What: The hearty goodness of the South’s meat-and-three tradition served all-you-can-eat family style. Short of scoring an invite to somebody’s aunt’s dinner table, this is hands-down the best way to sample lots of home-cooked regional food in the South—and make a few new friends while you’re at it. 

Where: In Nashville, Monell’s (multiple locations including 1235 6th Ave. North, map), situated in a historic Victorian house in Germantown, is a must. Patrons are seated at long tables with strangers, with whom the parade of food is shared (remember to pass on the left!).  

When: Mon-Fri, 10:30am-2pm for lunch; Tues-Sat, 5pm-8:30pm for dinner; Sat, 8:30am-1pm, and Sun, 8:30am-11am for country breakfast; Sat lunch, 1pm-3pm; Sun, 11am-4pm for “Sunday dinner.” The latter proved a wonderful time to go, with a wide selection of foods and great diversity in clientele, from post-churchgoers and local families to other travelers passing through.

Order: There’s no choice in the matter, really—you eat what’s brought out. But in terms of Southern food done really well, there are no surprises either. Expect a few meats such as BBQ ribs, meat loaf, fried catfish, or pork chops (check the website for daily specials)—and you’ll always get their exceptional skillet-fried chicken—plus a bunch of hot cooked vegetables, something resembling a salad, hot biscuits, dessert, and pitchers of sweet tea, fruit tea, and unsweetened tea. The delicious Sunday-afternoon dinner we experienced, pictured above, included moist pulled pork, mac-and-cheese, green beans, sweet corn pudding, collard greens, cucumber-onion salad, mashed potatoes (with skins), brisket with gravy, biscuits and peach preserves, fried chicken, and pecan pie. It’s a whole lot of gluttony for $20.50 a person (prices are a bit cheaper on other days of the week).

Good to know: The restaurant has a no-cell-phone policy at the table. It just ain’t polite with all the strangers round you! Also, do yourself a favor and arrive hungry. And clear your afternoon schedule of further eating. Seriously—it’s not gonna happen. A nap and a walk is a much better plan.