In hot and humid Charleston, ice cream is a treat for all seasons.
So it’s no surprise that when Food & Wine set out to find the best scoops in the country, the magazine kept coming back to a small shop in Charleston with a big commitment to local flavors.
This month, Food & Wine dubbed Off Track Ice Cream in downtown Charleston the best in South Carolina on its list of the best ice cream served up in every state.
To qualify for a spot, an ice cream shop had to have “at least a year or two of uninterrupted production, hopefully longer, allowing each maker to settle in and find its groove.”
The hope, Food & Wine wrote, was to depict “the diversity and depth of our national ice cream culture.” It did not, the magazine wrote, favor longtime favorites or newcomers. Instead, the list set out to answer the question, “What feels the most essential?”
On social media, Off Track Ice Cream celebrated the news in all-caps, screaming that they were “STOKED” to see themselves named the “BEST ICE CREAM in the whole state!!”
So, here’s the scoop on the best ice cream shop in the Palmetto State.
Located at 6 Beaufain Street, just off King Street and only a few blocks away from the Charleston City Market, Off Track Ice Cream opened for business in June 2019.
Co-owners Marc and Alissa Zera began making ice cream a few years ago as a “creative outlet,” but soon found a passion for making ice cream — both regular and vegan — that was free of artificial flavorings, additives and stabilizers.
“Our philosophy on ice cream is different from other ice cream makers: we believe that ice cream should only be made from, and tastes best when it’s made from, natural ingredients and stripped back of any and all inessential ingredients,” they write on their shop’s website.
That commitment to local distinguished this spot from other shops.
“Ingredients tend toward the obsessively local, starting with the milk of course, alongside orange blossom honey from Charleston favorite Apis Mercantile, flaky sea salt harvested just minutes from town at Bulls Bay, and much more,” Food & Wine said.
Their tenacity was also cited.
Off Track opened eight months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Charleston, an unexpected event that temporarily shuttered the Holy City’s restaurants and tourism, which rely on each other for continued success.
During the pandemic, Off Track adapted by offering free local delivery of ice cream pints, with $2 from each order going toward causes to help both Charleston’s food and beverage community and healthcare workers on the front lines fighting COVID-19.
“The hobbyists turned legit makers had the challenge of a lifetime on their hands, but no shutdowns were going to keep ice creams this phenomenally good — both regular and vegan, sometimes you can’t even tell which is which — down for long,” Food & Wine wrote.
Along with its ice cream, the shop also serves up ice cream cakes, milkshakes and sundaes.
Off Track is open from noon-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and noon-11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.