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Culinary Trail Signature Dish: Plate Lunch

Along the Bayou Bounty Louisiana Culinary Trail, plate lunches are a local favorite.
By LouisianaTravel.com Staff

Chicken Fried Steak plate lunch at Landry's Cafe in Lafayette.

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What is a plate lunch? 

Similar to the South’s ubiquitous “meat-and-three,” a Louisiana plate lunch consists of a plate loaded with down-home comfort foods like smothered pork chops or crawfish étouffée, often accompanied by hearty sides like macaroni-and-cheese, fried okra, dirty rice and more. And you can bet plenty of gravy will be involved. Typically served cafeteria-style, plate lunch menus feature large portions and usually change daily – but locals always know which days of the week to find their favorites.

Where did plate lunches originate?

The practice of calling a meal a plate lunch seems to have originated in Hawaii, where a traditional plate usually contained helpings of macaroni salad, white rice and some form of broiled or baked meat. Different regions and cultures later adopted something similar, calling it by different names. But it’s the meat-and-three and plate lunch that are most widely known, since Southern culture helped shaped the meal into what it is today – typically a meat paired with a vegetable or two, along with a filling (and often gravy-topped) starch. Plate lunches became especially popular in South Louisiana in the late 19th Century, when the rise of self-service lunch counters brought together the comfort of home-cooking with the convenience of buffet-style dining.

Why are plate lunches so popular?

Plate lunches remain hot items at restaurants throughout Louisiana because they please both customers and restaurant owners. They allow kitchens to prepare large amounts of foods that can be dished out quickly when ordered, and they give hungry customers the chance to customize a hearty meal featuring their favorite choices at an affordable cost. Rice or potatoes, green beans or carrots, beef or pork? It’s your call!

Where can I try a plate lunch?

When you’re craving a hearty meal, there’s no better way to indulge than with a Louisiana plate lunch. Lafayette, on the Bayou Bounty Trail, offers many great choices. Pat’s Downtown, Dwyer’s Café and Landry’s Café are a few popular spots, but you can also find more at Lafayette Travel's Plate Lunch Paradise.