Dunedin’s Cameron Capri met his true love, Chrissy, on Lake Michigan. But they decided returning to his hometown to raise their family made the most sense. Higher temperatures and lower housing prices were an irresistible lure. And then, when the space on Main Street next to the Soggy Bottom Brewery became available, Capri saw the opportunity to use all the skills he had learned over the past two decades to create his dream: a family-friendly, craft BBQ restaurant. The extensive reno delayed the opening to March 2020—perfectly coinciding with our 100 year pandemic.
“Q” Southern Barbecue
664 Main St., Dunedin
Snacks $5-$8; sandwiches/dinners $8-$18; sides $3 - $12; desserts $3-$4
Capri remained undeterred. His broad experience in food service and barbecue taught him to be nimble. “Q” managed to survive through takeout, catering, and a commitment to excellence. When your focus is on quality, attention is paid to each element on a menu. This is where (and why) “Q” succeeds so well. Each of the meats is produced with care and stands alone. The thinly sliced beef brisket, which is the heart of Texas barbecue, is moist and not overly smoky. That’s generally true of all the proteins. There’s a delightful touch of smoke so that they don’t all taste alike. The essential flavor of the meat leads, with the smoke as a grace note.
The pulled pork butt is cooked low and slow to melt in your mouth, Lexington, North Carolina (western) style. We try the pork in the form of Q’s quirky sounding sandwich, The Cackalacky. It’s simply classic shredded pork with slaw. The meat is tossed in some of the NC Vinegar (see below), so that the takeaway bun ends up soft by the time we get it home. You may consider separating the elements in your car or just ask for the bun on the side and assemble the sandwich when you’re ready to eat.
The meaty St. Louis style ribs are slow smoked until tender, but they still retain some resistance and they’re finished on the grill. The chicken is dry-rubbed and “kissed” with smoke. It’s tender and juicy, but less interesting to me. If your protein of choice used to cluck, though, have no fear. Plus the dinner selections come with thick cut, buttery slices of Texas toast.
One of the highlights is the array of sauces. They’re all made in house and represent a quintessential overview of popular barbecue styles. Capri isn’t getting all cheffy with fusion variations. He’s simply presenting great examples of the best American barbecue has to offer.
The Kansas City Sweet is well balanced and not at all cloying like many sauces that get carried away with brown sugar or molasses. Likewise, the Texas Hot is also tomato-based but uses care with the chili powder so that it doesn’t slap you in the face, but rather makes itself known on the back of your tongue—just like the finish of a fine wine.
S. Carolina Gold is the traditional mustard based sauce that’s creamy rather than harsh and the traditional N. Carolina Vinegar is tangy and just right for the pulled pork with slaw as the sharp edge balances the fat. The surprise is called Tampa “Q”. It’s an original tomato base with espresso; the coffee isn’t strong, but it serves as the foundation for complex flavor.
And then, there’s a wide range of scrumptious sides. I skip the grilled corn, Brunswick stew and potato salad. The staff suggests green beans instead of collards, and it’s a flavorful choice. They are, of course, Southern style, which means on the softer side—but these are not cooked to death. Instead of bacon or ham hock accents, they’re partnered with slivers of soft white onion delivering a pleasant highlight that doesn’t overwhelm the beans, but adds complexity.
The smash(ed) potatoes are rustic. They’re chunky with skin-on and a hint of what seems like garlic to me. Again, Capri knows what he wants and delivers. There’s clearly a vision to the offerings. These are also a staff recommendation and I’m so glad I asked.
The bourbon baked beans are also soft, but not mushy; they are satisfying and not too sweet. For me, the hands down winner is the mac-n-cheese. I usually like all pasta to be al dente, even if it’s not an Italian preparation, but this won my heart (and my palate) because of the incredible cheesiness. Though soft, it’s just flat out decadent.
The same is true of the apple cobbler dessert. Scooped for takeout into a paper container, it seems more like apple compote. There’s not much crust or crumble associated with cobbler, but it’s simply delicious. The fruit is soft, but retains just enough resistance and the sweetness is nigh on perfect, with just a hint of spice and everything nice.
There are also two fresh-baked skillet cookies available. Snickerdoodle is our choice over the chocolate chip. They’re soft, the size of your hand, and cello-wrapped for freshness, although everything is made daily. Either way, you can’t go wrong. It’s just that the apple cobbler is the most memorable.
With the COVID demise of my favorite, Iron Oak, it’s nice to have “Q” Southern Barbecue for reliable takeout with all the delectable fixin’s. There’s also an outdoor patio for a socially distanced meal and a chance to grab a craft brew from next door if you’re a fan of hops.
It’s not a bad choice to while away another never-ending pandemic day.
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