People and Places with Pierce: Mom’s Grill

WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – It’s another busy morning along John Small Ave in Washington. It’s even busier inside Mom’s Grill in Washington and there’s one woman at the center of all the hustle and bustle.

“About 30 years I’ve been doing this,” said Helen Keyes, a cook at Mom’s Grill.

“She runs a tight ship,” added Wanda Sims, another cook at Mom’s Grill. “She gets a little fussy but she’s Ms. Helen.”

“I like to get them in, get them out, get them in, get them out and that makes them feel good” said Keyes.

Mom’s Grill is probably most famously known for their cheese biscuits. Keyes said it’s the sharp cheddar cheese that makes all the difference. Other than that, she’s not giving up her secret recipe.

“I just can tell you that the key to the biscuits is the sharp cheddar cheese,” said Keyes. “That’s the key, one of the keys but the other ones we don’t do. We don’t give. To perfect it you’ll never do it because I don’t measure stuff. I just dump it in, and most of the time, I never taste it. I just do like the older generation did. I just say well it looks like it’s enough so I think it’s ok.”

So just how many biscuits does Keyes make?

“Cheese biscuits: anywhere from 9 on weekdays, Saturdays 12 to 13 and there’s 24 to the pan,” said Keyes.

That’s 200 to 300 a day if you do the math, and that doesn’t even count the regular biscuits!

“Oh boy they’re delicious,” said 30 year Washington native Rebecca Gorham. “Everybody comes here to get the biscuits. Eat one of them and you’ll want another one.”

But its Keyes’ connection to people that’s even more special.

“Most of them know if they come here in a bad mood they’re gonna leave in a good one because we’re going to make people laugh,” said Keyes. “That’s one of our regulars. She’s been coming here forever.”

“I would say 85% of the people are regulars,” said Sims. “They come in every day just about so you get familiar with them.”

“I already know what they’re going to order,” said Keyes. “I already know. I’ve been here long enough that we have a one on one relationship.”

Many in Washington would argue that’s all they need to start their day.

“I just enjoy coming here,” said Gorham.

“A lot of people say when are you going to retire,” remarked Keyes. “What am I going to retire for? As long as I can do it I’m going to do it.”

The people who file in every day hope Keyes stays behind the counter at Mom’s Grill for many more years to come.


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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