Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Jul 12, 2007 10:39 AM

okay i have to ask... what is a meat and three? [moved from the South board]

i've seen several people mention it. i'm guessing it's like diner food where you get an entree and 3 side choices but i don't really know. can you tell i'm "newly southern'? :)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Yep, that's what it is. A meat and three sides. In my experience, they're usually cafeteria style where you slide you tray along and tell the folks working behind the counter what you want.

    For what it's worth, my favorite one in Charlotte is the United House of Prayer on Mint. It's actually a meat, two sides and cornbread. Best lunch you can get for $7 (including drink).

    1. You've hit the nail on the head though most places I have been two are meat and two's. Most place also give you cornbread(or roll) and ice tea in the price. Diner food with a more southernly tilt to it. Sides may be collards, green beans, mac and cheese, potato salad mains anywhere from fried pork chops, chicken or fish to neck bones, chitlins or fried bologna sandwiches

      1. Yep. a "meat and thee" generally refers to a casual (often VERY casual) restaurant where you order your meat and three "vegetables". The meat choice will typically include fried chicken, roast turkey, roast beef and gravy, fried flounder, pork chop, etc.

        You'll note I put veggies in quotes above. That's because your veggie choices may well include rice and gravy, canned fruit cocktail, macaroni and cheese, and banana pudding. Actualy vegetables might be mashed potatoes, fried okra, squash casserole, steamed broccoli (hopefully w/ cheese sauce), lima beans, carrot salad, slaw, etc.

        Most meat and threes are nasty. Some are good, it's hard to tell from the outside. One I can think of borders on sublime...if you're in the right mood and you take extra enjoyment from the guilty pleasure aspect.

        1. I laughed aloud when I saw your post. The H and I just went to TN for the first time to visit his brother and SIL (he's from ny, she's southern). She was trying to plan dinners and such for us and emailed that she wanted to take us to her favorite "meat and three". We had no idea what she was talking about. When we got there (Christiana), the place was VERY casual, had a local band playing, and we indeed did order "meat and three" (or for me, they allowed me to order "four" instead w/o the meat as a vegetarian). The food was exactly like another poster said -- diner in a southern style. But we had a lot of fun. Now we toss around the term "meat and three" just to confuse our friends here in nyc. :)

          4 Replies
          1. re: LNG212

            We used to live in Nashville a hop, skip, and jump away from the Sylvan Park Diner. *Classic* meat and three. Opposite end of the dining continuum from "fine" dining, and proud of it.

            Vegetarians have to careful though, because many of the "veggie" items are not vegetarian, such as the green beans or collard greens -- and pie crusts.

            1. re: Richard 16

              Yeah -- I was glad I asked. But they were really nice and explained which ones (like the collards) were made with ham/whatever. Very interesting term.

              1. re: Richard 16

                We took some visitors, including one vegetarian, to our favorite meat-and-three in Nashville, assuring him that an all vegetable plate was an option. He got a green salad, some mac'n'cheese and a big pile of turnip greens. When he dug into his greens, though, the fist thing he found was a big chunk of very fatty side-meat! Not being veggie myself, I'd never really noticed it before, but when I started paying more attention I found that a fullbore vegan's choices in most of these places would be strictly limited to bread and salad.

                I will take some exception to the "most meat and threes are nasty" comment, based on my years in and around middle Tennessee. I've been to some that were just too shiny and soulless, with listless help dishing out boring food, and most branches of the original Sylvan Park are too much like that, I'm afraid. I've never been to one whose food I'd be afraid to eat, though, and two (Arnold's in Nashville, and City Cafe in Franklin, KY) we always visit on our annual trips back there.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  Your pardon, Will. I amend my statement to "most meat and threes in upstate S.C. are nasty." ;-)

            2. There's a new trend to create upscale "Meat and Three (or two)" places. One just opened in Charlottesville, VA. The food includes things like dry-rubbed ribs with homemade barbeque sauce, cornmeal catfish, trout with caper butter, etc. Then you get to choose two sides from an extensive list of things such as beets, collards, grits, etc, all of which are upscale and veggie unless otherwise indicated. I like the traditional southern stuff, but the new trend means healthier food.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mojoeater

                Nonetheless, I miss the places where the waitress called everyone "honey" and the menu was a two-page binder with a blue-ditto'ed list of the daily fare, usually a meat and two sides.

                Miss those "breaded veal cutlets" with Campbell's tomato-soup "gravy", applesauce and corn sides.