Nashville’s Meat and Three Tradition

The following post was written by our friend Mindy from R.B. and Mindy.

There’s a style of restaurant in Nashville and Middle Tennessee called the Meat and Three. You can probably guess what it means—a hearty home-style lunch consisting of a main meat with three sides.

In the rural South, the midday meal was traditionally the big meal of the day.  This is when hungry farmers and small town folks would eat a big lunch (called dinner) at home after a long morning of work. As more people began working further away from home, going back for lunch became less common. Meat and Three restaurants popped up to fill in for mother’s home cooking.

Meat and Threes are restaurants focused on home cooking.  They’re not looking to impress you with menu innovation and precious ingredients. The meats are simple – fried chicken, meatloaf, pork chops, and catfish with a large variety of side dishes.

They have me at the sides. I go for a “vegetable plate” all the time because there are just too many great options. How can you possibly limit it to just three? Among the choices, there is always a bean – white beans or pintos are most common. There’s always a green, around Nashville it’s usually turnip greens. The more popular Meat and Threes also have the uber popular mac and cheese and fried okra everyday. My perfect plate would be white beans, turnip greens, crispy fried okra and sliced summer Tennessee tomatoes with cornbread on the side. If I have room for dessert, it will likely be a slice of chess pie.

Take a hint and bring it back home. I often make a pot of beans and a pot of greens and keep them in the fridge to heat up for lunch. My favorite way to keep cornbread handy is to freeze cornbread waffles and reheat them in a toaster or toaster oven.  You can’t beat the urge of dipping cornbread in pot likker and bean juice. Not a bad way to sustain a famished food writer until suppertime.

I make beans in the slow cooker overnight. It’s so easy and here’s how – Slow Cooker Dried Black-Eyed Peas

Turnip greens are just around the corner. Nashville Turnip Greens

Get out the wafflemaker. Classic Corn Meal Waffles

If you don’t have a waffle maker, try these easy corncakes. They freeze and heat up nicely, too. Sweet Milk Corn Cakes

Got room for chess pie? This lemon version is my favorite. Lemon Chess Pie

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