The brisket at Spork Pit is smoked over oak.

Chef Christian Frangiadis has made a name for himself on the local food front by opening high-concept restaurants, such as Spork, that boast unique, ever-changing menus.

“Spork Pit is the antithesis of Spork,” Frangiadis says of his new Garfield barbecue joint. “Here we don’t have to change anything. We just focus on doing five things and doing them well.”

What started last year as a pop-up eatery in a lot adjacent to the trendy dining spot is now a permanent fixture at 5349 Penn Avenue. Spork Pit specializes in beef brisket, turkey, sausage, jerk chicken, pork and ribs.

The meat is rubbed in the chef’s signature seasoning blend and cooked to perfection in a custom-built smoker. Pitmaster Earl Stone tends to the flames Tuesday through Sunday from 11 p.m. to 11 a.m., when the doors open for business; they’ll stay open until the meat runs out.

During the soft opening last week, nearly 800 pounds of food were gone by 4 p.m.

Spork Pit’s menu is small, but its offerings will fill you up. Photo courtesy of Spork Pit.
Spork Pit’s menu is small, but its offerings will fill you up. Photo courtesy of Spork Pit.

The scent of burning oak and cherrywood fills the neighborhood, enticing folks to the site.

“The quality of barbecue has a lot to do with the quality of the smoke,” says Frangiadis, who got his first taste of Texas-style grub when he visited Austin last year. “The pit that we have has a really oxygenated fire and the smoke is almost invisible. It’s not bitter or acrid; it just adds an accent to the meat, which has a nice, natural, fresh taste to it.”

To complement the protein, Spork Pit offers an array of sauces and sides, including potato salad, rice and beans, mac and cheese, banana pudding, coleslaw and greens for $5 each. There are 14 taps, featuring local beer and cider, wine and custom cocktails.

Frangiadis encourages people to follow their nose to Spork Pit for dine-in or takeout service.

The whitewashed brick storefront, designed by architect Ellen Levin, has indoor seating for 30 and a multi-level deck that can be accessed through two, open garage doors. Round, black picnic tables, shaded by an awning and umbrellas, can accommodate 60 diners, who can witness the smoker in action.

Once a week, Spork Pit will offer beef ribs, which Frangiadis describes as “delicious and decadent” and he hopes to occasionally smoke a full pig. A web store is currently under construction. Soon, folks will be able to go online, order some barbecue and it’ll be ready the next day.

Unlike its sister location, Spork Pit’s menu is small and simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s inferior.

The offshoot already has a strong following thanks to its pop-up past. Frangiadis often took his barbecue on the road, stopping at local breweries such as Grist House and Hitchhiker.

“The anticipation was higher for Spork Pit than all the other restaurants I’ve been involved with,” says the chef, who helmed kitchens at Isabela On Grandview, Southwest Bistro and others across the city. “Barbecue is really becoming hot in Pittsburgh. That’s a nice sign for us.”

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.