Worth a Try: Meat and Three

meat and three

Check out this hearty sampling of cafeteria-style meat-and-three restaurants across the U.S. serving up classic Southern meats and sides.

Bully’s Restaurant, Jackson, Mississippi

Photo courtesy of Visit Jackson/Visit Mississippi

Bully’s Restaurant is a treasured family business that has occupied the same humble space for nearly 34 years. Owner Tyrone Bully literally built the restaurant brick by brick with his father. Its reputation for serving the best soul food in Jackson has earned the restaurant a 2016 James Beard America’s Classics Award and an honorary resolution from the state of Mississippi. Customers from all walks of life love eating at Bully’s, and the menu serves up classic Southern dishes including beef tips and rice, turkey wings, fried catfish, meat loaf, chitterlings, oxtails, neck bones, rice and gravy, tomatoes and okra, yams, mustard greens, banana pudding, and made-from-scratch cakes. 3118 Livingston Rd.

Niki’s West, Birmingham, Alabama


Niki’s West has been a culinary institution in the Magic City since the late Gus P. Hontzas opened the restaurant in 1957 after immigrating to the United States from Greece. Today, Gus’s sons, Pete and Teddy, operate the family business. The cafeteria line stays jam-packed all the way out the front door during lunch as customers make their way through the steam bar full of appetizing old-fashioned Southern selections such as fried chicken, veal cutlets, fried tilapia and catfish, meat loaf, roast lamb with mint jelly, coleslaw, creamed corn, fried green tomatoes, cheese grits, northern beans, banana pudding, egg custard pie, and plenty more. Niki’s also offers breakfast and an à la carte menu filled with fresh seafood, steaks, and a handful of traditional Greek dishes. 233 Finley Ave. West.

Brenda’s Meat & Three, San Francisco, California

After relocating to San Francisco, New Orleans native Brenda Buenviaje was inspired to share her favorite Southern foods with a Cajun spin, and she teamed up with partner Andre Larzul to open the only meat-and-three restaurant in the Bay Area in October 2014. Since then, locals have developed an appreciation of the Creole-infused Southern selections and keep the eatery busy. Some of the most popular dishes include Brenda’s spicy fried chicken and cream biscuits, shrimp hush puppies with chipotle cream and ham jam, meat loaf with smoked onion jam gravy, macaroni and cheese, dirty rice, cauliflower gratin, hoppin’ John, oyster dressing, seasonal cobblers, and fresh cream pies. 919 Divisadero St. 

Talley’s Meat & Three, Richmond, Virginia

Photo courtesy of Craig Hutson

Josh and Jessica Bufford, owners of Talley’s Meat & Three, come from a long tradition of gathering around the family supper table. Josh gathered inspiration for the restaurant from his grandfather Buford Talley’s Georgia farm and his grandmother’s recipe book. The popular eatery serves home-cooked food that satisfies the heartiest of appetites. The menu includes Cheerwine smoked beef brisket, applewood-smoked certified angus beef with Cheerwine glaze, rotisserie chicken, smoked turkey breast, slow-roasted pork butt, tomato pie, deviled eggs, and fried okra. Talley’s also sponsors numerous philanthropic causes, including a weekly charity event that benefits local nonprofits. 7021 Three Chopt Rd.

Matthews Cafeteria, Tucker, Georgia

Photo courtesy of Matthews Cafeteria

Matthews Cafeteria has held a special place in the hearts and bellies of locals since Bill and Louise Matthews opened the restaurant in 1955. Bill’s grandson, Michael Matthews Greene, runs the family business today. Michael says the food is still made using his grandmother’s recipes and is simply prepared from scratch using classic Southern techniques. Folks line up at the counter daily to get home-cooked food in a pleasant environment. Popular staples include biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, turkey and dressing, pecan-smoked barbecue brisket, fried catfish, chicken and dumplings, pork chops, macaroni and cheese, fried okra, turnip greens, fried green tomatoes, creamed corn, banana pudding, strawberry shortcake, and lemon pie. 2299 Main St. 

City Cafe, Northport, Alabama

Since 1931, City Cafe has been a beloved place for residents of Northport and the neighboring town of Tuscaloosa, home of The University of Alabama. Owner Joe Barger worked in the restaurant during the 1960s while in high school and eventually bought the business in 1974. Guests get a delicious and hearty meal along with an ice-cold drink and a slice of something sweet for a very modest price. The popular restaurant is known for a variety of Southern standards including hamburger steak, beef tips and rice, meat loaf, fried chicken, chicken and dressing, roast beef and gravy, chicken livers, field peas, candied yams, fried okra, creamed corn, turnip greens, lima beans, baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, buttermilk pie, and caramel cake. 408 Main Ave.

Lola’s On Brevard, Charlotte, North Carolina

Lola’s On Brevard is known for satisfying its customers with great food and excellent service. Visitors can opt for a quick sandwich or a full plate of home-style food. The restaurant opened in 2001 as a small sandwich shop and eventually started serving daily meat-and-fixings specials. This addition was inspired by the owner’s grandmother’s classic meals to give customers a break from their usual sandwich routine at lunchtime. The restaurant is known for their hefty portions of mains and sides, and also serves breakfast. The menu includes baked chicken, country-fried steak, fried chicken, fried pork chops, jerk chicken, pot roast, barbecue pork chops, chicken and broccoli casserole, fried squash, fried okra, red velvet cake, coconut cake, and more. 300 South Brevard St. 

Houston This Is It Soul Food, Houston, Texas

Photo courtesy of This Is It Soul Food

Houston This Is It Soul Food has served up Southern soul food for 57 years. Frank and Mattie Jones, the late grandparents of current owner Craig Joseph, opened the restaurant in 1959 to share a variety of Southern favorites inspired by Frank’s mother. She ran a boarding house in the 1920s and ’30s where she cooked for boarders, including world-renowned jazz legends Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner and serves breakfast Monday through Saturday. The menu features quintessential Southern dishes including ham hocks, chitterlings, smothered pork chops and oxtails, Cornish hens, candied yams, black-eyed peas, Creole corn, sweet potato pie, and butter pecan cake. 2712 Blodgett St. 

Arnold’s Country Kitchen, Multiple locations in Nashville, Tennessee


Since 1982, Arnold’s Country Kitchen has been a Nashville favorite thanks to its outstanding food and welcoming environment. Jack Arnold opened the eatery after getting a chance to take over the lease from a faltering restaurant, and he filled the menu with family recipes he learned as a child from his mother and aunt. Today, his wife, Rose, and their three sons run the celebrated restaurant. They have two locations, a James Beard America’s Classics Award under their belt, and a huge following. Favorite menu items include liver and onions, sugar-cured ham, fried catfish, chicken livers and rice, country-fried steak, turnip greens, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, baked squash, cucumbers and onions, chess pie, pecan pie, and spicy chocolate pie. 

Martha Lou’s Kitchen, Charleston, South Carolina

Founder Martha Lou Gadsden, her daughters, and her granddaughters are the women behind the mouthwatering food at Martha Lou’s Kitchen, a much-loved soul food restaurant in Charleston. The family says the restaurant is a no-frills affair where people stop for some of the best cooking in the South. Locals and tourists must agree because it has remained a favorite place for lunch and dinner for more than 30 years. The menu includes pork chops, turkey wings, baked chicken, beef stew, chitterlings, barbecue ribs, mystery meat, cabbage, baked macaroni, lima beans, okra soup, collard greens, giblet rice, and bread pudding, just to name a few. 1068 Morrison Dr. 

This content was originally published in the July/August 2016 issue of Cooking with Paula Deen magazine. ©2016 Hoffman Media

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