Have you ever heard of Açaí Bowls (pronounced ah-sah-EE)? These are ice cream–like smoothies made from the nutrient-dense tropical açaí fruit and topped with healthy goodies like chia seeds, cacao nibs, pomegranate seeds, fruits, and nuts. Surfers all over the world have discovered açaí bowls as a way to fuel up pre- or post-surf. Well, Folly Beach, SC, has its own açaí-bowl joint located just off the beach at Chico Feo.
You will find Chico Feo right next to Bert's Market. It is the bohemian outdoor bar reminiscent of Key West surf bars, replete with old surfboards, palm trees, oaks, handpainted signage, and an eclectic mishmash of seating. It is everything that is great about Folly Beach: relaxed, tropical, and fun.
Hank Reed, a tall cat with a long beard, owns and runs Chico Feo, where you can grab a beer, tacos, and goat curry for lunch or dinner. But for breakfast, Hank has hired on Billy Pope and his girlfriend, Hannah Widowski, to prepare clean, healthy, gluten-free açaí bowls for beachgoers.
Surfer and chef Billy Pope and health nut/foodie Hannah Widowski moved to Charleston from Rincón, Puerto Rico, where the couple first became acquainted with the fresh, natural produce-driven diet of South America. Açaí bowls were a common breakfast item in this tropical ocean town. Billy had been to culinary school at Johnson & Wales by way of Chicago, and had been a chef at Charleston’s Il Cortile Del Re on King Street.
Hannah’s mother is a food scientist for Nestle, and Hannah grew up around great food and farm-fresh produce. Pope also owned and ran Remedy Market in downtown Charleston. While in culinary school, Billy became interested in a macrobiotic diet, and açaí bowls were a great vehicle for intense nutrition and flavor. “You can combine sweet with salty and gooey with crunchy,” Pope muses. “And you feel great when you eat them.”
Talking with Hank Weed, Billy Pope, and Hannah Widowski, you realize that the team is acutely aware of the gluten issue, and takes strict measures to prevent cross-contamination. All of the food at both Chico Feo and Bliss Açaí Bowls is gluten-free, except for the flour tortillas used in the larger burritos. Even the granola is made from gluten-free oats. Billy and Hannah brew their own kombucha (really, really yummy kombucha, I might add), grind fresh nut butters, and steep creamy almond milk. All in all, this is a clean-eater’s dream.
As a person with celiac disease, when I have visited Folly in the past to surf or SUP, I have often had to bring my own food. Gluten-free Charleston now has a reliable spot on Folly Beach where you can be confident you will be safely fed.
And when the afternoon rolls around and it is time for a drink, there is nothing better than sitting outside around the bar with friends at Chico Feo, under the trees by the old surfboards You can even check the surf report from their website.
Bliss Bowls Acai is open 8:00 a.m.– 3:00 p.m. Chico Feo is open 12:00 p.m.–2:00 a.m. Monday–Thursday, and 10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. Friday–Sunday.
122 E Ashley Avenue, Folly Beach, South Carolina
(630) 247-5420 and (843) 296-7155