When I think of traveling in the Southern region of the United States, two main things come to mind: unbearable heat and amazing food.
When I got the chance to explore Charleston, South Carolina last month, I knew I wanted to see the city through its food scene. More specifically, the desserts. Some of the best desserts have their origins in the South, and I wanted to taste Charleston’s take on these classics. With this self-guided Charleston dessert tour, you’ll get to taste some of everyone’s favorite treats, and some of the best traditional Southern sweets Charleston has to offer!
1.) Sugar Bakeshop
The first stop on your Charleston dessert tour is at a small bakery in the Cannonborough/Elliotborough area of Charleston. This cute bakery sits in a residential community and focuses on small-batch baking. Here, you can find classic bakery favorites like cupcakes, cookies, and pies.
What to try: I fell in love with their adorable little tarts. Daintily nibbling on their southern peach tart made me feel like a true Southern Belle. Tart flavors vary throughout the year.
Address: 59 1/2 Cannon St
Hours: Mon-Fri: 10am to 6pm, Sat: 11am to 5pm
2.) Brown’s Court Bakery
Just down the street and around the corner is the second stop, Brown’s Court Bakery. This cute, hipsterish bakery is located inside one of Charleston’s historic homes, built in the 1800’s. It has a diverse menu of treats like muffins, croissants, scones, cookies, and more. They even have some killer breakfast sandwiches served on homemade southern biscuits! Grab your treats, and maybe a coffee, and head upstairs to their outdoor covered balcony. You’ll see these a lot in historic Charleston architecture, and eating out there will transport you straight to Southern oldie-times!
What to try: You can’t go wrong with a good old Southern pecan sticky bun! Or, now’s a good time to get in a little protein with their chorizo and egg breakfast sandwich!
Address: 199 Saint Philip
Hours: Mon-Sat: 7am to 7pm, Sun: 7am to 3pm
3.) Jeni’s Ice Cream
With your third stop, you begin heading to the Southern part of the city, following along Charleston’s famous King Street. Now, to be completely fair, Jeni’s Ice Cream is not unique to Charleston. In fact, there are a handful of locations throughout the Midwest, the South, and even a few in LA. But I was told that Jeni’s was not a place that could be missed, and who am I to say no to ice cream?
It turns out Jeni’s has some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had! It’s incredibly creamy and the perfect way to cool off from the heat and humidity of Charleston! They have flavors that reflect some Southern classics, like Gooey Butter Cake, and some more unique flavors like Riesling Poached Pear and Pistachio Honey.
What to try: I’m not sure they have a bad flavor. I was a big fan of the Goat Cheese with Red Cherry though…
Address: 501 King St
Hours: Sun-Thurs: 11am to 11pm, Fri-Sat: 11am to midnight
4.) Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts
Just a few steps down King Street brings you to the next stop on your Charleston Dessert Tour. Named as South Carolina’s best doughnut shop, this is not a place to be missed! These doughnuts are made from scratch every day and are literally the softest, pillowiest doughnuts I have ever had. Their flavor menu changes from day to day, so you’ll just have to pop in and see what sounds the best.
What to try: Their Sweet Corn and Blueberry doughnut has been named as a fan favorite, along with The Purple Goat.
Address: 481 King St.
Hours: Mon-Thurs: 7am to 3pm, Fri: 7am to 2am, Sat: 8am to 2am, Sun: 8am to 3pm
5.) Cupcake DownSouth
Continuing down King Street, you’ll find yourself at stop number five! Cupcake DownSouth has been a Charleston favorite since 2006, and offers some of the sweetest goods in town. Their display is lined with several different flavors of cupcake, baked fresh each morning. You’ll find lots of classic Southern flavors here, like Bourbon Pecan Pie, Key Lime, and Banana Pudding. They even have a selection of vegan and gluten-free cupcakes! If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, try a Cake Shake, and have your favorite cupcake blended into a vanilla milkshake!
What to try: Of course, their traditional Southern Red Velvet cupcake is pretty darn good! But you’re going to want some milk to go along with their mountain of sweet frosting!
Address: 433 King Street
Hours: Mon-Wed: 12 to 10pm, Thurs, 12-11pm, Fri-Sat: 11am to 11pm, Sun: 12 to 8pm
6.) King Street Cookies
Your next stop is one of my favorite stops on this Charleston Dessert Tour. With dozens of cookie flavors lining the display and milk on tap, King Street Cookies is nailing the gourmet cookie scene. They have the perfect combo option available too: $6 for three cookies and a glass of cold milk. The worst part about visiting King Street Cookies is having to choose which of the incredible flavors to eat!
What to try: If you want to stick with classic Southern flavors, try the Red Velvet, the Praline Pecan, or the Peachy Keen. But good luck narrowing it down when you see all the mouth-watering choices…
Address: 370 King Street
Hours: Mon–Fri: 8am to 8pm, Sat: 9am to 9pm, Sun: 9am to 8pm
7.) Jestine’s Kitchen
Another one of my favorite stops while enjoying Charleston’s best desserts is Jestine’s Kitchen. Jestine’s is actually a diner, but they make a delicious, traditional Southern dessert that can’t be missed. When you take your seat at Jestine’s the first thing you’ll want to order is a piece of the famous Cola Cake, which it’s been serving up since 1996! Chocolatey, fudgy, and topped with crunchy walnuts, this cola cake isn’t something you’ll soon forget!
Jestine’s is also the perfect place on your Charleston dessert tour to take a break and get a little “real” food in you. Jestine’s serves some savory Southern specialties that will help break up the constant flow of sugar you’ve been enjoying. Their grilled turkey and provolone sandwich still has me drooling to this very day. Don’t forget to order a glass of Southern sweet tea to wash it all down, complete with turtle-friendly eco-straws!
What to try: Cola Cake, and then literally anything else on the menu
Address: 251 Meeting St
Hours: Tues-Thurs: 11am to 9:30pm, Fri-Sat: 11am to 10pm, Sun: 11am to 9pm
8.) Byrd’s Famous Cookies
Byrd’s Cookie company actually started in Georgia back in 1924, but it has since brought its Southern flavors to Charleston. Located outside Charleston’s famous City Market, Byrd’s offers a mix of traditional and unique flavors to its crunchy little treats. The best part, aside from the cookies themselves, are the free samples!
What to try: The Key Lime Cooler cookie, the Georgia Peach cookie, the Benne wafer, and the Cheddar Pecan biscuits
Address: 139 Market Street
Hours: Mon-Sat: 9:30am to 8pm, Sun: 11am to 7pm
9.) Market Street Sweets
The second to last stop on the tour is hard to miss. You can smell the sweet, caramel air of Market Street Sweets from about a block away. The shop first opened in Savannah, Georgia back in 1978, and their Southern Pecan Pralines have been a huge hit ever since then. Their Charleston location on Market Street happily serves up free samples of the pralines, still warm and gooey!
What to try: The World Famous Pecan Pralines, of course!
Address: 100 North Market St.
Hours: Mon-Thurs: 9am to 11pm, Fri-Sat: 9am to Midnight, Sun: 9am to 11pm
10.) Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe
There’s no doubt that by this time you’ve probably had about all the sweets you can handle. But you’ll quickly forget that when you step inside Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe and take in their tempting dessert display. Along with beautiful cakes and pies, Kaminsky’s has a whole menu of sweet, dessert-inspired cocktails, milkshakes, and decadent sundaes that will quickly make you forget how many calories you’ve already consumed. And since this is your last stop for the day, you may as well go all out, right?
What to try: Let your heart be your guide on this one. There’s too much goodness to recommend just one thing.
Address: 78 N. Market Street
Hours: Mon-Wed: 1pm to 1am, Thurs: 12pm to 1am, Fri-Sat: 12pm to 2am, Sun: 12pm to 1am