“The secret to Chillie Bears is you have to work with them,” says the clerk at Seafood Alley, one of the last local joints to still offer the frozen treat. Seafood Alley sometimes deviates from the traditional recipe (which calls for nothing but Kool-Aid) and freezes pineapple juice, but the rules are the same.
“You have to use your teeth,” the clerk explains.
Chillie Bears’ secrets don’t end there, though. The history and reach of the iced snack — and the underground economy surrounding it — are largely undocumented.
“Every neighborhood had a lady who sold them,” says Brandon Myers, the 31-year old owner of Seafood Alley. Although he describes himself as “out of the loop,” he suspects the practice has dwindled away since he was a boy. “Charleston has changed so much.” Continue reading