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.
Charlene's Home Cooking
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
Location: Greenville and Easley
Lowdown: The steam tables at both locations of OJ’s are hotbeds of down-home cooking prepared with family recipes.
Meat favorites: Fried chicken, meat loaf, chicken pot pie
Notable threes: Turnip greens, okra-tomato soup, creamed corn
Lowdown: Soul food plates are the name of the game at Missy’s.
Meat favorites: Oxtails, fried pork chops, baked ham
Notable threes: Corn/okra/tomato medley, lima beans, mac and cheese
Location: Columbia (chain)
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.
Location: Rock Hill
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
The Front Porch
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
Location: North Charleston
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
Location: Myrtle Beach
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: Sit down inside the homey “Chicken Kitchen” for fresh-from-the-farm veggies, homemade sides and, of course, plenty of chicken and other meats.
Meat favorites: Fried chicken, fried chicken livers, chicken-fried steak
Notable threes: Broccoli casserole, collards, stone-ground grits
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