The place //
King of Pops
The order //
As a native South Carolinian, I’ve learned a few truths about summers. Undeniably, the season brings an incredible amount of joy. There’s a certain joie de vivre that comes from having longer, sun-drenched days. However, I’d contend that the true character of South Carolina summers is misery. Misery from oppressive humidity and heat, the inevitability of swamp butt and sticking to everything.
However, after 26 Southern summers, I’ve at least learned that you can combat its misery with a few well-timed, ice-cold sweet treats. And so I called up Jeremy Elrod, the guy behind Greenville’s King of Pops, a street cart operation specializing in paletas, or Latin American-style ice pops.
You’ve no doubt seen King of Pops carts posted up on Main Street, at a farmers market or at festivals like Artisphere. But the carts typically only carry a selection of standard crowd-pleasers, along with one or two more exotic flavors. I selfishly wanted to see his entire arsenal – after all, the promise of something fresh and new is what keeps me going in the doldrums of August.
Luckily, Elrod offered to show me around the new King of Pops kitchen, located beside the Swamp Rabbit Café & Grocery. I raided his frozen coffers for six slightly less conventional flavor incarnations: cookies and cream, the Arnold Palmer, jalapeno margarita, blueberry lemonade, peach and strawberry rose oil.
The first three flavors, while interesting, didn’t tickle my fancy. The milk-based cookies & cream fell a little flat — it straddles the line between ice pop and ice cream, which makes it not quite rich or creamy enough for me. The Arnold Palmer tasted rather like its namesake drink. It’s enjoyable, but crunching my way through reminded me of an iced tea slushy, which I’d rather just experience as liquid iced tea. The jalapeno margarita pop, by contrast, tasted nothing like its namesake beverage. It’s nonalcoholic, for one, and has a light, citrusy base that seemed a bit bland, if refreshing. What saves it is the jalapeno note that hits at the beginning before backing off – it’s the essence of the pepper without any of the heat.
The other three flavors exemplify summer refreshment to me. The blueberry lemonade has a ripe sweetness – blueberries fill your mouth, but it’s light on the tongue. It’s a prototypical summer treat for me: sweet, light and refreshing. The peach pop is similarly summery, but with a more pronounced tartness. It tastes like biting into a fresh peach, only better because it’s already frozen. The fruit isn’t blended into oblivion, so it even retains some of the texture of a peach when you bite into the pop.
Then, there’s the strawberry rose oil pop. Real talk: This was my favorite flavor by far. Like the blueberry lemonade pop, there’s a robust fullness to the strawberries that make up the body of the pop. The rose oil, however, adds this incredible natural fragrance that permeates the entire pop. But as concentrated and intense as the floral notes are, they dissipate quickly, lingering only as memory. For me, it hits the right balance of intense flavor without being heavy-handed.
So that’s the good news. Summer suffering is inevitable, but at least I can count on the King of Pops to deliver icy morsels of joy.
+ Like you need further justification for ice pops in summer?
+ Only 45 calories, and made with organic, local produce and cane sugar. It’s practically a health food.
+ Tons of flavors, and more to come.
– King of Pops carts have a limited selection of flavors, although the new kitchen will be opening a serving window in the coming months so you’ll soon be able to choose from the full menu.
King of Pops
Main Street, Greenville
Pops, $3 each
Andrew Huang is an editor-at-large of TOWN Magazine. Follow his food misadventures on Twitter and Instagram at @rooftoptales and #huangry.