Must-Try Coffee and Doughnut Spots in Charlotte
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.
by Joanne Spataro Feb 02, 2021
Per a COVID-19-related Mecklenburg County health directive issued Jan. 12, 2021, please note that some businesses may have modified their hours of operation and changed procedures in order to comply with CDC and Mecklenburg County Health Department guidelines. Please wear a mask, limit any non-essential activities and refrain from gathering with anyone outside of your household.
Nowadays, nearly every corner of the city 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 the buzzworthy passion project HEX Coffee, or enjoy art in your cup and on the walls at popular NoDa hot spot Smelly Cat Coffee House & Roastery.
Whatever your pleasure, you’ll find a unique way to fill your cup—and your belly—at these Queen City establishments.
Buzzworthy Spots by Neighborhood
Doughnut: After biting into a handmade yeast-raised doughnut from OMG Donuts & Bakery, you’ll definitely be saying “Oh my gosh!” The popular spot even has a custom doughnut filling station. OMG is also known for their apple fritters and other tasty pastries.
Coffee: Known as C3 or Cynthia’s Coffee Cup, this locally owned shop serves up decadent coffee, crepes, ice cream and other luxurious desserts. The concept of C3 is dedicated to Cynthia’s family and three children and symbolizes family, hope and inspiration that you can achieve your dreams, too.
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. Duck Donuts also has a location in Huntersville.
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. Not Just Coffee also has locations in Uptown, South End, Myers Park and Wesley Heights.
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. Your Mom’s Donuts also has a location in Montford Park and serves a limited supply of donuts at Your Mom’s Bazaar in Davidson and at the Davidson Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings.
Coffee: Set up on downtown Matthews’ bustling strip, Brakeman’s Coffee & Supply is committed to “Keeping Matthews Slow.” Named after a railroad worker whose job was to make sure a train slowed down safely, Brakeman’s has created a relaxing atmosphere where you are invited to “hit the brakes.”
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 Coffee keeps coffee low key. The independent, locally owned coffee shop serves Matthews-based Magnolia Coffee and sources the majority of its products from North Carolina vendors. The quaint space also features local art.
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 likely doughnut traditionalists, so order a cold or hot café au lait or French press instead—you won’t be disappointed.
Neighborhood: South End
Doughnut: This Krispy Kreme location brings more than just the “Hot Now” sign to South End; it is also home to the country’s first 24-hour doughnut vending machine, serving up three-packs of fresh doughnuts. The location, which is located in front of Krispy Kreme’s Global Product & Innovation Center, also features ice cream doughnut sandwiches and milkshakes.
Coffee: Central Coffee Co. is a family-owned, community-driven coffee shop with the goal of serving high-quality coffee and creating a comfortable space for everyone. The local shop features Joe Van Gogh coffee out of Hillsborough, North Carolina. Central Coffee Co.’s flagship shop is located in Plaza Midwood.
Tasty & Trending Spots
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.
Coffee Bars on Wheels
Bringing a whole new meaning to coffee on the go, these popular mobile coffee bars have become favorites around the Charlotte region. Housed in a trendy midcentury modern-styled trailer, Coordinates Coffee Co. is known for its witty stamped coffee pouches. They also offer special packages that include on-site popups and larger quantities of custom-designed coffee pouches. Detour CoffeeBar is another favorite mobile coffee and beverage truck led by a former bookstore barista. Once you discover their unconventional coffee and non-coffee menu items, you’ll be taking a detour to find where the truck is daily. The Coffee Tin also serves up local coffee and espresso drinks on wheels in the Charlotte area.
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 and The Suffolk Punch 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 Shoppe 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.”
The Icing on the Cake Doughnut
It’s fitting that Jamie Brown and Jeff Tonidandel named their doughnut shop Reigning Doughnuts; with Growlers 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 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.
Article originally written by Joanne Spataro. Updates by Beth Castle and Kristen Moore.