One meat, three sides. That’s the standard Southern staple known as the Meat and Three. Of course, Meat and Three (or Meat & 3, or Meat ’n 3) restaurants exist throughout the country, but its roots are decidedly Southern. In fact, Nashville is often credited with the origin of the Meat and Three, where, in the 1930s, the cafeteria of the May Hosiery Mill served up the numerical-sounding comfort foods. And fortunately for Outsiders, Nashville still boasts some of the best Meat and Three restaurants in the country.
Oh, if you’re new to the ways of the Meat and Three, it’s simple. Pick one meat (fried chicken, meatloaf, roast beef, etc.) and three sides (greens, mashed potatoes, beans, mac, okra, etc.). Of course, a piece of cornbread or a roll is standard so you can soak up all the liquid goodness on your plate. And you always save room for a slice of pie or a scoop of cobbler.
Take at look at eight of our favorite Meat and Three restaurants in Nashville. And if you’re still hungry for more Music City must-haves, check out Nashville’s Best Mexican Food, Pizza, Brunch Spots, or Patios.
Arnold’s Country Kitchen
Arnold’s is Nashville’s most famous Meat & Three, regularly getting love in national publications like Southern Living and Bon Appétit. However, behind the media hype train is a James Beard Award-winning restaurant capable of meat-loving magic. There’s a reason roast beef is on the daily menu. It’s always on point, and so are the turnip greens, mac, and green beans. We love to hit the Thursday lunch for a plate of fried shrimp, fried green tomatoes, pinto beans, mashed potatoes, and banana pudding.
- Location: 2725 Clifton Ave., Nashville
Swett’s could make our list based solely on their made-from-scratch rolls or beef tips. But the family-owned Nashville institution (three generations) also doles out exceptionally tasty meatloaf, country fried steak, turkey and dressing, fried apples, and candied yams. Save room for cobbler—both peach and blackberry.
Dandgure’s manages to fly under the national radar, but Nashville locals know the cafeteria-style Meat and Three is a culinary cornucopia. Dandgure’s has been a SoBro (south of Broadway) staple for more than 30 years. The weekday lunch crowd (10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.) moves along single file in their quest for delicious fried pork chops (you get two), smothered chicken, spiced apples, mac, cornbread muffins, and more. Want a tell-tale sign you’re about to eat a delicious lunch? See if there’s a table of construction workers enjoying themselves. That seems to always be the case at Dandgure’s.
- Location: 3116 Belmont Blvd., Nashville
Yes, this is a hot bar in the back of a local, family-owned grocery store. And yes, it’s Nashville’s best kept Meat and Three secret. If you’re on the go, stop in for a to-go container of meatloaf, fried chicken, or fried catfish, along with an assortment of sides, including lima beans, turnip greens, okra, and more. But don’t you dare leave until you fill another to-go box with a sweet-tooth sampling of peach cobbler, Coke cake, and pecan pie.
Silver Sands Cafe
There are a couple of other Meat and Three restaurants in the Germantown neighborhood, but soul-savvy Silver Sands is our favorite. The catfish and salmon croquettes are fried to order, and their okra, sweet potatoes, and green beans are always rock-solid sides. But we love their Sunday menu of ox tails, greens, pinto beans, and lima beans. Two beans in our Three? Damn right.
- Location: 107 Memorial Drive, Goodlettsville, TN
Liz’s is about 15 miles north of Nashville, but their country fried steak with white gravy is worth the drive alone. So is their crispy fried chicken. It’s also one of the few places we’ve found that still knows how to make liver and onions, just like grandma. Pile on the greens, mashed potatoes, pintos, and jalapeno cornbread. And be sure to save room for a slice of coconut meringue pie.
Don’t let the facade of this divey destination fool ya. Wendell Smith’s has been dishing out delicious vittles to its devotees since the 1950s. With their Monday thru Saturday meaty standards of roast beef, ham, and BBQ, everyday is a good day at Wendell’s. However, our must-have Friday order includes chicken and dressing (best in Nashville), marshmallow yams, baked squash, green beans, and cornbread. Finish the day off with some banana pudding. Thank us later.
- Location: 3736 Annex Ave., Nashville
When we need to crack a few cold ones with our Meat and Three, Hillwood is our spot. Yes, it’s a pub with more than a dozen beers on tap, but it also boasts an all-day Meat and Three menu. Monday’s chicken fried chicken and Thursday’s country fried steak (pictured in the main image) are our fried favorites as we suck down some suds, along with the fried okra, mashed potatoes, turnip greens, and cornbread pancakes.