'Meat and Three' at Saint Lou's Assembly in West Loop

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A new cafeteria in the West Loop is offering a Midwestern take on the southern institution "meat and three." (WLS)

Southerners certainly know the term "meat and three." That refers to casual cafeterias, serving a choice of a main dish, along with three sides.

A new cafeteria in the West Loop is offering a Midwestern take on this southern institution but this new version has a few twists to it.

Tucked away along Lake Street, beneath the Green Line tracks, Saint Lou's Assembly borrows the "meat 'n three" theme, and makes it Midwestern.

"A meat and three is a classic Southern thing, where you pick your meat and get three sides," said Jared Wentworth, the Chef of Saint Lou's Assembly. "Try to put kind of my spin on it. Try to use really nice, accessible farm ingredients and kind of spin it and make the cafeteria experience more elevated."

So instead of just mac and cheese, there are sides of roasted beets and carrots, French green beans, roasted potatoes and bok choy. Wentworth gets creative with mains too. Sure, there's fried chicken and salmon, but also slow-roasted porchetta or a meatloaf wellington. For the latter, he spreads pulverized mushrooms and foie around a wedge of meatloaf, wrapped in puff pastry that's brushed with egg wash and baked; it's served with meaty jus of course. He's even bringing back classic prime rib.

"There just doesn't seem to be that many places in Chicago - which is a meat town - that is serving really good, sliced-to-order prime rib," said Wentworth.

Served with rich meat jus and horseradish sauce, it's a hearty lunch or dinner. Any of the three fountain drinks can be turned into cocktails; there's also a variety of boozy shakes. Speaking of dessert, they make a few and get the pies from Baker Miller in Lincoln Square, but funny enough, they're presented to you before the main courses.

"That's kind of a classic meat-and-three thing; makes you commit," he said.

Unlike a lot of cafeterias, the menu here at Saint Lou's actually reflects the seasons, so as we're getting into the warmer months you're going to see a lot of farmer's market produce showing up here on the plates.

Saint Lou's Assembly
664 W. Lake St., Chicago

EXTRA COURSE: Candies and boozy milkshakes
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Steve Dolinksy tries Saint Lou's Assembly's unique candies and boozy milkshakes.

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