Sweet, Southern Charleston: Enjoy Dessert in 'The Holy City'
By Clare Sweeney
Charleston Local Expert
You can't fully enjoy Charleston, South Carolina as a culinary destination without sampling from a wide variety of restaurants for each meal. The eclectic mix of different styles, flavors, traditional and new age recipes is unique Charleston. In Charleston, and perhaps all of the Southeast, we like to slow things down, savor every bite, and nearly always order dessert. During your next visit to Charleston, live a little; order something decadent to as a finale to your evening out, preferably at a local spot that specializes in the sweet stuff.
Of course, dessert comes in all forms across the "Holy City," from handmade French chocolates at Christophe Artisan Chocolatier & Patissier, to the simply divine (and world-famous) Coconut Cake from Peninsula Grill, or cannolis at Carmella's. If it's a romantic, fine dining setting you're seeking, make a reservation at Wentworth Mansion's Circa 1886 or the authentically adorable Chez Nous; both are sure to please your date, and your sweet tooth. Of course, you may want to grab your dessert ahead of time, to enjoy late night (or anytime of day). In that case, grab some baked goods and cookies from Spring Street's Wild Flour Pastry or Sugar Bakeshop on Cannon Street. Any doughnut devotees out there? Don't miss the opportunity to snag a few from Charleston's own Diggity Doughnuts or Glazed Gourmet for never before seen (or tasted) flavors at each doughnut shop.
Tucked into an adorable little storefront on Spring Street, you'll find WildFlour Pastry, run by Chef Lauren Mitterer and her team, serving up fresh-baked cookies, pastries, cakes and more 6 days a week (closed Mondays). There's certainly nothing wrong with visiting this bakery for breakfast quiche or sweet bread loaf, but while you're there, consider picking up a few dessert items for the evening to come. WildFlour Pastry consistently offers traditional sweet treats as well as holiday-themed goodies such as spirited Christmas cookies, romantic Valentine's Day cupcakes, Mardi Gras King's Cakes and more, all serving as an ideal seasonal gift or shareable dessert. (843-327-2621)
Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts
Run by Allison Smith, a graduate of the local culinary institute, Glazed Gourmet is so popular that the shop itself is often closes earlier than planned due to selling out of all of their delicious doughnuts and coffee! This sweet spot is open Tuesday through Friday beginning at 7am, and weekends beginning at 9, and it's highly advised to go early to beat the crowds, even if you're planning to make Glazed Gourmet's doughnuts your dessert. Why the word gourmet in their name? Glazed Gourmet sources their ingredients locally, and hand makes each and every doughnut with care. That means no preservatives, no frozen pre-made dough, no food coloring, and no artificial flavors. What's more, the 12 daily varieties of doughnuts are highly irresistible, with flavors such as Vegan Chocolate Mint, Apple Pie Cheddar, Mexican Chocolate, Sweet Potato and Maple Bacon making regular appearances. ((843) 577-5557)
This wildly popular food truck opened a brick and mortar shop at 616 Meeting Street just north of downtown Charleston, and immediately began collecting regular customers. Selling a wide variety of either organic vanilla cake or whole wheat doughnuts, Diggity Doughnuts serves up off-the-wall flavors that change daily, and often sell out. Diggity Doughnuts always serves egg and dairy free doughnuts, and there is a new gluten-free flavor on the menu each day. Try one of these unexpected flavors: The Nutty Rooster with Sriarcha and peanut butter, Key Lime Pie, Maple & Brown Sugar, Cappuchino, The Starla strawberry and jalapeno flavor, Summer Blues lemon blueberry, or even Dill Pickle or Roasted Garlic flavors! Of course, classic chocolate and sugar icing doughnuts are available, too. Diggity Doughtnuts brings vegan desserts to the masses, alongside coffee, tea, and homemade chai tea, green juice and smoothies. (843-478-1615)
Conveniently located close to a plethora of shops, sights, restaurants and the Charleston City Market, Kaminsky's is a dessert institution. Consistently open from midday to "late night" seven days a week, Kaminsky's has earned a reputation of decadence in the best way possible. Visit Kaminsky's after dining on nearby East Bay, Meeting or King streets, if you've saved room for dessert, that is. Combine dessert and a nightcap for the ultimate treat with one of Kaminsky's Dessert Martinis (all $7.75), like the White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle or Thin Mint Flavors. If you're here for something a bit more substantial, you're in luck - Kaminsky's offers dozens of cakes and pies by the slice, as well as milkshakes, floats, ice cream and cobblers, with everything available a la mode, of course! (843-853-8270)
This beige, white, and Robin's egg blue-colored bakery and dessert shop is small, but hard to miss among Cannon Street's residential buildings and businesses. Sugar Bakeshop has been a massive hit among both locals and visitors to Charleston since opening its doors in 2007, bringing in a growing circle of walk-in sweet lovers as well as special order party and event patrons. From day one, this uber-cute bakery has made local produce sourcing a priority, and the freshness of their ingredients is showcased in a major way among the flavors of their cakes and cupcakes. Call ahead to Sugar Bakeshop for a custom made celebratory cake or cupcake batch, or simply stroll into the shop for a taste of their regular and seasonal menu items, like the Vanilla Blueberry, Lime Curd Coconut, Strawberry and Orange Cupcakes. Tarts, cookies, and pies are also available on a grab-and-go and made-to-order basis daily. ((843) 579-2891)
The reputation of Peninsula Grill, at home in the Relais & Chateau Planters Inn property on North Market Street, has long been locally and nationally renowned. This romantic restaurant is as beautiful inside as it is outside, with palmetto-lined, shaded outdoor courtyard dining and flickering lantern lighting. Peninsula Grill is an ideal date night destination, even if you've already dined elsewhere in the area and are looking only for dessert. The famous Ultimate Coconut Cake is certainly Peninsula Grill's most popular menu item, dessert or otherwise, and it is certainly worth the hype (and worth ordering). The 12-layer Ultimate Coconut Cake is so well loved that it carries its own trademark, and is even available for online ordering ($130 per whole cake). Of course, such an outstanding restaurant has plenty more to offer for dessert, including a Banana Panna Cotta Pudding and Orange Vanilla Bean Cheesecake (available gluten-free). (843-723-0700)
This intimate, authentic French restaurant is located in an easy-to-miss side street off of Coming Street in a relatively quiet, residential area of downtown Charleston. Chez Nous' menu changes daily, and the restaurant posts tantalizing photos of each day's unique 3 course offerings via their social media accounts. Each day, the Chez Nous menu includes two appetizers, two entrees, and two dessert options that are nearly too pretty to eat. Come to Chez Nous for dinner if you can, and definitely stay for dessert, as their nightly sweet selections are reason enough to visit. Expect such European desserts as egg custards, fruit-topped tarts, flan, macarons or stuffed French puff pastries. (843-579-3060)
This "Italian cafe and dessert bar" on East Bay Street is conveniently located close to dozens of popular restaurants and bars, making it the ideal post-dinner date dessert stop. Visit Carmella's for Italian treats and sweets, including cannolis, tiramasu and Italian ice, among other daily specials. This restaurant is dedicated solely to desserts, sweets, and baked goods, so dessert lovers may return more than once during their visit to Charleston! What's more, Carmella's serves their wide variety of delicious dessert offerings with expert wine pairings, hot coffee (alcoholic by request), cocktails, beers, and even ice cream floats. It's the authenticity of the Italian sweets and sheer variety of dessert choices at Carmella's that have established its large fan following. (843-722-5893)
The recently renovated Circa 1886, at home within the grand and stately 5-star Wentworth Mansion hotel, is a fine dining restaurant known for its elegant presentations and sophisticated atmosphere. Within the beautiful interior, Circa 1886 creates a romantic scene fit for an intimate dinner, or better yet, a sampling of desserts. If you're already destined for dinner at Circa 1886, try out the Chef's 5-Course Tasting Menu, so as not to miss out on a dessert that pairs perfectly with your wine, your appetizers and your entrees. If you're headed to Circa 1886 solely for dessert, order a few items to share, such as the "S'Mores" with Graham Cracker Ice Cream, Ginger Lemongrass Creme Brulee, or Pan Seared Banana Cake. (843-853-7828)
Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Patissier
This small Society Street chocolate and pastry shop is truly authentic: the owner and artist, Christophe Paumer, was raised and trained in France as a third generation chocolatier and patissier. Visit Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Patissier for hand-painted chocolate truffles, chocolate bars, favored chocolate pieces, pastry and even luxurious chocolate milkshakes as you stroll along King Street, or after a meal nearby. The dessert and sweet treat offerings change daily, and the display cases full of chocolates will make the shop feel almost like an art gallery. Be sure to check the Christophe Artisan Chocolatier-Patissier Facebook page for upcoming events - they regularly host chocolate and truffle making classes! (843-297-8674)
About Clare Sweeney
A South Carolina native and avid locavore, Clare also ventured abroad to Spain and north to Boston before returning to Charleston and her beloved Lowcountry.
Clare works and plays in downtown Charleston, spending her days enjoying the city’s perpetually sunny weather, nearby beaches and ever-growing food and craft beer scene. Follow Clare on Twitter @LocalExpertCHS for the latest in local happenings!
Read more about Clare Sweeney here.