A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from December 22, 2008
Meat and Three (Meat and Two)

"Meat and three” (or “meat ‘n’ three") is a restaurant that serves meat and three (usually vegetable) sides. The term has become popular in Nashville (TN), but many restaurants in America (especially in the South) serve meat and threes. “Meat and three vegetables” were offered at many restaurants in the 1930s; “meat and three” is cited in print by at least the 1980s.

“Meat and two” is popular in England.

Wikipedia: Meat and three
Meat and three or Meat and three veg is a staple of rural cuisine throughout the world, though most notably in the Southern United States and England. The name is taken from the choice of any meat and three vegetable side dishes. In the US it comes with a piece of cornbread, whilst in other places it includes potatoes as the main carbohydrate. Often, the menu is set, and in some places, affixed to the wall. The menu is usually Prix Fixe; the price is the same no matter what selections are made. While similar to the blue plate special, blue plate specials can deviate from this format to be anything the management desires to feature. The fundamental philosophy of an affordable yet filling meal is the same.

“Meat and three” may also be used as a generic term for a restaurant which serves such a menu.

meat and two veg (uncountable)
(UK, colloquial) A stereotypical standard dinner, with a meat and two kinds of vegetable.
(UK, slang) The male genitals.

About.com: Nashville
Music City’s Meat and Three’s
What is a Meat and Three?

From Jan Duke, for About.com
Although the origin of the meat and three is unknown, it is truly a southern culinary tradition not to be missed when venturing into the South.

This culinary treat is a mainstay in most Nashvillians diets. There are numerous (about a hundred or more at last count) meat and three diners scattered throughout the city.
Locally, the Meat and Three is commonly referred to as “Meat N Three”, emphasis on the “N”. What exactly is a “Meat and Three”? A true meat and three will consist of your choice of meat and three vegetables, served along with a choice of cornbread and/or rolls. Add in the sweet tea, which is an art unto itself, and followed up by a homemade dessert and you will think you’re in Mom’s kitchen.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
meat and two veg n. a dish consisting of (usually roast) meat served with two varieties of vegetable, esp. when seen as typical of traditional or unimaginative British cooking; (fig.) something simple, basic, and unsophisticated, or something indicative of simple and unsophisticated tastes (also attrib.).
1960 J. R. ACKERLEY We think World of You 83 An almost deserted pub..supplied me with..a couple of pints of refreshing beer, also with a plate of meat-and-two-veg.
1984 Economist 3 Nov. 18/1 Treasury officials paying for their meat and two veg are rightly suspicious.
1989 Q Dec. 194/1 Australia’s popular sons Midnight Oil have never met the demands of the local audiences’ traditional ‘goodtime’ rowdiness and taste for meat-and-two-veg rock and left it at that.
1999 Daily Tel. (Electronic ed.) 25 Sept., The meat and two veg, the beans on toast, the bangers and mash that keep the body and soul of the nation together.

24 April 1890, Decatur (IL) Republican, pg. 7, col. 3:
Soup, relish, or salad; one kind of fish and two kinds of meat; three vegetables; pie or pudding; fruit, coffee, tea, chocolate or milk.

Google Books
School Feeding:
Its History and Practice at Home and Abroad

By Louise Stevens Bryant
Philadelphia, PA: J. P. Lippincott Company
Pg. 185:
Lunch consists of soup, meat and two vegetables.
(School lunches in Germany—ed.)

25 July 1919, Syracuse (NY) Herald, pg. 4, col. 5:
“I have dinner at noon, usually soup, meat, three vegetables and dessert. In the evening I eat lightly.”

25 July 1922, Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, pg. 5, col. 6 ad:
(Famous Nick’s Restaurant - -ed.)

27 September 1934, Charleston (WV) Gazette, pg. 5, col. 7:
For Dinner
Try Our 25c Service Choice of Meat and Three Vegetables.

23 January 1937, Galveston (TX) Daily News, pg. 7, col. 2:
Meat and Three Vegetables With Drink...25c
(ABC Food Stores—ed.)

American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940
Item 3 of 500 [Betty Lowe]
{Page image}
September 8, 1939
Betty Lowe (Cook Waitress)
Taylorsville, N. C.
Ethel Deal, Writer
Dudley W. Crawford, Reviser Original Names Changed Names
Betty Lowe Reba Lane
Taylorsville Jefferson
Smitheys Levys
Lena Lula {Begin handwritten} C9- 1/22/41 - N.C. {End handwritten}
{Page image}
{Begin page no. 2}
“After I finished school in 1938. I got a job in Levy’s Lunch Room at Jefferson. He has a chain of stores and lunch rooms. I didn’t like it so well in Jefferson. The people there was hard to please. I asked the manager to change me and let me come here where my sister works.

“We have been here about twelve months and like it fine. We do all the cooking for the lunch room. You can get a plate lunch at Levy’s for twenty five cents. This plate lunch includes meat and three vegetables. Dessert is extra, and you have your choice of pie for five cents. Lula and I bake all the pies; cocoanut, lemon, chocolate and butter scotch are our favorites. We never have any left over and could sell more if we’d make them. We feed a lot of people. Noon is a busy hour, people come from all over town for lunch. We get about all the people from the court house. After we get our lunch hour over, we string our beans and prepair our vegetables for the next day.”

29 September 1947, Kingsport (TN) Times-News, pg. 5A, col. 3 ad:
Sunday Menu
Choice of meat, three vegetables, salad, drink and dessert for
(The Nu-Victory Grill—ed.)

29 January 1962, Burlington (NC) Daily Times-News, pg. 2A, col. 7 ad:
Coffee or Tea Included
(Phillips Restaurant—ed.)

Google Books
26 March 1984, New York magazine, pg. 23, col. 1:
In 1971, it was Tigrett’s then-Marxist idea to put a Tennessee truck stop in the middle of Mayfair and open it to everyone. He didn’t quite go all the way to flypaper and slamming screen doors, Coke machines, pig sandwiches, waitresses who smacked their gum and had personality, the smells of grits and eggs, and “meat and three,” but he did bring them the hamburger, which until Isaac, mostly meant Wimpys.

19 August 1987, Atlanta (GA) Journal and Constitution, “Southern cooking makes ocmeback as haute cuisine,” pg. F1:
“But if I had to name a state serving the best meat and three vegetables, it would be Tennessee.”

Google Books
Gettin’ It on: A Down-Home Treasury
By Lewis Grizzard
Published by Bbs Pub Corp
Pg. 335:
I stopped for lunch in one of those meat-and-three-vegetables places the other day and, much to my surprise, the waitress brought my iced tea in a quart fruit jar.

Google Books
The Hangdog Hustle: A Nell Fury Mystery
By Elizabeth Pincus
Published by Spinsters Ink
Pg. 81:
... a dicey engineering problem, and a convention in Southern dining she thought I’d enjoy: Meat ‘n’ Three. You pick one meat plus three vegetables, pile on some biscuits, and call it a meal.

Google Groups: rec.equestrian
Newsgroups: rec.equestrian
From: (Slobah)
Date: 1996/07/10
Subject: Re: NEED SHOW NAME.......FAST!!!

One of the things Tennessee is famous for is the dish served at most diners in the state—any kind of meat, with three vegetable side dishes. This kind of restaurant is called a “Meat N Three” which I always thought would be a great name for a big dumbish warmblood.

American Dialect Society list
Date:  Sat, 7 Sep 2002 12:15:10 +0100
Sender:  American Dialect Society Mailing List
From:  Michael Quinion
Organization: World Wide Words
Subject:  Re: Meat-and-Three (1938)

> I’ve been trying to date the southern regional dish of
> “meat-and-three,” or meat and three vegetables, as described by
> the Sterns in ROADFOOD.

We seem to be traditionally impoverished here in the UK, as the standard phrase here is - or used to be - “meat and two veg” or “cut off the joint and two veg”, as the description of a bog-standard meal, especially one from a pub or the cheaper sort of restaurant (it would have been the usual composition of the old “shilling ordinary” in such places). The OED doesn’t go back further than 1984 in those specific formulations, though it has citations back to 1905 that are variations. An example is in George Orwell’s “Keep the Aspidistra Flying” of 1936: “He strolled into the Prince of Wales for a bite of food. A cut off the joint and two veg., one and twopence, a pint of pale ale ninepence, twenty Gold Flakes a shilling”.
Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words

17 July 2005, Chicago (IL) Daily Herald, travel, section 7, pg. 9, col. 1:
(Nashville, TN—ed.)
“Meat and three” is local argot for a main dish and three side dishes, usually served cafeteria-style. Choice of entree might include meatloaf, country-fried steak, fried or rotisserie chicken, pork chop, beef tips and turkey and dressing. Vegetable sides run the gamut from turnip greens, creamed corn, mashed potatoes and squash to green beans, macaroni and cheese, candied yams and okra. Swett’s is the aristocracy of the genre, but other good spots include Arnold’s and a meat and three at The Hermitage.

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (0) Comments • Monday, December 22, 2008 • Permalink