin introducing Spork Pit as a daytime pop up within the established restaurant, which only operates in the evening.
The new barbecue pit will also provide opportunity to smoke meats for Spork as well, he added.
Frangiadis said the pit “is going to be the centerpiece of the business” as he works to assemble the kind of smoking operation that works best in an open air lot.
Spork Pit is expect to soon go before the city for various approvals. Frangiadis hopes to open the new restaurant next spring.
Barbecue restaurants have become something of a popular pursuit in the city of late. Frangiadis may be filling a void left by the recent closing of Union Pig & Chicken in nearby East Liberty. Richard DeShantz and partner Keith Fuller opened their barbecue restaurant Pork & Beans downtown a few months ago, a barbecue restaurant is in the works to replace the former Del’s Bar & Ristorante DelPizzo in Bloomfield, and Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Morgan’s Barbecue has committed to bringing a restaurant focused on a Texas-style version of the cuisine to a former used car dealership property on Butler Street in Lawrenceville.
Ron Sofranko, principal of Wexford-based Sofranko Advisory Group, LLC, a restaurant consulting firm, described different risks and rewards in the barbecue restaurant business as the founder of Red River Barbeque & Grille, which he grew into a small chain before selling it off years ago.
On the plus side, he said barbecue was a fun food with lots of flavor that was popular with men, describing it as comparable with craft beer in the way it can inspire passionate hobbyists who have been known to build their love of the food into side businesses, if not always full-fledged restaurants.
But Sofranko said an ongoing challenge for any barbecue restaurant is that diners typically eat the cuisine less often and that Pittsburgh has far more barbecue restaurants than it did when he was starting Red River.
He suggested it can make more business sense for an established restaurant to branch out into barbecue than to start from scratch.
“It’s kind of a low risk venture and kind of a niche play with possible destination appeal,” he said of the move to add Spork Pit as a complement to Sport. “From the business side, it’s a good move for him.”
Tim Schooley covers retail, real estate and construction. Contact him at email@example.com or 412-208-3826.