Plate-lunch diners, also called meat-and-threes, are found throughout Tennessee, with the greatest concentration in Memphis and Nashville. These humble eateries serve the type of food that Tennesseans cook (or once cooked) at home: main dish meats like baked chicken, meatloaf, fried catfish, and chicken and dumplings; side dishes (also called “vegetables”) including macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, greens, creamed corn, squash, and fried okra; breads, including corn bread, biscuits, and yeast rolls; and desserts like peach cobbler, Jello, and cream pies. Hands down, these diners are the best places to become acquainted, or renew your relationship, with Southern home cooking.
Plate-lunch diners focus on the midday meal. Most offer a different menu of meats and sides daily. Large restaurants may have as many as eight different main dishes to choose from; smaller diners may offer two or three. Some are set up cafeteria-style and others employ waiters. All offer a good value for money and generally speedy food service.
Plate-lunch diners exist in rural and urban communities, although in the countryside there’s less fuss attached. They are simply where people go to eat.
The food served in these restaurants is generally hearty; health-conscious eaters should be careful. Vegetarians should also note that even some vegetable dishes, like greens, are often cooked with meat.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition