We conclude our visit to the Beach and Yacht Club Resorts 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-like 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 who plan in advance:
That should be even truer come winter 2019. Beaches and Cream is expected to close at the end of service on August 25th, as the restaurant undergoes an expansion that should take several months, ultimately reopening in time for the Christmas rush at the end of the year. Beaches should take over the space currently occupied by the arcade next door, which should more than double the available seating. During the refurbishment, ice cream will still be available from a nearby, temporary location, though the Specialty Sundaes and Kitchen Sink likely will not.
If you find yourself visiting during the refurbishment, then you may want to take the opportunity to visit Ample Hills Creamery instead, which I review here. The $10 “Sundae with a Brownie or Ooey Gooey Butter Cake served in a Waffle Bowl” is far and away the best value there. Sharing one is smart because they’re huge. In my experience, the various cups and cones may disappoint on portion size for the money. The Sundae is not one of those things.
Beaches and Cream is more of an ice cream destination than Ample Hills, offering indoor seating in a fun atmosphere. There’s nowhere indoors to enjoy your ice cream on the BoardWalk if you’re stopping by Ample Hills, which can make for a melty experience most of the year with RealFeel temperatures currently exceeding one hundred degrees just about every day.
People will occasionally ask me if they can go to ______ and just order ________. The answer is always yes. It’s Walt Disney World. You can do whatever you want. And as we’ll see as we move through the menu, stopping at Beaches for dessert might be your smartest move.
Here’s the main menu:
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 as prices continue to creep up at the Soda Shop.
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 just a dollar more than 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 thawed travesty from Beaches.
This set of three Prime Rib Sliders on Yachtsman’s Onion Rolls with Fries would set you back just $16 at Crew’s Cup. You can walk right into the Lounge in the evening and enjoy a much more relaxed meal if that’s what you’re looking to experience. Of course, the ice cream game at Crew’s Cup is probably lacking. But will you be able to tell after three Maple Manhattans?
At the moment, Beaches and Cream enjoys 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 if you’re planning on visiting. I prefer the booths against the opposite wall. At the middle tables surrounded by chairs, you’ll constantly have servers, greeters, and other guests trying to maneuver around you and your chair. I’m so accustomed to throwing elbows at rope drop that I now do it when I eat. It’s a little awkward to be sitting there knocking plates, cups, and napkins out of people’s hands. You may not have that problem.
Let’s get into the food.
The $17 “Country-fried Steak – Thin-sliced New York Steak, Breaded and Fried, served with French Fries and White Gravy” is probably the most substantial entree on the menu and one that’s probably best shared. As usual, I didn’t capture the immense size of the thing, but it’s two huge pieces of tender steak fried to a golden crisp and then topped with a creamy White Gravy. I was impressed by the quality of the beef, and all of the seasonings and spices make for a flavorful, comforting bite when combined with the hearty gravy. The crunchy pickle, which arrives alongside most of the entrees, was a welcome addition. Each snappy bite was a nice acidic, vinegary contrast to the rich flavors of the beef and gravy.
While it doesn’t expressly say so, most of the entrees are served with French Fries or Fruit. For $2 more, you can upgrade your side to one of the three Specialty sets of fry toppings. The Sock Hop Fries are topped with White Gravy and Shredded Cheddar Cheese; the Chili-Cheese Fries arrive with Homemade Chili, Cheese Sauce, and Red Onions; and the Cheese and Bacon Fries are topped with Cheese Sauce, Bacon, Red Onions, and Garlic-Peppercorn Ranch. The Fries are also offered as a side for $8. Above is the “Cheese and Bacon” version. It’s hard not to hate yourself while eating them, but it’s a lot of ooey-gooey goodness. I think this plate of food took at least five years off my life.
The Country Fried Steak replaced this “Open-faced Meatloaf Sandwich – Griddled Meatloaf served on Toasted Bread topped with Mushroom Gravy and choice of French Fries or Fruit.”
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 the slightly-earthy, perfectly-toasted rye bread. The freshly-sauteed onions helped carry the dish and added an appreciated burst of flavor. While we’re about as far from haute cuisine as possible, that’s exactly what you should expect from Beaches and Cream.
The $16 “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 than a dairy product. 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.
At least I ordered them with the “Sock Hop Fries – French Fries topped with Brown Gravy and Shredded White Cheddar Cheese.” While the Canadians are (politely) sticking their noses up at the sight of this, the Fries were tasty with plenty of salty gravy and shredded cheese to cover the hefty portion.
The “Turkey Club Sandwich with Lettuce, Tomato, Bacon, and Mayonnaise on Toasted White Bread with choice of French Fries or Fruit,” which has been $15 for seemingly forever, is a smarter buy.
It’s a sizable sandwich that’s a little on the dry side given the fact that there’s about eight layers of turkey. I would have personally preferred a spicy mustard, but there’s no question that it’s plenty of food to share, particularly if you add a side of chili-cheese fries or are eyeing a big dessert.
Here’s another look at the $17 “Angus Beef Burger – Blend of ground Angus Brisket and Short Rib with Cheddar Cheese, Lettuce, and Tomato on a Freshly Baked Bun.” Again, you could do worse, but I’m not sure how you’d prefer this over the burgers in the same price range at Crew’s Cup or Ale & Compass. If you’re just looking for a basic burger at Beaches, it will certainly do, though.
I like the $13 Grilled Cheese and Tomato Bisque a lot.
Here’s what it looks like at ISO 32,000. The cheese is appropriately gooey in between thin layers of crispy buttered bread. It’s everything that you’d hope it would be with the side of basic, creamy Tomato Soup.
Here’s a reminder of what the lunch menu looks like at Ale & Compass at the Yacht Club:
While I haven’t had an opportunity to try it myself, it’s hard to imagine that the “Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Tomato Soup – Artisanal Country Bread, Aged White Cheddar, Gruyere, and Fontina Cheese with Truffle Butter” for the same money wouldn’t be even tastier. Adding Applewood-smoked Bacon or Country Ham is also available at Ale & Compass. Of course, the sandwich is only available from 11:30am through 2pm, whereas Beaches and Cream serves their single menu from 11am through 11pm.
Six Hard Floats/Boozy Beverages are available for between $12.50 and $13.25 each:
As well as Coffee, Fountain Soda Pop, Beer, and Wine. You can make your soda “heavenly” with Cherry, Vanilla, Raspberry, or Chocolate Syrup at a cost of 49 cents. Complimentary refills are still offered.
On the left we have the $12.50 “Grasshopper Float – Guinness Stout with Mint Chip Ice Cream.” Most importantly, they give you the rest of the can of Guinness, so you’re paying about $4 for the ice cream. Lovers of mint chocolate chip ice cream are in luck because the cold ice cream lends a minty fresh flavor to the coffee notes in the beer, making for a surprisingly refreshing combination. On the other hand, with only two simple ingredients, it’s not something that you couldn’t put together at home for a couple of dollars yourself.
In the middle, we have “The Classic Root Beer Float – Not Your Father’s Root Beer with Vanilla Ice Cream” for $12.50. This combines the full 12-ounce bottle of my favorite brand of Hard Root Beer with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you’ve tried Hard Root Beer, then you’re probably familiar with the flavor profile, which is a lot of herby spice mixed with a lot of sugar and then what “feels” like some undissolved alcohol sort of floating around in the middle of the sip. If that makes any sense. The good news is that the creaminess of the ice cream helps mask the floating alcohol, leaving a refreshing, slightly boozy float that’s sweet and refreshing.
The $13.25 “S’mores – Chocolate and Vanilla Ice Cream, Amarula Cream Liqueur, and Bols Creme de Dark Cacao topped with Marshmallow, Chocolate Sauce, and Graham Crackers” is our favorite and the one I would recommend getting, even if it’s slightly more expensive than the other options. The Shake is incredibly creamy with rich flavors of chocolate and vanilla backed up by a hint of fruitiness from the Amarula and a lot of dark cocoa from the Cacao. The sugary Graham Crackers add some texture and a little bit of a toasty quality while the marshmallow lends…a marshmallow-y flavor. It’s finished with a squeeze of chocolate sauce and a cherry, making for a nice drink that would take some effort to put together yourself.
Beaches and Cream’s To-Go window, where these drinks are also offered, is expected to be closed during the restaurant’s refurbishment. Hopefully they’ll add another register to speed up the ordering process, bringing the number equal to the two offered at Woody’s Lunch Box at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While these drinks are tasty, having to wait 20 minutes to order them can be a bit of a bummer. You might ask for one to-go at the end of your meal as they’re also available inside the restaurant. Having a cold drink like this can help make those summer afternoons a little more bearable.
Of course, Beaches and Cream’s main event remains the shareable(?) sundaes:
We’ll also take a look at some non-alcoholic shakes.
The popular $34 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, 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 share this behemoth – with just four people, the cost is $8.50 each, which isn’t unreasonable for the size of the dessert, the in-restaurant fanfare, and adding at least two followers on Instagram. With six people, you’re paying less than $6 each for dessert and a photo-op. What an investment.
Beaches and Cream has also added some big milkshakes to the lineup:
There’s typically a seasonal offering as well. We saw an Orange Dreamsicle for spring earlier this year with “Crisped Rice Treats” made out of Fruity Pebbles for ears and for the holidays last year, a Gingerbread option.
Reality mirrors the menu insert pretty closely.
On the left, we have the $14 “Strawberry Minnie Milk Shake – Strawberry Milk Shake, Raspberry Sauce, and Whipped Cream topped with a Chocolate-Strawberry Minnie Cupcake and served in a souvenir cup.” The Shake is probably better deconstructed. Granted, I only have a loose understanding of how desserts work, but I think you’re supposed to push the cupcake into the shake and mix it up. Otherwise, you’ve got a standard strawberry shake underneath and a standard cupcake on top, though this one is surrounded by chocolate pearls and topped with two Oreo cookies and a chocolate Minnie bow. The cupcake was a bit disappointing with a lot of artificial strawberry flavor from the icing and a gritty, dense texture from the cake underneath. I wouldn’t order one on flavor, but it is pretty precious to look at.
The middle option is the $14 “Mickey Confetti Milk Shake – Vanilla Milk Shake, Whipped Cream, and Rainbow Sprinkles topped with a Rainbow Confetti Cupcake and served in a souvenir cup.” This is your standard Vanilla Shake, creamy and thoroughly vanilla-y. There’s a lot less of the frosting on top of the Funfetti Cupcake, which is probably a good thing, though adding more vanilla to the concoction doesn’t add a whole lot either way. The Sprinkles are a fun addition, though, and add a little bit of a crunch and a little more sugar. We liked it more than the Strawberry version, but it’s not a whole lot different than drinking a shake and eating a cupcake.
Finally, we’ve got the $14 “Chocolate Brownie Milk Shake – Chocolate Milk Shake with an Ooey-gooey Brownie, Whipped Cream, and Chocolate shavings served in a souvenir cup.” This one is chocolate on top of chocolate and fortunately, the Brownie is actually pretty ooey-gooey like in the description. We thought it blended in better with the shake and the Whipped Cream is lighter than the frosting on top of the cupcakes, so that doesn’t get in the way of the creaminess of the Shake either. It was our favorite of the non-seasonal choices.
The plastic souvenir mason jars are decent quality with the Beach Club logo on one side and the Beaches & Cream logo on the other. Unlike a bar like Trader Sam’s, where you’ll be presented a clean cup boxed up nicely at the end of the meal, the one that you’re served is the one that you’ll be taking home with you. Your server will do their best to clean it out, but you’re probably still going to be dealing with a sticky cup for a while. Hopefully you want the cup as these milk shakes aren’t available without them.
I still wouldn’t recommend them over something like the more-shareable No Way Jose, which is “A Peanut Butter and Hot Fudge delight featuring Chocolate and Vanilla Ice Cream, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Morsels, Whipped Cream, and a Cherry” for three dollars less. Granted, there is no plastic cup to take home, but the souvenir cup that is offered isn’t particularly unique. You could pick up a keychain or something instead.
Overall, we’ll see what happens to Beaches & Cream after the refurbishment. You’d think that the kitchen would be expanded, which may allow them to increase the quality by having more space to prepare and execute the menu. This isn’t the same restaurant that it was in 2010. With solid options at Ale & Compass Restaurant/Lounge next door and ESPN Club across the lake for similar money, I don’t think there’s a lot of value to be had from the main food menu. The desserts, and namely the sundaes, remain very good. Objectively, Ample Hills is better. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t want to keep it real with Edy’s at Beaches and Cream.
Speaking of ESPN Club, sandwiches and burgers run $15-$19 over there and are considerably higher quality. I review that experience here.
Beaches and Cream remains old school fun, even if whatever comes before the Kitchen Sink is a little less memorable. We’ll return in December to check out the restaurant after its refurbishment.