North by northwest
Following a tip from reader Deborah Kanter, we hit culinary gold about ten minutes east of Pinckney on M-36. Chef Chris' Boogie Woogie Bar-B-Que is a spic-and-span storefront in the Hamburg Village Plaza strip mall, with terrific eats.
Chef Chris Sirvinskis won me as a fan when he was at the short-lived Northfield Roadhouse, a blues bar with a jazzy kitchen. Since then, the chef and harmonica master has catered private events and continued as the frontman for the Blue Plate Specials and later for the Rump Shakers. He opened his own place in March of this year, docking his seventeen-foot-long cast-iron smoker semipermanently in the back parking lot.
It's mostly carryout, though there are a handful of tables. The room is outfitted in a suitably down-home style with corrugated steel and plywood and music-themed art (if that's the right word for a black-velvet painting of John Travolta in full Saturday Night Fever regalia). Behind the counter is a large open kitchen, gleaming with stainless steel, where Chef Chris preps the meat before it goes into the smoker and cooks up the accompaniments. The sides are generally good; the only ones we found somewhat wanting were a crisp and chunky but too mayonnaisey coleslaw and a creamy but bland mac-and-cheese. Perhaps the best were the feisty red beans and rice cooked with ham hocks, a roasted vegetable-tomato-herb broth, and house-smoked pork sausage that was so full of flavor we almost could have stopped right there. An excellent bowl of collards with bacon, onion, and a dash of vinegar was similarly satisfying.