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 country, 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."
- Finch 2009, p. 89.
- Davies 2011, p. 21.
- Finch 2009, p. 85.
- Stern & Stern 2009, pp. 180-81.
- Schatz 2006, p. 4.
- Childress, Tricia (October 19, 2010). "Hawaiian Plate Lunch spot opens". Creative Loafing Charlotte. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
- Galdiera, Lyle (November 27, 2002). "Origins of Plate Lunch". Hawaii News Now. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
- Staff. "Culinary Trail Signature Dish: Plate Lunch". LouisianaTravel.com. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
- Ferrell 2010, p. 153.
- West, Kay (December 7, 1995). "Marketing Concept". Nashville Scene. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
- Yount 2001.
- Davies, Sally Walker (2011). Explorer's Guide Tennessee. Countryman. ISBN 0-88150-898-5.
- Ferrell, John (2010). Mary Mac's Tea Room. Andrews McMeel. ISBN 0-7407-9338-1.
- Finch, Jackie Sheckler (2009). Insiders' Guide to Nashville (7th ed.). Globe Pequot. ISBN 0-7627-4867-2.
- Schatz, Bob (2006). Nashville Impressions. Farcountry. ISBN 1-56037-375-X.
- Stern, Jane; Stern, Michael (2009). 500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0-547-05907-8.
- Yount, Kathleen (Summer 2001). "Diabetes: Evolution of an Epidemic". UAB Magazine. University of Alabama at Birmingham. 21 (2). ISSN 0279-6872.