DUNEDIN, Fla. — The owner of Q Southern BBQ and Catering in Dunedin opened the doors to his dream restaurant on Feb. 20, 2020, then the pandemic hit.
"We had three weeks of good time where it was everything I wanted it to be,” chef and owner Cameron Capri said. "It was everything I hoped it would be and three weeks of just that rush and jam-packed and everybody trying out the new place in town followed by the fallout of the pandemic.”
Capri has to think back a long time to remember the last time he had a day off. His weeks are now a blur of work, prep and smoking Texas-style briskets, ribs, pork and chicken.
“We’ve gotten used to thinking on our feet and doing what a chef does,” Capri said. “Brisket is the hardest for somebody to learn and that’s what I take my pride in. All my meat is dry-rubbed it sits for 24 hours before it goes into the smoker.”
Everything at the craft BBQ restaurant is made in-house from scratch. Capri has six different signature sauces each one an homage to different regions of the country famous for BBQ.
“We’ve been lucky to have great reviews,” Capri said.
But reviews can only take you so far. Capri said during lockdowns they were able to serve customers through a take-out window. But, when restaurants started to reopen their sales plummeted. It took help from his community and other businesses to keep the money coming in.
“It’s always tough being the new guy on the block,” Capri said. “The community is what kept us alive. We are very much in this together. We’ve all come together to do something together to cross our customers, to bring exposure to all of us, and to showcase what we do. And, it's something fun working together and getting out of your comfort zone all the time.”
Capri picked his location at 664 Main St. in Dunedin because he grew up there. A graduate of Dunedin High School, Capri wanted his first venture into opening his BBQ restaurant to be in the place he loved.
"Coming back to Dunedin was a homecoming for me,” Capri said. “I want people to know we are here and we are here for the community that is why we are here. It wasn’t let’s just pick a spot, we targeted Dunedin. We want to be here and we want to be Dunedin’s BBQ.”
Despite food shortages, increased costs and everything else that comes along with running a business during a pandemic, Capri is optimistic about his second year in business. He prides himself on hiring local high school students to teach them the ins and outs of creating great BBQ and being a staple in the community. Until things get back to where they were before the pandemic, Capri is working as hard as he can to make Q Southern BBQ a success for himself and his family for years to come.
“You don’t have a choice when you are a small single family-owned business and you’ve put everything that you have into the opening and then being hit with a pandemic that we are in you have no choice you just have to wake up every day and keep going and keep your head down and do the best you possibly can," Capri said.