People and Places with Pierce: Cypress Grill

JAMESVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – “They come down the hill and they can’t imagine what they’re gonna see when they come in,” said Sally Gardner, who operated the Cypress Grill for 37 years with her husband, Leslie.

Tucked away down by the Roanoke River in the community of Jamesville, a small seafood restaurant is getting a lot of attention.

“We’ve had people from all over the state, from out of the country, from everywhere,” said Leslie Gardner, who operated the Cypress Grill for 37 years with his wife, Sally.

For some, it’s a yearly pilgrimage to eat at the Cypress Grill.

“The building itself from the outside it looks rustic.” said Robert Hoggard, who traveled from Greenville to eat at the restaurant. “There’s no place like this.”

“The place is unusual,” said Kathy Davis, the current operator of the Cypress Grill. “I think it’s an experience for them.”

It’s an experience you can only get from January through April.

“We have herring, rock perch, flounder, shrimp, oysters, catfish, trout,” said Davis.

But really, most come for the herring.

“They only run three or four months out of the year,” explained Hoggard. “It’s a bony fish. It’s a fishy tasting fish, and it’s an acquired taste, probably. There’s a lot of bones in it so they have two ways of cooking the fish down here: a basic fish and then they say cremated, where you cook it so hard that you eat everything but the backbone. If you’re not used to eating a herring, that’s probably the way you’d like it, but it’s still a good tasting fish.”

Just a few decades ago, you used to literally be able to stretch a net across the Roanoke River and catch herring by the bucket full. That tradition may be long gone, but many others are still going strong at the grill.

“This is not some franchise,” said Hoggard. “This is some tradition over years and years. It matters to them, to Kathy, how good the food is and if you’re happy.”

And it’s a family affair, right down to the desserts.

“We have the homemade chocolate, lemon, and coconut pies that my parents make every morning,” said Davis.

“They are very good,” added Hoggard. “They’re memorable. I put a few pounds on because of them.”

But like any good restaurant, it’s the atmosphere that keeps reeling people in.

“You feel welcomed when you come here. Period,” said Hoggard.

“As much as they like the fish and all, I think it’s just an older place,” said Davis. “We’ve kept it the same. People like that.”

9kd. “In fact this year we had a guy that’s never been say it was on his bucket list. And he said he would be back.”

Whether it’s the fish, the view, or the good company, you better hurry because it’s only here for a limited time.

Cypress Grill is located at 1520 Stewart St. in Jamesville, North Carolina and is open from January through April. Click here for more information on hours of operation.


Pierce is always looking for interesting and unique people and places to visit. If you have an idea, send him an email or a message on Facebook or Twitter.


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