When you're hungry for home-cooking but can't get home, head to the nearest meat-and-three for a soul-satisfying plate of comfort.These cafes and diners are as much a part of South Carolina food history as oyster roasts and pig pickings. Whether you're meat-and-three curious or a lifelong fan looking for a new favorite, the search for a hot meal built around a meat entree and a bevy of veggies is a foodie quest well worth undertaking. Note that some meat-and-threes are technically "meat-and-twos" - if you want three sides, simply add another. The cost will be modest, in keeping with the humble spirit of these Southern institutions.
Ready to dig in? Here are 12 suggestions from around the state where you'll find Southern interpretations of succulent meats and plenty of delicious "threes" to round out your plate. Call first to check hours of operation and daily menu offerings.
Lowdown: This cafe has been dishing up square meals in the Thoroughbred Country since 2009.
Meat favorites: Country fried steak, salmon patties, pot roast
Notable threes: Broccoli casserole, macaroni and cheese, yams
Lowdown: This no-frills eatery is bustling on weekdays, serving up some of the region's best Gullah-influenced/soul food cooking, cafeteria style.
Meat favorites: Fried pork chops, fried chicken, ribs
Notable threes: Macaroni and cheese, collard greens, Lima beans seasoned with smoked turkey necks
Lowdown: Named for owner and city councilman Michael Chestnut, this hot spot has enjoyed national attention for its fresh veggies and expertly prepared meats.
Meat favorites: Fried pork chops, fried fish, meatloaf
Notable threes: Collard greens, potato salad, macaroni and cheese
Lowdown: Come to savor authentic soul food flavors, fresh veggies and more. On Sunday, you'll find a rotation of meat specials from turkey wings to beef stew.
Meat favorites: Fried ribs, pigs feet, fried chicken livers
Notable threes: Pinto beans, squash casserole, fried okra
Lowdown: Opened in 1962, this town institution is a third-generation family operation known for tried-and-true country cooking.
Meat favorites: Hamburger steak, backbone and rice, chicken bog
Notable threes: Squash casserole, field peas, turnip greens
Lowdown: This popular chain has been serving up big, juicy fried chicken and daily specials for more than 35 years. A giant board lists all the meats and veggies, and don't miss the banana pudding. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Meat favorites: That big, juicy fried chicken is so, so good, as is Monday's special chicken and dumplings.
Notable threes: Black-eyed peas, macaroni and cheese and squash casserole.
Lowdown: Since the day Martha Lou Gadsden opened the doors of this humble eatery, it established its place in local food culture and attracted a national following. This is a "must eat" destination of locals and tourists seeking a Gullah-rooted dining experience.
Meat favorites: Fried chicken, pork chops, chitterlings
Notable threes: Giblet rice, okra soup, fried cabbage
Lowdown: This gem has unusual roots as its owner is a native of Vietnam whose adoptive mother taught her the Southern cooking ropes.
Meat favorites: Country fried steak, fried pork chops, baked chicken
Notable threes: Macaroni and cheese, fried squash, collard greens
Lowdown: Nothing fancy here, but this family owned and operated eatery serves a stick-to-your-ribs offering of Southern favorites.
Meat favorites: Chicken-fried steak, salmon cakes, fried chicken
Notable threes: Mashed potatoes, collards, creamy grits
Lowdown: Cafeteria-style magnet attracting hungry folk seeking substantial Southern sustenance.
Meat favorites: Smothered pork chops, fried chicken, ribs
Notable threes: Spicy fried corn, black-eyed peas, collard greens
Lowdown: This storied restaurant, operating for about three decades, is known for its from-scratch dishes served in an old log cabin-style house.
Meat favorites: Grilled pork chops, meatloaf, fried chicken
Notable threes: Fried green tomatoes, mashed potatoes, steamed cabbage
Lowdown: This small cafe has quickly generated a loyal following of locals and visitors to Florence's newly revitalized downtown area.
Meat favorites: Fried pork chops, barbecued chicken, chicken and dumplings
Notable threes: Macaroni and cheese, collard greens, black-eyed peas