When we heard about North Carolina’s cheese-stuffed biscuits, we knew we had to taste them ourselves. Staff photographer Steve Klise and I hit the road and traveled to Wilson, North Carolina, to get our hands on some of these southern specialties before returning to the test kitchen and developing a recipe of our own.
Where We Went
The city was once widely known as "The World’s Greatest Tobacco Market.” (Its minor league baseball team is called the Wilson Tobacconists.)
It’s 8:30 on a Thursday morning in Wilson, North Carolina, and the line of cars for the drive-through window at Flo’s Kitchen trails around the building and back out onto the street, where it stretches for several blocks. The traffic jam is a reliable morning occurrence as Flo’s regulars line up for massive cathead biscuits stuffed with local hoop cheese. Waitresses approach cars, notepads in hand, to take orders. It’s an efficient process; biscuits are churned out with such speed that many patrons get their food before they even pull up to the window to pay.
I have to dodge cars to get to the front door, but once inside I spy a stack of 5-gallon buckets of lard under the counter, a sure sign that I’m in the right place. The hustle in the air makes the place feel bigger than its tiny footprint should allow. Behind the counter, it’s controlled chaos—two focused women work the griddle and deep fryer, preparing the eggs, bacon, and fried chicken patties that they’ll tuck into split cheese biscuits. Behind them are two more employees on nonstop biscuit duty: shape, fill, bake, and repeat. Presiding over it all is the matriarch of Flo’s, Linda Brewer, who works the cash register and delivers fresh biscuits and sandwiches to her customers, all of whom, first-timers and regulars alike, are named “sweetie,” “honey,” or “sugar.”
Flo’s isn’t the only game around. Sixty miles to the east in Washington, North Carolina, you can find Alice Matthews churning out equally large—and no less cheesy—biscuits at Mom’s Grill. While the pumps at this bright yellow gas station have long since emptied, customers still swing by religiously to fuel up on biscuits.
North Carolina Cheese BiscuitsWhat’s the only thing that could make a better biscuit? In some parts of North Carolina, cheese.
Where We Went
Restaurant: Flo’s Kitchen
Address: 1015 Goldsboro St. S, Wilson, NC
What we ate (and loved): Cheese biscuits, chicken and cheese biscuit sandwiches
Insider Tip: During the morning rush, the line for the drive-through at Flo’s stretches all the way around its triangular lot and extends down Goldsboro Street. If you opt instead for counter service, be prepared to take your life into your own hands, since walking to the main entrance puts you right in the path of vehicles exiting the drive-through line. If you make it that far, definitely snag a couple cheese biscuits for breakfast, but don’t sleep on the so-called “chicken and cheese”—a horizontally-halved biscuit containing a fried chicken cutlet—once lunchtime rolls around.
Restaurant: Mom’s Grill
Address: 1041 John Small Ave., Washington, NC
What we ate (and loved): Cheese biscuits
Insider Tip: The display case at this convenience store-cum-lunch counter located in a former gas station holds the most wonderfully greasy examples of Eastern North Carolina-style cheese biscuits we found on our sweep through the Tarheel State. Tender to the point of being structurally un-sound, these biscuits contain a core of molten cheese that -- full disclosure -- will absolutely end up all over one of the handful of small booths located next to racks of potato chips and Hostess cupcakes.
Read about some of our other trips around the country, in the name of recipe research: