This Is What Your Meat-and-Three Order Says About You

Which combo is your go-to?

If you're from the South, you've probably been to a meat-and-three. It's the nothing-fancy, no-fuss type of place where you customarily order a main dish and three vegetable side dishes—and it's always serving up the best grub in town. As far as the menu, don't be fooled. Here, vegetables include macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, hash brown casserole, and corn pudding. It's basically like Thanksgiving food, but you're allowed to have it for lunch on a Tuesday. Pretty cool, huh?

It's best to show up to a meat-and-three with a game plan, lest you be blinded by all the creamy, cheesy offerings on the buffet line. Basically, building the perfect plate is a big undertaking. You can't go wrong, but you can certainly go really, really right. Are you a seasoned meat-and-three pro? We'll see about that.

Here's what your meat-and-three order says about you. (Don't forget to always add dessert. Peach cobbler, banana pudding, and chess pie are calling.)

CROP Fried Chicken at Pearl's Diner in Laurel, MS
The fried chicken with three sides at Pearl’s Diner in Laurel, Mississippi. Cedric Angeles

Fried Chicken + Mac and Cheese + Collard Greens + Cornbread

You have respect for the classics, and this plate takes you right back to your childhood—even if you wouldn't go near collard greens with a ten-foot pole as a kid. While cornbread isn't always counted as a meat-and-three side, you'd probably just ask for double mac and cheese, anyway. Behind the scenes, this combination is actually a culinary masterpiece because it covers all the tastes and textures of a perfect plate. You get salty, crunchy, creamy, cheesy, buttery, and even an acidic kick from the collards. You know your order is better than everyone else's, and, quite frankly, you're right. It's simple, straightforward, and never disappoints. Unless the fried chicken is soggy. RIP.

Meatloaf + Mashed Potatoes with Gravy + Butter Beans + Broccoli Casserole

So, you like to feel safe and cozy. Or you've just never outgrown asking for the same thing at the buffet line as your grandpa. You'd rather stay in to watch your favorite show on Netflix on a Friday night than go out, and you're fully confident that watching Lorelai Gilmore walk around Stars Hollow with her fifth cup of coffee is way more fun than risking a red wine headache after a night out. Who wants to put on real pants, anyway? In an ideal world, you'd get the fried chicken, but the grease upsets your tummy. While not the most exciting meat-and-three combo on the list, any order that includes gravy gets respect around here.

Chicken and Dumplings + Fried Okra + Corn Pudding + Black-Eyed Peas

You have major impulse control. Absolutely zero willpower. Did you also order the banana pudding? Absolutely. This combination is indulgent, but also shows that you're not afraid to really go for it. Everyone at the table is secretly jealous of your don't-give-a-rip-about-calories attitude, and rightfully so. Chicken and dumplings might look like a pile of mushy slop, but it's actually the most underrated main dish and probably better than most other items on the menu. Especially if it's nice and peppery. You added black-eyed peas for "something green," but don't act like there's not a hunk of ham hock staring right at us on the plate.

Fried Catfish + Squash Casserole + Baked Beans + Coleslaw

You're a real meat-and-three veteran, huh? Or maybe, a Catholic on Friday during Lent? This order shows that you have an appreciation for the old-timers—because fried catfish is about as Southern as it gets. It demands a certain amount of respect, and you don't even care if your leftovers stink up the whole car on the ride home. You might not find this main dish at all meat-and-threes, but in some areas, it tops even fried chicken as the most popular entree. Baked beans and coleslaw are the rightful sides to this Mississippi favorite, but you add squash casserole for something creamy and cheesy. Balance!

Hash Brown Casserole + Green Beans + Fried Green Tomatoes + Creamed Corn

Ah, the iconic vegetable plate. Not everyone knows about this sneaky little hack that allows you to pile all your favorite side dishes onto one plate, the main dish be darned. You're someone who doesn't even look in the turkey's direction at Thanksgiving. You're there for the casseroles. Can we blame you? In the South, hash brown casserole, mac and cheese, and fried green tomatoes are technically "vegetables." Why risk a subpar pork chop when you can absolutely drown your plate in creamy, cheesy side dishes? Exactly. You're the dark horse of the group, and everyone will be wishing they'd followed your lead when they see your assortment of goodies.

We largely stuck to the classics here and still couldn't cover them all—we still love you, chicken pot pie, chicken fried chicken, and beef tips with rice!—but if you're someone who isn't afraid to yell out fried chicken livers, boiled cabbage, or tomato gravy to the nice person helming the big serving spoon, keep at it. And let us know your order in the comments.

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