Todd Keller is pursuing his years-long dream of opening a barbecue restaurant in the Bradenton-Sarasota area.
He and his family have owned barbecue businesses across Florida, but recently Keller decided it’s time to move to the Southwest coast.
“I am close to my brother and sister who live here,” Keller said. “I want to be near family and who doesn’t love Sarasota?”
If his time line goes according to plan, Keller hopes to break ground in May and serve ribs and pulled pork by October. The 3,000-square-foot restaurant will be located at the corner of 66th Street East and State Road 70 East. He hopes with indoor and outdoor seating, Boneyard BBQ, a full-table-service restaurant with beer and wine, but no liquor, will be able to accommodate up to 130 people. Boneyard will offer takeout and catering services as well.
Keller grew up in the barbecue business. His dad ran a barbecue restaurant in Naples in the 1950s and then went into business with his brother, Keller’s uncle, to open another string of barbecue joints. Keller grew up working the restaurants but decided to try his hand at real estate after a while. Before long, he had a hankering to re-enter the smoky, saucy business.
“I was talking to my grandmother who lives in Sweden one evening and I said, ‘Mummer, I’m frustrated with everything.’ And she said, ‘Todd, go with what you know.’ ”
He took her advice and opened Fat Bull’s in Key West with his girlfriend at the time. He moved on to open Keller’s Bar-B-Q in Lake Mary in 1998 and opened two more stores under that brand. He sold the Keller’s Bar-B-Q company to Dan De La, who had worked for Keller in Key West starting at age 16.
“This is where the story gets cool,” Keller said. “(De La) and his wife own it, and they met in my restaurant 20 years ago. Now they’re married and have kids.”
The Keller’s and Boneyard businesses are separate, De La said, but Keller said the Boneyard menu will be very similar to Keller’s. To get a preview of what Boneyard will have, visit kellersbbq.com/menu.html.
Beyond making it a barbecue restaurant, Keller wants to host antique swap shows every month. He’s collected tchotchkes and antiques, all hand-picked by him, to decorate the inside of Boneyard BBQ.