When we think about the best donuts in Charleston, we could be talking about Charleston City, Charleston County, or Charleston-North-Charleston Metro. We could even include Charleston Harbour in our doughnut-hunting radius. So in this article, we’re going to learn some fun facts about the history and culture of this area as well as its top doughnut spots.
Best Donuts in Charleston
Pre-pandemic, the population of Charleston City was around 150,000. But if you toss in the counties that make up Charleston Metro (Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester), that figure gets closer to 800,000 residents. Where does the name come from though? Charleston started off as Charles Town, named in honor of King Charles II of England. This was way back in 1670.
- Name: BKedDShop
- Address: Charleston Shop 99 Westedge St Charleston, SC
- Website: https://www.eatbkedshop.com
- Phone: (843) 779-0191
- Hours: Mon to Fri – 7 am to 4 pm; Sat & Sun – 8 am to 4 pm
Now let’s talk fried food. Most diet experts agree that greasy doughnuts are unhealthy and veggies are good for you. But BKeD puts an interesting twist by combining the good and the bad in their stores. They sell doughnuts, coffee, tea … and indoor plants! They also serve vegan doughnuts if you prefer those. Try their lemon-lavender-filled doughnut as a treat.
2. Hero Doughnuts & Buns
In 1783, the city was finally incorporated and took on its current spelling by dropping the upper case T, the ‘w’, and the space bar. It was initially a port city with the harbor forming the meeting point between rivers Ashley, Wando, and Cooper. Positioning made it a big slave trading hub. Half of US slaves came through there, and the city formally apologized in 2018.
- Name: Hero Doughnuts & Buns
- Address: 145 Calhoun Street Charleston, SC 29401
- Website: https://www.herodoughnutsandbuns.com/
- Phone: 854.888.4441
- Hours: 7 am- to 5 pm daily
Speaking of spelling choices and links to the UK, you can use the long or short version of doughnut when you spell it. Both are correct, but most Americans leave out the ‘ugh’ while Europeans keep it in. Hero Doughnuts & Buns uses the longer spelling though. They have four outlets at the moment – two in Alabama, one in Georgia, and this Charleston storefront.
3. Annie’s Hot Donuts
If you’re thinking about Charleston as a city and county seat, it covers six districts. They include three islands and two peninsulas. The Downtown area is sometimes just called the Peninsula, and the other five districts are Cainhoy Peninsula, West Ashley, and the islands of Daniel, Johns, and James. The area is known for its hot summers and harsh thunderstorms.
- Name: Annie’s Hot Donuts
- Address: 1247 Ben Sawyer Blvd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464, United States
- Website: https://www.annieshotdonuts.com
- Phone: +1 843-936-6979
- Hours: Wed to Mon – 7 am to 3 pm; Tue – 7 am to 1 pm
Tricky weather aside, the suburb of Mount Pleasant has a heartwarming name. It’s a Charleston County suburb so it’s outside the county seat. But Annie’s Hot Donuts is worth going beyond city limits. Their flavors have mouth-watering names like Bacon Blitz and Caramel Cake. Their jimmy donut is known as Confetti and is elevated with a honey glaze.
4. Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts
In Charleston, thunderstorms mostly happen during the summer. You won’t see much snow in the winter, though ice and freezing rain are common. But the weather is typically sub-tropical, with high temperatures and heavy rain for most of the year. It gets warm in the fall and the winters are mild and brief. Hurricanes can be severe, and Hugo was one of the worst.
- Name: Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts
- Address: 481 King St, Charleston, SC
- Website: https://www.glazedgourmet.com
- Phone: (843) 577-5557
- Hours: Tue to Fri – 7 am to 3 pm; Sat & Sun – 8 am to 3 pm
In the world of pastry chefs and bakers, many experts dismiss doughnuts for being too basic. But some kitchenistas elevate this humble treat by going gourmet and making fancy food fusions. Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts (with the ugh) is one such establishment. Their menu began with a dozen flavors that changed from week to week, but now they have almost 70!
5. The Junction Kitchen
You may have noticed the islands of Charleston have distinctly biblical names. Well, before the Reconstruction Era (1865 to 1877), Charleston was divided into parishes that were named for religious saints and martyrs (Philip, Andrew, Michael, George, James, John, etc.). Some areas still refer to themselves as parishes rather than counties because it feels familiar.
- Name: The Junction Kitchen
- Address: 4438 Spruill Ave, North Charleston, SC 29405
- Website: https://thejunctionkitchen.com
- Phone: (843) 745-9189
- Hours: Tue to Fri – 8 am to 2 pm; Sun & Sat – 9 am to 3 pm
You know what else feels familiar? A well-stuffed sandwich. But what if you can’t decide between a savory sandwich and a sweet treat? The Junction Kitchen serves breakfast all day (yay!) and one of their top sellers is the Buzzed Doughnut. It contains one egg over-easy, bacon rubbed with coffee, and a dipping sauce of mocha served on a maple or mocha donut.
6. Joey Bag A Donuts
How did Charleston get started? Well, King Charles II gave the land to eight of his buddies – it pays to be loyal to the King! The area was designated as the Province of Carolina, and these guys were described as the Lords Proprietors. They brought in settlers by the shipload from Barbados and Bermuda. It was the first pre-planned town in the original Thirteen Colonies.
- Name: Joey Bag A Donuts
- Address: 1118 Park West Blvd Suite 6 Mt. Pleasant SC 29466
- Website: https://joeybags.net
- Phone: (843) 856 5639
- Hours: Tue to Fri – 6 am to 1 pm; Sat & Sun – 7 am to 1 pm
So, what goes well with your Cuppa Joe? How about a doughnut from Joey Bag A Donuts! This Mount Pleasant eatery calls itself the Godfather of Breakfast. Or at least its owner does. The eatery serves both filled and glazed donuts. The menu includes their powdered chocolate fluff, maple Bavarian, and weirdly named delicacies like zebras, monsters, and worms in dirt.
7. Sweet Belgium
Like many early settlements, Native Americans were already present. Indigenous residents included the Cusabo and the Westo. The Westo were from the north and routinely traded in Native American slaves. The settlers worked with them, declaring war on the Cusabo in 1671. But by 1679, the settlers dumped their alliance with Westo and made nice with the Cusabo.
- Name: Sweet Belgium
- Address: 424 King Street, Charleston SC 29403
- Website: https://www.sweet-belgium.com
- Phone: 843 642 6669
- Hours: Mon to Thur – 8.30 am to 2 pm; Fri to Sun – 8.30 am to 6 pm
This all sounds controversial. And when someone describes a snack as ‘the new doughnut’ then you know they’re trying to stir the waters. Especially if their name is Sweet Belgium, which sounds like a censored swear word! Well, this Charleston joint serves Belgian waffles styled like donuts, complete with toppings and glazes. They even have 3” ‘donut hole’ minis!
8. Brown’s Court Bakery
Just like its name, the location of Charles Town aka Charleston – changed. The first city was at Albermarle Point, and it’s now appropriately named Charles Towne Landing. The newer settlement was at Oyster Point and it was a better strategic location in terms of resources and defensibility. It started around 1672 and was accepted as the official Charleston City in 1680.
- Name: Brown’s Court Bakery
- Address: 199 St Philip St, Charleston, SC 29403
- Website: http://brownscourt.com
- Phone: (843) 724-0833
- Hours: 7 am to 2 pm daily
The next doughnut spot we’re going to mention isn’t your typical eatery. Yes, it contains a café, but its main business is to supply bread and pastries to other stores and outlets on a wholesale basis. You can walk in and buy brioche doughnuts at retail prices though. During COVID, they closed their dine-in section, but you can still get take-out and do online orders.
9. The Harbinger Café & Bakery
The final years of the 17th Century weren’t kind to Charleston. The city suffered a series of epidemics and natural disasters that deeply damaged the town. Between 1698 and 1699, the city faced multiple outbreaks of malaria, yellow fever, and smallpox, in addition to a huge fire and an earthquake. Malaria remained rampant until pesticides got popular in the 1950s.
- Name: The Harbinger Café & Bakery
- Address: 1107 King St, Charleston, SC 29403
- Website: https://www.theharbingercafe.com
- Phone: (843) 637-3410
- Hours: Mon to Fri – 7 am to 3 pm; Sat – 8 am to 3 pm; Sun – 8 am to 1 pm
Given that many early settlers in America were dodging religious persecution, these waves of sickness and destruction probably sent a lot of them to church. And if you’re a present-day Charleston resident looking for a Sunday treat, check out the Harbinger Café and Bakery. In the Bible, harbingers are prophecies, but in this one, they only serve doughnuts on Sundays.
10. Mercantile & Mash
Despite its unhealthy reputation, Charleston was a strategic port, so lots of powers were striving for control of the area. These included the British, the French, the Spaniards, indigenous Native Americans, and even commercial pirates. The legendary Blackbeard is said to have taken hostages on one of his raids, trading them to the governor for medicine.
- Name: Mercantile & Mash
- Address: 701 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29403
- Website: https://www.mercandmash.com
- Phone: (843) 793-2636
- Hours: Mon to Fri – 7 am to 4 pm; Sat – 8 am to 4 pm; Sun – 8 am to 3 pm
While we’re talking about blackmail and pirates, let’s look into the curiously named Merc and Mash. Or more fully, the Mercantile and Mash. If you want to try one of their famous gourmet doughnuts, you’ll have to show up on a Wednesday. It’s the only day of the week when these delectable goodies are on the menu. On other days, enjoy their all-day breakfast.
Charleston’s slaving history is uneasy. They initially traded Native Americans, but they knew the area and would often escape. So slavers bought these slaves, sold them out of state, then used the profits to buy black slaves. By 1708, most of the Charleston population was black … and enslaved. This continued until Jim Crow laws triggered the Great Migration after 1910.
- Name: O’Charleys
- Address: 2126 Henry Tecklenburg Dr Charleston, SC 29414
- Website: https://www.ocharleys.com
- Phone: (843) 763-9568
- Hours: 11 am to 9 pm daily
Lots of the southern states were slave states. And centuries later, those regions have large black populations. This has seeped into the culinary culture as well, where lots of southern soul food has African American roots. On that note, if you’re in the south, visit O’Charleys. Their dessert offerings include brownie bites and cinnamon sugar doughnut minis in sauce.
12. High Cotton
Slaving proper was introduced to Charleston when the Bermuda and Barbados settlers brought black slaves with them. Initially, the city traded tobacco, pine, pitch, and deerskin. But tobacco didn’t grow well and the farmers switched to rice, which grew the market for black slaves that had experience in rice plantations. Their descendants are now the Gullah.
- Name: High Cotton
- Address: 199 East Bay St, Charleston, SC 2940
- Website: https://www.highcottoncharleston.com
- Phone: (843) 724-3815
- Hours: Happy Hour – 4 pm to 6 pm daily; Dinner from 5 pm daily
- Weekend brunch: Saturday & Sunday 10 am to 2 pm
Given this background, you may feel a tad uneasy about eating at a spot called the High Cotton. Still, it’s a part of the region’s heritage, so there you go. The restaurant offers authentic southern hospitality with a generous serving of good food. Their donut holes and beignets are a huge hit, and they also cook culinary specialties from selected island nations.
13. Sugar Bakeshop
Curiously, jazz, R & B, country music, and even rock ‘n roll traces its roots to slaves from Africa and the Caribbean. In part, this may have been a result of local laws. To avoid revolt, blacks were stopped from playing their indigenous drums, which could be used as secret signals. They were allowed to use string instruments instead, and the rest is musical history!
- Name: Sugar Bakeshop
- Address: 59 1/2 Cannon Street Charleston, SC 29403
- Website: https://www.sugarbakeshopchs.com/
- Phone: (843) 579-2891
- Hours: Monday to Saturday – 10 am to 5 pm
Racial restriction created some of the most iconic music genres in history. And a similar trick makes the donuts at the Sugar Bakeshop equally miraculous. No, it’s not a race thing. It’s more about bakeries refusing to serve donuts, so this one only offers seasonal variants. You can get chai donuts, cider donuts, and lemon donuts, but only in their designated season!
What’s your favorite spot for doughnuts in Charleston? Tell us about it in the comments!