The Cadet Restaurant. Over 70 years of service.
The Cadet Restaurant has been a cornerstone of the local community for over 50 years. It is most known for its Poorboy sandwich, 30-foot tall statue, and regularly scheduled car cruises. Times have changed, the speakers and carhops are gone, but the stories still live on through our customers.
Where it all started.
The Cadet Restaurant was originally founded on March 21, 1952 by George Morda. Originally called The Owl’s Nest, George renamed it to The Cadet Restaurant. Prior to the Cadet, George owned several other local establishments including the Steakhouse in West Kittanning, Morda’s Dining Room, The Empire Room along the Allegheny River, two men’s clothing stores in Indiana and Kittanning, and a spa in Butler.
In 1952, the Cadet Restaurant was the first drive-in restaurant in the tri-state area. People came from all around to cruise the Cadet in hopes of finding an empty spot beside a speaker. On the weekends and even on weekdays, the parking lot would be jam packed with some of the most stunning hot rods you’ve ever laid your eyes on.
A 30-foot tall giant named Sam.
Sam is likely to be one of the most photographed cowboys anywhere and far from camera shy. Standing over 30 feet high and wielding a hefty hamburger outside the restaurant, this finely-crafted man made out of fiberglass has become a well known landmark over the years. Getting his name from an officer that used to patrol the parking lot to keep an eye out for trouble, Sam has always been popular with the customers.
Although Sam has a good reputation with the paparazzi, he hasn’t always been so fortunate. One foggy morning on September 29, 1990, an unsuspecting Ford Bronco pulled into the path of a fully loaded coal truck traveling from Indiana. The Bronco was catapulted into Sam leaving him in shambles for years to come.
Can’t keep a good statue down.
Despite many attempts, no one would take on the task of repair. We would find his hat or burger on top of a local school’s flagpole and other various locations. Luckily, we had our own team of students that were always kind enough to locate and extract the missing pieces.
It was over 12 years before our customers were able to help us finally piece him back together. Dave Bish, stepped up and asked if he could try, and try he did. What a beautiful job! He was back on his feet in 2002. It took a full day, a crane and many volunteers. He is now featured in a paperback book, “The Roadside Giants”, and the cameras are flashing again. Now that he’s back, you’d think he might be a little tired after 56 years of guarding the Cadet. Nope, Cowboy Sam continues to stand tall and proud keeping close watch over the Cadet Restaurant on Route 422 E in Kittanning, just as he has since 1962 when we purchased him at the Chicago Restaurant Show for $3,900.
Fast-forwarding to present day.
Times have changed, the speakers and carhops are gone, but the stories still live on through our customers. We continue to have regularly scheduled car cruises and boy do people seem to enjoy them. Everyone should take an hour out of their busy life and stop by the Cadet Restaurant. You are sure to see George, the sole owner for 56 years, meeting, greeting, or simply chatting with his customers. The menu is American cuisine. George makes sure his food is the best around. He grinds his own meat for his Poorboy’s and sausage, the onion rings, mushrooms and fish are breaded fresh daily. Nothing fancy, just real good. There is a sign in the restaurant that says it all, “Enter as Strangers, Leave as Friends”. Everyone has their own story about the Cadet. Keep the legend going. Don’t simply drive by. Stop in. Hope to see you soon!
Cadet Cruises. What’s under your hood?
Our customers and the cars that they own have been the soul of the Cadet for years. Thanks to the wonderful contributions by KITT-HAN-NE Region of the AACA of America Car Club, we are able to continue to hold regularly scheduled cruises, weather permitting. Visit our car cruise gallery to see pictures from previous cruises.
More Info? Just ask us.
If you’d like more information about the Cadet or have some questions, we’d be happy to try and answer them. Please use our feedback form to get in touch with us.