For the last few summers I’ve been spending as much time as possible at my parent’s lakehouse in southern Michigan. We swim, tube, ski, surf, wakeboard and when we’ve done all that, Dad invents a new water sport. Because that’s generally all there is to do here – except eat.
Mealtimes are the focal point of the day. (You gotta have something to break up the water sports.) The fare ranges from easy Mexican to gigantic salads that contain everything but the kitchen sink. We get plump red tomatoes and sweet corn from the farmer down the road and raspberries from the neighbor’s bushes and with those three things we have a meal fit for kings.
Not surprisingly, we don’t eat out a lot. But when we do, our expectations are high. We recently drove 30 minutes to go to a pretty swank place for southern Michigan – the kind of place that has filet mignon and rib eye on the menu – and I left feeling like we should have stayed home. So last night, the empty fridge staring back at us, there was only one place I knew we could go and get guaranteed delicious food.
Randy’s Roadhouse BBQ is located on Highway 12 in the heart of Michigan’s Irish Hills, between the boarded up mini-golf and go-cart park and the abandoned Prehistoric Village. Randy’s also has a trailer, parked about a hundred feet down the road, beside the vacant buildings of the Stagecoach Stop.
When we pulled up to the trailer parked alongside highway 12, Randy himself peered through the window. A couple that had rode in on a motorcycle sat at the only picnic table wiping their hands with their napkins. Tendrils of hickory-scented smoke drifted over the parking lot.
If you want to sit inside and be waited on, Randy’s has an indoor Roadhouse down the street, but with lake-view dining back at the house, we wanted our BBQ to go. I ordered ribs; Mom and Dad got pulled pork sandwiches, beans and coleslaw. Mom couldn’t hold out during the 10-minute car ride home, she dug right in with her fingers and passed me a piece of pulled pork in the back seat.
As usual, Randy’s did not disappoint. My ribs had just the right amount of fat to make the meat slip off the bone. The meat was just the right level of smokey. The sides aren’t anything to write home about, so we fancified our beans with chipotle tabasco and covered the coleslaw in cracked black pepper. Dad popped the tops on a round of Bell’s Oberon and together we watched the sunset as we waited for our stomachs to settle. After all, there was more skiing to be had.
If you happen to have the good fortune to eat at Randy’s, take a look at the Stagecoach Stop next door. This former amusement park just went to auction a week ago after standing vacant for five years. Like the abandoned Prehistoric Village and the mini-golf and go-cart businesses on this road, they are a glimpse of what Michigan’s Irish Hills used to be like. Somehow it seems even more ironic that this place, that looks like the set of a western movie is now a ghost town. For just $250,000, I am tempted to turn it into my own personal ghost town.