Dishin’ It Up Southern Style
Meat-n-Three. If you’re from the South, that term needs no further explanation. In case you’re not, let me elaborate: a “Meat-n-Three” is typically a mom and pop restaurant that offers plates consisting of one meat, 3 vegetables (sometimes 2), and a homebaked bread. The offerings usually rotate according to the day of the week, with a pretty extensive list of vegetables and a few meats. The prices are reasonable and the clientele runs the gamut from blue collar to politicians and professionals. To break it down in simpler terms- we’re talking grandma-type-cooking in a place that’s not too fancy, but full of character.
Our area has hundreds of meat-n- threes, but to be completely honest, I’ve only been to a handful. Why you ask? Two reasons – First, even though you wouldn’t know it from this blog, I try to eat pretty healthy most of the time, and unfortunately most southern staples do not fall into that category. Second, my parents only live a little over an hour away in Kentucky, so if I’m feeling the need for some comfort food, that’s where I go. No one can serve up down-home cooking better than my mom, so why even bother? Enter Arnold’s Country Kitchen, the 28 year-old Nashville institution.
Recently the James Beard Foundation chose Arnold’s as one of their America’s Classics winners. For those not familiar, the JBF Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields. Time magazine put it best when they deemed the awards “the Oscars of the food world”. Wow. Okay, got my attention-perhaps it was time for me to pay them a visit.
Just a small roadblock in my path- Arnold’s is only open for lunch. On weekdays. Considering I work 20 miles away Monday through Friday, this might make enjoying lunch there a bit difficult. But alas, nothing gets in the way of me and my food. I was in desperate need of some time off anyway, so what better way to enjoy my day of leisure? I recruited the hubby (not difficult to do for this assignment), and we made our way to the small brick building that houses Arnold’s on 8th Avenue.
Within seconds of walking in the door, we were greeted by the friendliest bunch of people I’ve ever encountered. As we browsed the daily specials list on the chalkboard, the servers continued to chat and joke with us, causing me to grin from ear to ear. This was true southern hospitality defined! I would go back again and again to absorb some of the happiness radiating from this place even if the food hadn’t met my expectations (no need to worry about that, because we soon found out for ourselves that they are dishin’ out a whole lotta goodness).
As I dug into my steaming bowl of Chicken & Dumplings, all the stress that had built up from my week at work vanished. This rich and creamy dish, with it’s tender dumplings, melted in my mouth and blanketed me in comfort. Add to that some mashed potatoes and southern style green beans, and I was transported back to Sunday lunches at my grandmother’s house. How does food do this to me? I can’t speak for my better half, but from the non-verbal cues he was giving off, I could tell the fried catfish, hushpuppies and macaroni-n-cheese were doing more than a sufficient job in satisfying his hunger.
Obviously we weren’t counting calories or carbs that day.
Dare I compare to my mother’s cooking? Let’s just say this-it’s the closest I’ve ever found to it. If you find yourself with a day off, you’re in town for a visit, or you’re lucky enough to work nearby, GO. I guarantee your spirits will be lifted when you enter the doorway. Just be prepared that upon exiting, you may be ready for a nap.
605 8TH Ave S
Hours: Mon-Fri. 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Click here to meet Jack Arnold and family and hear the story behind Arnold’s.