The temperatures are up in the Lowcountry, which means Charlestonians need a way to cool down. Instead of the ice-cold adult beverage route, look for a Holy City classic — the Chilly Bear. For those who didn’t grow up here, a Chilly Bear is a frozen drink, usually Kool-Aid or lemonade, sold in a Dixie, plastic, or styrofoam cup, for just a few cents (back in the day).
Line Street restaurant Nana’s Seafood & Soul recently proclaimed that is officially Chilly Bear season. That means, while customers are waiting on their fried whiting, garlic shrimp, or crab rice at Nana’s, they can also whittle down a pineapple or pineapple tea Chilly Bear.
Chilly Bears were typically sold out of downtown homes. Nana’s co-owner Kenyatta McNeil says that his grandmother Nana was one of the original Chilly Bear ladies in the Gasden Green community. “The Chilly Bear ladies are dying out,” he tells Eater, so he wants to keep up the tradition at the restaurant he runs with his mother Carolyn McNeil.
Kenyatta says the restaurant will have more flavors next week. For a deeper dive into the history of Chilly Bears in Charleston, check out this 2014 Post & Courier article with memories from locals eating the frozen treat in the 1940s. And for those not in Charleston, there’s always a pair of Chilly Bear Air Force Ones.