Meat and three
In the cuisine of the Southern United States, a meat and three restaurant is one where the customer picks one meat from a daily selection of three to six choices (such as fried chicken, country ham, beef, country-fried steak, meatloaf, or pork chop) and three side dishes from a list that may include up to a dozen other options (usually vegetables, potatoes, corn, green or lima beans, but also other selections such as gelatin, creamed corn, macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti).
A meat-and-three meal is often served with cornbread and sweet tea. Meat and three is popular throughout the United States, but its roots can be traced to Tennessee and its capital of Nashville. The phrase has been described as implying "glorious vittles served with utmost informality." It is also associated with soul food.
Similar concepts include the Hawaiian plate lunch, which features a variety of entrée choices but typically has standardized side items, and the southern Louisiana plate lunch, which features menu options that change daily. It is somewhat similar to a blue-plate special but with a more fixed menu. The Boston Market chain of restaurants offer a similar style of food selection.
Meat and three has been mentioned in connection with the increasing incidence of diabetes in the Southern population, with one expert saying:
"There's a real misconception in the South about what constitutes a healthy diet. People aren't lining up at the salad bar during lunch hour; they're opting for the 'meat and three and sweet tea' at the corner cafeteria. And that's not good; those cafeteria vegetables aren't really healthy when they're cooked with half a ham hock and butter."
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- Stern & Stern 2009, pp. 180-81.
- Schatz 2006, p. 4.
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