From as far east as Britt’s Donuts on Carolina Beach, in North Carolina, to Gibson’s, just a few miles from the Mississippi River in Memphis, to the tried-and-true glazed beauties at Krispy Kreme, old-school doughnut shops have fed the South for the better part of the last century. Following their lead, the next generation of doughnut makers has emerged throughout the region. Check out this new wave of bakeries putting a creative spin on the traditional breakfast—or anytime—treat.
The Heavenly Donut Company
When novice doughnut-makers Kimberly and Brock Beiersdoerfer began dreaming up plans to open up their shop in Birmingham, they consulted a couple of doughnut legends: Don and Rita DeWeese, of the long-beloved Gibson’s Donuts in Memphis, who showed them the ropes. That connection is evident in their classic glazed, but Heavenly has become best known for their Bismarks, filled with your choice of white cream, custard, raspberry, or, on Fridays, Nutella.
The Salty Donut
Andy Rodriguez and Amanda Pizarro launched an artisanal doughnut food truck out of a 1950s Aljoa camper in 2015, and before long, their yeast-raised doughnuts, which follow the same guidelines as their twenty-four-hour brioche recipe, drew lines around the block. They opened a brick and mortar the following year, and then expanded to outposts in Orlando, Dallas, and a forthcoming spot in Austin—growth that secured Pizarro a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2018. The menu changes weekly, but the crème brûlée, brown butter and sea salt, and guava and cream cheese varieties are crowd favorites.
After five years driving a pop-up trailer to farmers markets and county fairs in and around Athens, Joe Nedza opened his eponymous bakery last year in Five Points to fix the college town’s sweet tooth, serving doughnuts, bubble waffles, homemade ice cream, and drop cookies the size of your face. Each order comes with a dose of affirmation in the form of a handwritten compliment. Like the rest of the bakery, the doughnuts are bright, colorful, and delightfully off-kilter. Try the chocolate sea salt or the light and fluffy strawberry lavender.
Founded by Annie Harlow and Leslie Wilson as a food truck in 2013, Hi-Five built its reputation on eccentric, build-your-own masterpieces. Customers can choose a glaze (like plain, chocolate, bacon, or bourbon caramel), then add on toppings (rainbow sprinkles or chocolate chips, anyone?). Or go with a specialty like their best-selling Kentucky-fried buttermilk sandwich, served on a doughnut with sweet and tangy hot sauce.
District Donuts. Sliders. Brew.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Although now expanded to six locations, District’s flagship on Magazine Street pulls from their arsenal of a hundred flavors each week to curate a six-flavor menu. Grab a cup of local Cool Kids coffee and a classic like chocolate glazed or cinnamon sugar or choose from bolder offerings like raspberry champagne, key lime pie, sopapilla, and of course, king cake.
Asheville, North Carolina
North Carolina is arguably the doughnut capital of the South, but of all the establishment and up-and-comers on the scene, Hole in Asheville has risen to the top. Since every creation is fried-and-glazed-to-order, the line at Hole is often out the door, but it’s worth the wait. Crafted from organic stone-ground flour from Lindley Mills in Graham, North Carolina, the doughnuts come in classic glazes, but try their seasonal flavors like wisteria blossom, honeysuckle, hazelnut and miso, and sumac margarita.
Charleston, South Carolina
Who said doughnuts have to be round? BKeDSHoP in Charleston makes their doughnuts from fluffy brioche dough, baked into hefty yet pillowy cubes that eliminate wasted dough. After finishing your cereal and milk doughnut or the vegan strawberry kumquat, wander around the adjoining plant shop to pick out house ferns and potted succulents.
Five Daughters Bakery
Isaac Meek’s great grandfather owned a cake shop, and his grandfather ran a pizzeria, so it was natural, then, that he would incorporate his whole family—his wife, Stephanie, and their five young daughters—into his doughnut shop. Visit the original in Franklin, or their outposts in Nashville and Atlanta, where they dish out their famous 100 Layer Doughnut, their version of a Cronut that takes about three days to make from scratch and can be finished off with the likes of chocolate sea salt, maple glaze, or seasonal flavors like strawberry shortcake and rainbow sherbet.
Hugs and Donuts
For the last six years, Hugs and Donuts has been perfecting artisanal doughnuts in Houston Heights. Their menu spans “simple” flavors, like a chocolate yeast doughnut with sprinkles; to “something extra” options, like a Fruity Pebbles cake doughnut; to straight-up “adventurous” offerings such as the lemon meringue—a cake doughnut filled with lemon curd and meringue—and dulce vida, featuring dulce de leche icing with toasted coconut and shortbread crumbs.
Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen
When the Yoder family moved across the state to central Virginia a few years ago to form a new Mennonite community, they brought their doughnuts with them. Out of their food truck, the family serves delectable sourdough rings at farmers markets, festivals, and outside of businesses in and around Richmond. Made fresh, their offerings bridge the gap between old-school classics and new-age creations. You can’t go wrong with the original, which drips with a classic glaze, or try a strawberries and cream or chocolate dipped.
The New Generation of Southern Doughnut Shops – Garden & Gun is written by Dacey Orr for gardenandgun.com