We conclude our visit to the Crescent Lake area with a fresh review of Beaches & Cream Soda Shop at Disney’s Beach Club Resort. One of Disney’s smallest restaurants, Beaches has achieved cult-level status among Edy’s ice cream aficionados over the years for their larger-than-life sundaes and relatively inexpensive comfort food. Before this “old-fashioned soda fountain” began taking reservations a couple of years ago, guests waited up to two hours to “revel in the nostalgia of the Atlantic seashore at this boardwalk-style ice cream shop where every day is sundae.”
Now that reservations are available, grabbing a burger or sundae is typically a less-time-consuming experience for those that plan in advance:
Though as I write this review around 11am on December 4th, there’s availability around the time that I requested, in addition to a lot more openings over the course of the day. So it may not prove difficult to secure last-minute reservations.
People will occasionally ask me, “Josh, can we go to _______ for just _________?” And the answer is yes, it’s Walt Disney World, you can do whatever you want. If you want to go to Be Our Guest as a party of 12 and order 26 waters and a cupcake that you end up returning anyway, you can do that. Nobody is going to ask you to leave. On the Beaches and Cream front, you can absolutely make a reservation and share a sundae. And that would be a lot more “acceptable” than going to San Angel Inn at Epcot, hurriedly eating the “free” chips while pretending to peruse the menu, and then sprinting out. I mean, at least grab a jug of margaritas for your seventh favorite Disney World blogger.
And going to Beaches & Cream with the express intent of ordering ice cream may be wiser than committing to a full meal. Beaches & Cream is somewhat “inexpensive for Disney,” but as we’ve seen over the last week, so are a lot of other options in the area.
For example, the “House-made Bacon and Vermont Cheddar Burger on a Parker House Bun served with choice of Fries or House-made Vinegar Chips” at Ale & Compass Restaurant is the same price as Beaches and Cream’s “Angus Burger” and looks like the above. That’s flavorful melted cheese, crispy bacon, fresh vegetables, and a hand-packed patty with a perfectly-toasted bun.
Compared to this $16 thawed travesty from Beaches.
On the other hand, the $12 Grilled Cheese and Tomato Bisque approaches a good deal.
But even then, you can pick up a Seafood Roll packed with shrimp and scallops along with a side of fries for less money at Hurricane Hanna’s.
Otherwise, Beaches has a fun, if not slightly cramped, atmosphere with bright, mismatched colors and an incredibly casual vibe. The counter on the right is still first-come, first-served, but you absolutely want a reservation here if you plan on stopping, even if you’re sharing a water among eight people.
We start with the $14 “Open-faced Meatloaf Sandwich – Griddled Meatloaf served on Toasted Bread topped with Mushroom Gravy and choice of French Fries or Fruit.”
This is comfort food at its finest with a couple slices of hearty meatloaf in between salty gravy and fluffy bread that manages to stay crispy underneath the weight of everything. The unadvertised onion straws helped pull everything together, adding a little bit of a piquant crunch with a little black pepper. Gordon Ramsay would flip the table over after being served something like this, but sometimes you just want reheated gravy from a 50-pound food services bag and reconstituted beef product. And that’s just fine.
The $16 “Patty Melt – Angus Beef Burger served with Sautéed Onions, Swiss, and Garlic-Peppercorn Dressing on Rye Bread with choice of French Fries or Fruit.” This is a more-interesting take on Beaches’ standard frozen hamburger with the zesty, creamy dressing and a slightly-earthy, perfectly-toasted rye bread. The freshly-sauteed onions again helped carry the dish and added an appreciated burst of flavor.
I may be coming down on Beaches unnecessarily hard because my $15 “Cheddar-Bacon-Ranch-Chicken Sandwich – Grilled Chicken Breast, Smoked Bacon, Cheddar Cheese on a Multigrain Bun served with choice of French Fries or Fruit” may have been the worst sandwich that I’ve ever been served at a sit-down restaurant on property. The sad little piece of chicken covers maybe half of the small bun and the melted cheese was more like oily orange radioactive goo. Each slice of tomato is more sizable than the chicken and the lettuce is also hilariously oversized.
This is the previous version – ” 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” which was drier and even more bland. Disappointing.
Beaches & Cream offers three “today’s specials” on the menu, each of which is a variety of french fry gussied up with a couple of additional toppings. Above are the “Sock Hop Fries – French Fries topped with Brown Gravy and Shredded White Cheddar Cheese.” You can “upgrade” the fries that come with the majority of the entrees with any of the specialty versions for around a dollar. It may or may not be worth the splurge – my fries were soggy and the cheese was flavorless. This may be the first time that the USA has considered apologizing to Canada.
You can also choose from “Chili-Cheese Fries – French Fries topped with Homemade Chili, Cheese Sauce, and Red Onions” and “Cheese and Bacon Fries French Fries topped with Cheese Sauce, Bacon, Red Onions, and Garlic-Peppercorn Ranch.”
The $15 “Turkey Club Sandwich with Lettuce, Tomato, Bacon, and Mayonnaise on Toasted White Bread with choice of French Fries or Fruit” was a highlight.
Even with one section removed to expose the thick layers of turkey and other toppings inside, it’s a sizable, almost overwhelming sandwich. It was a little on the dry side and I would have personally preferred a spicy mustard, but there’s no question that’s plenty of food to share, particularly if you add a side of chili-cheese fries.
Of course, Beaches and Cream’s main event is the shareable sundaes.
The popular $32 Kitchen Sink is available in one of three flavors. The Classic version is “Scoops of Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry, Cookies and Cream, and Mint Chocolate Chips smothered in every topping we have.” While the execution is fun – the lights go off and a siren plays alerting the restaurant that somebody just plunked down 40 bucks on ice cream after tax and tip, I’ve always thought the Kitchen Sink was more like cold soup featuring flavors that I would never ordinarily pair. Pineapple + mint chocolate chip + banana + cherries + peanut butter?
The chocolate version on the other hand is a completely different beast.
This is chocolate ice cream, cookies and cream ice cream, vanilla ice cream, brownies, Oreos, Milky Way candy bars, caramel syrup, chocolate syrup, chocolate chips, and white and dark chocolate shavings.
And I know what you’re thinking – so this is who’s buying Milk Way candy bars. But don’t worry, not even Not-Snickers can get in the way of enjoying this bowl of chocolaty delight. Six or more people can otherwise share this behemoth – with four people, the cost is $8 each, which isn’t unreasonable for the size of the dessert, the in-restaurant fanfare, and adding at least two followers on Instagram.
Overall, Beaches & Cream Soda Shop remains a solid choice for dessert, particularly if you’re looking at sharing one of the larger options among a couple of people. Food-wise, this is not the restaurant that it was in 2011 and I think quality has fallen by the wayside simply because it can. That doesn’t mean that your experience will be as traumatic as what I experienced with my undersized grilled chicken sandwich, but there are objectively better options in the area for similar money.
Sandwiches and burgers at nearby ESPN Club, which I reviewed yesterday, run $15-$19, and are considerably higher quality.
But Beaches is old school fun and should prove to be a positive experience, even if whatever comes before the Kitchen Sink is forgettable.