Crescent Lake Update Part 2 – BoardWalk Inn Review, Big River Grille, Beaches and Cream, BoardWalk Bakery, Captain’s Grille

We’ll return to the Crescent Lake area for Part 2 of the update. Part 1 covered a Yachtsman Steakhouse review, BoardWalk Bakery, and  Trattoria al Forno/Flying Fish breakfast review.

I suppose we would be remiss to not discuss the BoardWalk Inn & Villas over the course of a major update on the area. The BoardWalk Inn is one of three Disney-operated Deluxe resorts in the area – the other two being the Yacht and Beach Clubs.

Rates:

Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports12/innrates.jpg or as a PDF: http://www.easywdw.com/reports12/innrates.pdf.

Staying in the Crescent Lake area has several benefits, including the ability to walk or take the boat to Hollywood Studios and Epcot. The BoardWalk Inn, Beach Club, and Yacht Club are also in easy walking distance to each other, opening up your dining and recreation options considerably, especially compared to some of the more isolated Deluxe resorts like Animal Kingdom Lodge.

The convenient five-ish minute walk to Epcot in particular really cannot be overstated for those looking to spend a lot of time there. There are no long lines for buses, broken down monorails, or big crowds to deal with. On the downside, there is no bus service to either the Studios or Epcot, which means no easy way to get to Epcot’s main entrance. Walking to Hollywood Studios also takes about 20 minutes along a not-always-particularly-scenic-and-mostly- uncovered walkway, which can “feel” like it takes much longer in rain or the summer heat. Bus trips to Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Downtown Disney also tend to be on the long side with shared service among resorts. BoardWalk usually shares with the Swan and Dolphin and the Yacht and Beach Clubs usually share buses.

Among the Crescent Lake Deluxes, I like the look of the BoardWalk’s rooms the best.

With extensive renovations coming to the Beach Club later this year, Disney may be able to bring that resort up to the 21st century. Current Beach Club rooms are on the bland side and Yacht Club rooms have always struck me as dark and tacky.

Beach Club is brighter with more colorful, playful accents.

A few more:





Overall, the rooms have a more elegant feel than their Beach/Yacht Club counterparts, in my estimation.

Standard closet with iron and ironing board.

Like all Disney resort rooms, you’ve got the fridge and pod-style coffee maker.



Pretty standard bathroom setup.

Water views overlooking the BoardWalk area can be astronomically more expensive than standard views. On the rate chart above, you can see the price difference between Standard and Water View is anywhere between $71 and a staggering $156 per night.

When you check-in online with a standard view room, you can make two of the following requests:

  • Ground Floor
  • Second Floor
  • Fourth Floor
  • Highest Floor
  • Near Lobby
  • BoardWalk View

We selected BoardWalk View and Near Lobby and came away with the view above in a room with a large balcony just about twelve steps from the elevator. A home run really. Unfortunately, not all rooms are home runs. The hallways can be particularly long for those staying at the ends of the resort and a lot of views are of grassy courtyards or pools.

BoardWalk has some potentially intimate-depending-on-if-somebody-else-is-already-there spots to hang out. Walk to the end of a hall to check them out.

I had mentioned that it looked like resort-specific merchandise was on its way out after it largely disappeared from the Yacht Club, but BoardWalk had its full range of products in stock.

The Goofy logo is one of the more inspired. The Contemporary also recently added resort-specific merchandise and even the Moderates have gotten in the game with a few unique pieces at each resort. So the “resort merch is dead” call may have been a little premature.

Moving downstairs, BoardWalk Bakery is the resort’s principal quick service, largely serving salads, sandwiches, and cupcakes. Part 1 covered it in much more detail.

The next few pictures will be among the worst you’ve probably ever seen of anything anywhere.

The Bakery was featuring a new item I had never seen advertised before – a $9.99 meatball bread bowl dish. While I can see where they were headed with this, the meatballs lacked flavor and the bread bowl was too thick and flavorless without enough sauce to properly saturate and soften it. A meatball sub would have been smarter. Even after drinking at Epcot for eight hours without eating, I threw half out. I’m not sure if the meatball bowl is a permanent fixture or if Disney was just trying to practice for their Downtown Disney event when nearby Trattoria al Forno will be serving food out of one of the food trucks. Either way, I’d stay clear.

An equally terrible picture of the Fresh Mozzarella Sandwich with Oven-dried Tomatoes, Arugula and Herb Aïoli on Focaccia served with Cucumber Salad or Chips – $9.49.

Despite the world’s worst photographs, this sandwich was considerably better with fresh bread and thick slices of high quality mozzarella.

BoardWalk Bakery is not necessarily worth going out of your way for, and most people staying in the area are better served heading to Epcot with Park admission, but the Bakery does offer reliably well-put-together salads and sandwiches. You might want to skip the meatballs if they’re available though.

Big River Grille is a restaurant located near the end of the BoardWalk area near Jellyrolls and Atlantic Dance Hall.

Menu:



Just look at how dirty the menu is…

I ordered the beer sampler, which consisted of six short pours of varying fullness.

I won’t bore you with the particulars, but each tasted like it had been watered down.

I always laugh when an establishment lists their awards with a big gap between the past and present:

I guess they’re very excited about not winning an award in the last eight years. Maybe they will start an award category for “Best Ubiquitous Anheuser-Busch Lager Renamed as an ‘Exclusive Offering’ and Served in a Theme Park.” It’s hard to say whether Safari Amber, Reef Amber, or Rix Red Lager would win.

Good-friend-of-the-site Brian B joins us for dinner. He ordered the Chicken Quesadilla – A large tortilla with ancho flavor, grilled chicken, peppers, onions, tomatoes and pepper jack cheese. Served with sour cream and guacamole – $10.99.

For eleven bucks this is a nice large portion, nicely grilled and stuffed with chicken and other things. While it probably can’t compete with the complexity of flavors you’d get at La Hacienda de San Angel for more than twice the money, it does the job, particularly when paired with a (watered down) beer.

Lisa ordered a cup of the Beer Cheese Soup – $4.50. While it didn’t enjoy the creamy decadence of Le Cellier’s famous recipe, it’s also less than half the price. The soup was otherwise served warm rather than hot and was a bit thinner than either of us were expecting with a less nuanced beer component than the beer cheese soup served at Biergarten over the holidays. It also had some chunkier pieces of carrot and celery than either of us are accustomed to uncovering in cheese soup. Despite doing things a little differently, the soup was a nice way to start the meal and the croutons were a nice touch, soaking up some of the soup.

I ordered the Big Brew Cheeseburger – Grilled to order and served with lettuce and tomato – $11.99. There’s nothing particularly memorable about it, but it is a higher quality production than your standard quick service sandwich for only about two bucks more. The burger was nicely seasoned and cooked to a solid medium-well, retaining some of its natural juiciness. Some sort of sauce might help.

The kettle chips are light and airy, which was nice considering the large size of the burger and the heaviness of the beer cheese soup.

Big River Grille’s interior needs a re-imagining more than perhaps any restaurant on property. The view from our table resembles a Denny’s more than anything.

Patio seating is available should weather allow. It’s a good spot for people watching or hurling-beer-at-passing-bloggers or making fun of people stumbling back to their room for a nap at 1:30pm during just-another-Tuesday-afternoon-at-Epcot. A few tables inside have partial views of the BoardWalk through doors and windows.

Most people looking to catch a game and enjoy a beer are best served heading to nearby ESPN Club, but Big River does have a few televisions and its draft beer lineup.

While “just fine,” it’s hard to emphatically recommend Big River Grille. The food was good for the money, but there’s nothing special about any part of it, really.

Beaches and Cream is the most casual table service restaurant in the area. It’s located behind Stormalong Bay, the pool complex that the Beach and Yacht Clubs share.

The restaurant is extremely small – this is just about all of it save for a table or two behind me and to the right. Beaches and Cream started taking reservations for the first time back in December of 2013. Prior to that, waits of 60 minutes to two hours were not at all uncommon. Despite the small size, reservations are typically easy enough to secure. We booked an 11:15am lunch from our room on the morning of. What a time to be alive.

The menu:




Beaches is best known for “The Famous Kitchen Sink,” a $29 sundae featuring scoops of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, coffee, and mint chocolate chip ice cream, in addition to a can of whipped cream and a pile of every other topping they have. Even if you’re planning to visit “just for ice cream,” you still want a reservation. The counter is still usually reserved for walk-ups, but there are only around eight stools and there’s no guarantee that there will be availability. Like any restaurant, you always want to make a reservation as soon as you know you want to eat somewhere or you risk being turned away, even with a half-empty restaurant.

The website has a more in-depth review of B&C here. Unfortunately, a couple days after that review went live, Disney changed the menu, removing the very good Pot Roast Sandwich that I tried and rendering much of the review’s content obsolete.

This time, I ordered a relatively new addition – the Salmon Sandwich – Seared Salmon on Multigrain Croissant with Arugula, Dill Mayonnaise, and Pickled Cucumber and Onion served with House-made Pickles and choice of French Fries or Fruit – $14.99. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out so well with the multigrain croissant becoming a soggy mess from the salmon long before it was even served. The accompanying blend of arugula, pickled cucumber, and onion added a vinegary, acidic component that overpowered any flavor from the salmon. I didn’t enjoy the sandwich much at all, which was surprising because I’ve had a lot of luck with Disney salmon sandwiches in the past.

Lisa ordered the Angus Beef Burger served with Cheddar, Lettuce, and Tomato on a Fresh-baked Bun with choice of fresh Fruit or French Fries – $15.99 – a whopping $2 increase since our visit last year. While Beaches’ burgers have historically enjoyed the benefit of a lot of positive press as “the best on property,” this wasn’t a significant improvement on your typical quick service burger. It was grilled to death, dry, and bland with generic toppings. Even the fries weren’t very good this time – under-seasoned, limp, and flavorless.

Lisa’s friend Julia ordered the Grilled Cheese and Tomato Bisque – with Six-Cheese blend – $9.99. While this might not look like much, the sandwich is nicely grilled and stuffed with oozing hot cheese. While the tomato soup arrives frozen in large plastic bags and is served at several other establishments, it is reliably hearty and served piping hot. Altogether, this is one of the most reliable meals you’ll find on property at this price point.

Julia’s boyfriend Steve ordered the Chicken Sandwich – Grilled Herb Chicken Breast topped with Brie Cheese, Cucumber, and Frisée tossed with Raspberry Vinaigrette on a Fresh-baked Multi-grain Bun served with House-made Pickles and choice of French Fries or Fruit – $13.99.

Another bland ordeal, the chicken was under-seasoned and despite a laundry list of toppings accompanying the burger, none of them provided a needed punch of flavor. It was otherwise described as “just fine,” which is a bit disappointing for an establishment that is usually met with rave reviews.

The $6.99 side of onion rings are similar/the same as what’s served elsewhere at places like 50’s Prime Time. They are also reliably fried crisp and have a nice, subtle onion flavor to them. Some sort of zesty dipping sauce would go a long way, but they’re a nice addition should you be concerned about not getting enough fried food on your vacation.

Overall, this trip to Beaches was on the disappointing side. Prices remain relatively inexpensive here compared to what’s available elsewhere, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to serve uninspired food.

Now over to the Yacht Club for a Captain’s Grille dinner review. You may remember that we visited Yachtsman Steakhouse, the resort’s ritzier signature restaurant, in Part 1.

Captain’s Grille is a decidedly more casual affair – sort of Crescent Lake’s version of The Grand Floridian Cafe.

According to Disney,

Dine on American seafood classics in a nautical setting reminiscent of an old-fashioned New England yacht club. Drop anchor for Eastern Seaboard fare and grill favorites your whole crew will love. This seaworthy spot at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort is in shipshape with gleaming brass, porthole windows, striped wall panels and model sailboats.

I would charge that there is nothing particularly noteworthy about the restaurant’s atmosphere. It “feels” a little yacht club-y, but the restaurant lines the lobby with people coming and going at eye level should you be seated along the exterior of the restaurant. Some of the booths and tables offer a little more intimacy, but the vibe leans decidedly towards kid-friendly. In other words, while unremarkable, the restaurant is inviting.

Lousy menu shots:




Disney has done a much better job keeping track of menu updates. The layout also improved last week. Crew’s Cup as an example:

The lounge near the restaurant shares several of the same dishes. Your best bet for accurate menus these days is the Disney site. While there’s no guarantee that what you see will be available tomorrow, it should be more accurate and up to date than other third-party sources, including this website.

Dinner starts with unremarkable wheat bread and salted butter. It’s freshly baked, but there’s nothing particularly special about it.

I ordered the Snow Crab Legs – New Potatoes and Corn on the Cob – $29.99.

A food runner delivered the plate without any tools to open the legs up. It was a few minutes before the server noticed and brought the appropriate cracking devices. With about a dozen thin legs on the plate, it took quite a while to crack open everything and enjoy the meat inside. It would have been a lot easier if the legs had been split in the kitchen. As it stood, I was cracking claws long after Lisa finished her entree. Anyway, it was a large portion of crab, though it’s a lot of work for little payoff. If you’re interested in crab, the smart money is perhaps heading to the Beach Club to Cape May Cafe, where for about $42 an adult, you can dine on unlimited crab legs and a bevy of other options, including appetizers, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverages. Cape May does tend to be a more raucous affair. Otherwise, the corn and potatoes were prepared well and added a little heft to the meal. If you’re adamant about enjoying crab legs and don’t want to spring for the added cost or chaos of Cape May, then this may be the spot for you.

Lisa ordered the Chef’s Pasta Creation – $20.99. In this instance, it’s a stroganoff of sorts featuring the restaurant’s cabernet-braised short rib. This particular creation was excellent with perfectly al dente pasta on top of the slow-cooked, fork-tender beef. The broth-y sauce was lighter and thinner than you might expect, which allowed the natural flavors of the beef and wine to shine through instead of being overpowered by cream and dairy. I’m not sure it’s what you’d be served if you visited the restaurant in the future, but it should give you some confidence in ordering whatever the chef is in the mood to whip up.

While the atmosphere and menu at Captain’s Grille are unremarkable, it does offer a welcome respite from some of the more expensive dining options that dot the Crescent Lake area. I don’t have any problem recommending it for a laid back meal.

The view from our table at 8:25pm. Again, you always want a reservation to guarantee seating, but the Grille is one of the easiest walk-ups on property and is rarely busy for lunch or dinner. We decided at the last second to visit at 7:30pm and waited maybe three minutes to be seated without a reservation. The restaurant may elect to stop taking walkups around 8:30pm (as many restaurants do) in order to clear the restaurant out earlier and get everyone off the clock.

We should have some Park updates incoming, not that a whole lot is going on outside of new walls.

Comments

  1. Angi says

    Interesting to read your report on Big River. It started out as a restaurant local to me. We’ve always wanted to try it out to compare them but it seems to get bumped for something we can’t find at home. It is disappointing to hear their beer is not all that good down there. While not the best locally brewed beer we have it is decent. Sweet Magnolia Brown is a particular favorite of mine and my husband likes their 7 States Pilsner, though I guess that one is not served there, or it’s been renamed. And their beer was better before they sold out to Craftworks. When it really was a single local restaurant.

  2. Michael says

    I was a little disappointed with my burger at Beaches and Cream last month. I’ve had some awesome juicy burgers there in the past, but like your burger, mine was over cooked and dry. And I don’t understand why Disney built the restaurant to be so small. It’s like they weren’t expecting a crowd. I wish they would take out the arcade next door, knock out the wall and expand the restaurant into there. But our server was a lot of fun and we celebrated our sons birthday in there. So hopefully the burgers will return to their former glory for our next trip.

  3. Mandi says

    Really enjoyed this post. Will be staying at BCV in May and it was nice to see so much in for on the area’s restaurants.

  4. CB says

    I had heard that the crab legs were no longer available at Cape May and according to the new and improved Disney website menus, that appears to be the case.

  5. Crazyprof says

    I’m glad that some else has about the same opinion of Big River Grille. I’m a big fan of brew pubs, but I was really underwhelmed by the beer and the food.

  6. mlm says

    Disney changed the menu, removing the very good Pot Roast Sandwich that I tried and rendering much of the review’s website’s content obsolete.

    FTFY, lol!

    Keep up the good work, Josh. Eating bad cheeseburger’s for the Betterment of Mankind.

  7. Andrew says

    In the for what it’s worth category, Captains Grille has a few great options at lunch time. The shaved beef sandwich(french dip) and the burger with lump crab meat are two highlights that my wife and I have had. I wish they had them at dinner time.

  8. Spencer says

    You mentioned new Contemporary merch. Photos? Don’t recall you posting. They never seem to have any when I’m there, and I’m more than willing to give them multiple dollhairs for some.

  9. IndyND says

    I still haven’t managed to eat anything at Beaches and Cream other than ice cream. If you haven’t been to the resort before, it’s a pain in the butt to find. The first time we went, I we were on the boardwalk and could see it on the other side of the pool, but we “couldn’t get there from here”. We found it by going into Beach Club and then walking past Cape May, then down the hallway around back and just opening a random door to get to it. There is probably an easier way, but we didn’t find it.

  10. Rose says

    Thanks for the update! I’m going to Beaches & Cream in a couple weeks and wasn’t sure if I should get the burger or grilled cheese. Now I know.

  11. Matthew says

    Captain’s Grille has our favorite breakfast buffet at WDW. Reasonably priced, lots of quality, not chaotic with characters or children, it really is worth trying if you haven’t done so. And the bloody Mary’s they serve are fantastic!

  12. Kerrie says

    Thanks for the fantastic update. I agree, Captain’s Grill is not noteworthy – but I have never had a bad meal there. But now staying in the Epcot area, makes it a pain to get to without a car. We used to go to Big River before kids, because DH loves craft brewed beer. He also loves your website for the drink updates :) I’ve always wanted to stay at an Epcot resort, but the bus situation is kind of a turn off if you are paying that much money to stay there.

  13. Different Josh says

    When I stayed at BCV last month, the buses in the peak morning hours bypassed the Swalphin, so they were direct to the parks. Other times it does take another 15 min or so to stop at both hotels before finally going on to the parks, which feels like an absurdly long time when anxious to get to the parks.

    The YC/BC bus isn’t as bad since the resorts are so close to each other and there are no other stops (and fewer riders than the combined Swan&Dolphin).

    BTW, why is it called the Dolphin? That’s obviously a ridiculous looking carp or catfish on the roof.

    • Anonymous says

      I remember hearing a long time ago that it’s supposed to be a Dolphin FISH (AKA Mahi Mahi). Not an actual dolphin.

  14. Pat says

    Not to pile on, but we stay at the BCV or BWV frequently and haven’t been to the Big River Grille since July 2008. Seemed like my kind of place – unique beer options and pub food. Bad food, bad service and bad beer. Much better options around the lake. Good concept, but the execution is horrendous.

  15. Someone says

    Although I have had good luck with both the burger and the Cuban at B&C, lately we eat an early lunch at Epcot and then head there to get a No Way Jose before our mid-afternoon nap. It’s really worth it for the ice cream more than the food.

  16. Neil says

    I’m getting the increasingly worrying impression that the impact of offering free dining over and over is the decline in consistency of the food and beverage offerings and, from Josh’s excellent reviews, the lack of improvement in the food and beverage offerings at WDW.

    I write as someone who has taken advantage of free dining offered on a hotel and ticket package (from the UK) in 2013 and who feels the food quality has dropped noticeably since my first visit to WDW in 1999.

    Does anyone else think this too?

  17. Carly says

    Thank you for all your reviews in this post. Especially about Beaches. When we were there last May I had my heart set on the Pot Roast sandiwch and then it wasn’t on the menu. I agree with you that is was always very good. Instead I did what you did Josh, and tried the salmon sandwich – but I really enjoyed mine. But I ordered it without the pickled cucumber and onion. I had it again this last October – wasn’t was good as the first time – soggy bread. But still enjoyed it. And also a must for us there is the No Way Jose! So delicious!!!

  18. Carol O says

    Josh: Welcome Back! My sister and I were lamenting your lack of posts at dinner Friday.
    This made me lol:”We booked an 11:15am lunch from our room on the morning of. What a time to be alive.”
    I don’t know, but none of the food in these pics looked too appetizing.
    @ Neil== Yes, I agree with you. Lower your expectations.

  19. Wendy says

    We ate at Beaches & Cream for the first time this past November, and actually really enjoyed it. I had th cuban which surprisingly had a lot of meat and was pretty tasty. And I’d say Beaches & Cream easily has the best and largest dessert options of any TS restaurant.

  20. Jennifer says

    Last time I checked, WDW is in Florida. No excuse for B&C to be serving a “Cuban” sandwich on French bread.

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