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The Best Meat-And-Threes in SC

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 30 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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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.

Missy's Café

Location: Florence

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

Bertha's Kitchen

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

Big Mike's

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

Charlene's Home Cooking

Location: Moore

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

Donzelle's

Location: Conway

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

Lizard's Thicket

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.

Martha Lou's Kitchen

Location:Charleston

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

Mary's Cafe

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

Ray's Diner

Location: Columbia

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

OJ's Diner

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

The Front Porch

Location: Richburg

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

Cahill's Market 

Location: Bluffton

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

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 30 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.