Plate Lunch Experience

 
Though most visitors to Lafayette might sooner associate the area with our more famed Cajun and Creole culinary fare (jambalaya, crawfish, and gumbo), it is the rice and gravy-centric plate lunch that fuels the people of Louisiana’s Acadiana region. Consisting of meat, a gravy-covered starch, a pair of vegetable sides, and a simple piece of bread — and often all served on a single plate — the plate lunch emphasizes speed, affordability, and caloric heft. 
 
A close cousin to the meat-and-three restaurants found throughout the South, the history of Lafayette’s plate lunch houses is rooted in the marriage of rustic, homestyle cooking with the convenience offered by the buffet line. In the late nineteenth century, cafeteria-style lunchrooms appeared throughout America, introducing patrons to self-service, the steaming lunch counter, and the ubiquitous plastic tray. 
 
In South Louisiana, rural meat markets were likely the first to sling portable plate lunches to a hungry working-class crowd. Instead of disposing of their scraps and other unsold cuts, butchers smothered these meats in a rich, roux-based gravy for tomorrow’s lunch. With the addition of rice — a regional commodity and staple of local tables — and a stewed vegetable or two, the plate lunch was born.