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OKINAWA CITY, Okinawa — Of all places to find out about fried Southern cuisine, I was at the gym.

If I was looking for soul food — Stacks’ was where I’d find it.

Several ladies I’d encountered at Risner Fitness Center raved about chowing down on saucy ribs and crispy fried chicken — soul food staples I’d never imagined would be available on Okinawa.

Located in the Goya district, "Stacks’ Inside Dinner on the Ground" is a family restaurant where patrons literally leave their shoes at the door for relaxation and fellowship over down-home cooking.

"Inside Dinner on the Ground" references the tradition of Southern church communities gathering for picnics following a service, said owner and chef Stephen Peters, who is also an ordained minister.

The specialty is the barbecued ribs dinner plate, which is plentiful enough to split for two, although a fight could ensue for the melt-in-your-mouth cornbread.

The meat is tender and succulent — it just falls off the bone. But don’t expect any recipe details.

All the food is "homemade and original," is all Peters will dish.

The hearty menu also includes fried chicken wings, fried fish (available only on Fridays) and for those watching their waistlines, a grilled chicken breast entree.

Each main dish comes with a small skillet of cornbread and a choice of two sides, among them sinfully cheesy macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes and black-eyed peas.

The menu was inspired by Peters’ upbringing in Petersburg, Va.

"This is our family’s Sunday meal," he said.

The restaurant is small and fills up quickly, so it’s best to get there right at its 6 p.m. opening. Expect at least a 15-minute wait for your dinner — Peters is the head and only chef. But as the cliche goes: It’s worth it.

And if you can’t wait, you can always call ahead and order food to go.

To see previous After Hours reviews, go to:stripes.com/afterhours

Stacks’ Inside Dinner on the Ground, Okinawa

Hours: Open from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, with last orders taken at 9:30 p.m. No reservations.

Specialties: Barbecued ribs, fried fish and fried chicken.

Prices: Main dishes range from $13 to $25.20 and include two side dishes. Smaller versions of the main entrees range from $4 to $8.50. Soft drinks and sweet tea available. No alcoholic beverages. Dollars, yen and credit cards accepted.

English menu: Yes

Dress: Casual.

Clientele: Family restaurant.

Location: Okinawa City, Goya 5-16-3. From Kadena Air Base’s Gate 2, cross the four-way intersection onto Highway 20. Make a right turn after passing the Eneos gas station. Go down the hill and make the first right turn. The restaurant has a blue awning and is on the right between a day care center and a two-story white apartment building.

Phone number: 933-9544, can also place to-go orders.

Web site:http://www.stacks.biz


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