Two summers ago, Don Haefner operated a temporary concession stand at the corner of Rowan Road and Route 19 selling his brand of authentic smoked barbecue.
The stand was a hit, but Haefner wasn’t able to set up shop near the highway last summer because of work commitments, said Shawn Bittel, his nephew.
“It has been a passion of Don’s,” Bittel said of his uncle’s barbecue.
Now it’s a business.
On Saturday, Pork-n 'Nat will hold its grand opening at the former El Sombrero location on Rowan Road in Cranberry. Haefner, a Cranberry resident, smokes the barbecue, Bittel is executive chef and Haefner’s son, Jason Haefner, is general manager.
While the restaurant specializes in real smoked barbecue—including pulled pork and ribs—it also offers a variety of sandwiches, salads and appetizers that make up the “ ‘Nat” portion of the restaurant’s name.
And yes, the “ 'Nat” is a reference to the tendency of Pittsburghers to add a slangy “and that” to the end of their sentences. In the Case of Pork-n ’Nat, it also alludes to what Bittel calls the “odds and ends” on the menu besides barbecue.
“It’s a catchy name,” he said.
A Seneca Valley graduate who spent time as a chef at the Sherwood Oaks retirement community in Cranberry and as a landscaper in Florida, Bittel said he always dreamed of opening his own restaurant. When he returned to Cranberry from Orlando a few months ago, he teamed up with the Haefners to establish Pork-n ’Nat.
The family found the location at the former El Sombrero, which had been empty since June.
“This was the right fit for a barbecue,” Bittel said.
What happened next was nine weeks of renovations to turn the Mexican restaurant into a barbecue joint. Bittel said family members painted the entire restaurant and added a silver smoker to the kitchen, among the many changes.
Before becoming El Sombrero, the location for years was the site of The Hut, a restaurant Bittel said was known for delicious sandwiches and salads.
“They packed the house every night of the week,” he said. “If we could do the same, I’d be happy.”
The barbecue and other menu accompaniments at the BYOB establishment won’t disappoint restaurant patrons, he added. Since the family began construction, curious residents hungry for barbecue have stopped by the restaurant daily to inquire about the Pork-n ’Nat’s opening date.
“Wait till you try it,” Bittel said. “It's authentic barbecue and we smoke it in-house here.”