Genuine soul food at its finest is at Rick’s Ribs, a hidden gem in Loves Park, Illinois, just outside of Rockford. Even though I consider Rockford my home turf, Rick’s Ribs was a puzzle to find. My GPS sent me around and around a busy intersection. That’s because it is a tiny restaurant behind a slots place that has a huge sign you can’t see around.

According to the regulars I chatted with while I waited, Rick’s has been at this location around three years. Online, it says he has been cooking for more than 20 years. All I know is that this is the only soul food place around—and the locals love it. I stopped in to get some barbecue takeout to bring home for an impromptu outdoor dinner in my backyard.

The Four Dishes—Nikki Bolka, Helene Ramsdell, Jennifer Spangler and Beth Webb—review regional restaurants for The Gazette.

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