By Joanne Spataro
If Charlotte could flick on a “Hot Now” sign, then the city’s coffee and doughnut scene would keep the neon Krispy Kreme-inspired indicator eternally lit. Nowadays, nearly every corner of Crown Town has a place serving locally sourced beans and brews or a bake shop frying sugary rounds that defy willpower.
Be choosy at Duck Donuts’ made-to-order frosting and toppings conveyor belt, or celebrate a special occasion with a doughnut-tiered cake from Suárez Bakery (the stack of three 7-inch doughnuts serves six to eight).
Talk over a hot cup of joe at buzzworthy passion project Hex Coffee, or trade Saturday morning cartoons for comics and a hot Americo (a lavender, caramel and rose latte) at Comic Girl Coffee & Books. Whatever your pleasure, you’ll find a unique way to fill your cup—and your belly—at these Queen City establishments.
BUZZWORTHY SHOPS NEAR YOU
NEIGHBORHOOD: Montford Park
DOUGHNUT: Park Road Shopping Center’s Suárez Bakery is known for doughnut-tiered wonder: the Texas Doughnut Cake. Three Texas Doughnuts measuring 7 inches across are held together with vanilla cream for a party pastry to remember.
COFFEE: While Suárez likes to go over the top, Mugs keeps coffee low key. Find quiet in your loud weekend by meeting up with friends or playing a game of checkers over a chai tea latte.
DOUGHNUT: Make your Saturday morning with a stop at Your Mom’s Donuts in Matthews. These square—yes, square—treats come in flavors such as salted caramel or milk and dark chocolate ganache.
COFFEE: Set up on downtown Matthews’ bustling strip, Brakeman’s Coffee is committed to “Keeping Matthews Slow.” Settle in at this homey spot to finally write that novel over a cup of piping joe.
DOUGHNUT: Pop into Duck Donuts early for a made-to-order or seasonally inspired round. This addictive eatery also dresses doughnuts as sundaes and breakfast sandwiches.
COFFEE: Equally crowded, local favorite Not Just Coffee puts the craft in craft coffee. Baristas here master Instagram-worthy pours, a skill that takes the shop’s lattes to the next level.
DOUGHNUT: With rotating flavors ranging from basic vanilla glaze to Southern banana pudding, the award-winning delights at SUGAR. Handmade Gourmet Donuts are hand rolled, cut and fried in small batches throughout the morning.
COFFEE: Although SUGAR has a Ballantyne storefront, you’ll find these doughs paired with Enderly Coffee in Uptown’s new Visitor Info Center. The local roaster brings beans to coffeehouses throughout the Queen City.
DOUGHNUT: With divided Old School and New School options, doughnut enthusiasts can rejoice at Rise Biscuits Donuts. Get your classic vanilla icing with rainbow sprinkles and a birthday cake for your kids.
COFFEE: After visiting Rise’s Ballantyne location, sit by the window at Rush Espresso Cafe & Wine Bar cradling a hot Americano, contemplating which Harris Teeter/Target combo you’ll hit up after this too-brief moment.
DOUGHNUT: In Pineville, old-school MJ Donuts serves craveable classics: double chocolate cake, buttermilk with sprinkles and cinnamon crumb, plus doughnut holes and apple fritters. Specialties like blueberry cake doughnuts only sweeten the pot.
COFFEE: If you’re a tea lover, Unwind Tea & Coffee steeps an A to Z selection of leaves. But MJ fans are doughnut traditionalists, so order a cold or hot French Press in one of three flavors.
TASTY AND TRENDING
If you’ve ever said to yourself, “I’m going to gain a pound after eating this,” polishing off The Doughnut at Stoke Charlotte in Uptown all by yourself will make that statement a glaring reality. The center of this heaving 1 pound masterpiece is filled with rich cream, then topped with powdered sugar and Heath bar crumbles. At almost $20 per massive doughnut, it makes sense that it’s meant to be shared—ideally among eight people. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try to conquer it yourself. Only one customer has allegedly finished one of these behemoths before, so it might be time for a new challenger: you.
Caffeine with a kick
What’s more fun than a shot of espresso? Pouring a shot into your espresso. Coffee and alcoholic drinks are one of the hottest combinations in Charlotte, with establishments like Salud Cerveceria/Trade & Lore and The Suffolk Punch/Hyde Brewing all having their own coffee shop brands. Stop by Earl’s Grocery for an afternoon pick-me-up, like hot coffee or wine and charcuterie. Or drop into 7th Street Public Market, which also features alcohol and coffee under one roof: Not Just Coffee has craft espresso and other coffees while Assorted Table Wine Shop and Tank’s Tap Charlotte round out the wine and beer offerings. Whatever you decide, you’ll give a whole new meaning to the term “buzzed.”
New brews on the block
Over the years, java joints like Smelly Cat Coffeehouse & Roastery and Central Coffee Co. have earned their place in our coffee cups—and our hearts. But we would be remiss if we didn’t mention some of the city’s new arrivals. Open since June, South End Grind is set up in fitness center Urban MVMNT. Inside the chic space, you’ll find cold brews, drip coffee, Aeropress coffee and seasonal coffee creations. Formerly located in Elizabeth, Crown Station Coffee House & Pub has reopened in NoDa, pouring brews during live music acts. And in Uptown, quirky Subsecreto, which means “in secret,” offers $13 membership pins that get you coffee discounts and more.
The icing on the cake doughnut
It's fitting that Jamie Brown and Jeff Tonidandel have named their new doughnut shop Reigning Doughnuts; with Growler's Pourhouse, Crepe Cellar Kitchen and Pub, and Haberdish all in a row, the couple rules NoDa's main strip. Located behind Growler's, the 11-by-8-foot shop used to be used for storage, but now it houses a doughnut vending machine and a regular menu of freshly baked cake doughnuts. In addition to standards like chocolate and powdered sugar, look for a featured daily flavor, a signature sprinkle mix and Counter Culture organic coffee.
This article was featured in the Winter issue of Charlotte Happenings magazine.