Our restaurant review of the newly-reimagined Beaches & Cream Soda Shop takes a look at the expanded and redesigned interior of the ice cream spot at Yacht & Beach Club Resort. This Walt Disney World dining review features thoughts on atmosphere, food photos, and our take on whether it’s still worth doing a meal or dessert here.
For starters, Beaches and Cream Soda Shop participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a one-credit table service restaurant. Due to lower than average prices, it is not a good use of a DDP credit, though. Additionally, Beaches & Cream accepts the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount and also offers 10% off discounts to Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members.
This follows Beaches & Cream being overhauled for the second half of last year as it expanded into the adjacent Lafferty Place Arcade and Ariel’s Restaurant. The new-look Beaches & Cream has since reopened with over double the size, which should help with demand. But does Beaches & Cream still have the same delightful design and alluring ambiance? We stopped in to have lunch and find out…
One of the difficulties with which this blog is confronted is audience fragmentation. This audience here is split fairly evenly between Walt Disney World diehard fans and first-timers. It should go without saying, but these groups often have very different perspectives, priorities, and background (or lack thereof) with Walt Disney World.
Nowhere is that contrast more apparent than with the redone Beaches & Cream Soda Shop. If you’re a longtime Walt Disney World fan, who has frequented Beaches & Cream with regularity in the past, there’s a good chance you’ll be devastated by this overhaul. You might lament the loss of charm, personality, and intimacy in the venue. You wouldn’t necessarily be wrong.
If you’re a first-timer, you’d lack the personal connections to or nostalgia for the old restaurant. Viewing this with a clean slate, you might very well love what you see, finding Beaches & Cream to be a buoyant and bright setting. You also would not necessarily be wrong.
For lack of alternatives, our approach is simply a middle ground one. Personally, I find a lot less to like about the interior at Beaches and Cream. It lacks the charisma and feels less like a bygone-era soda shop. The old style wasn’t perfect, and had a slight 90s datedness to it, but it also had a magnetism.
The fun atmosphere is the primary reason we frequented Beaches & Cream before the overhaul. The food and ice cream were only okay–surpassed by nearby Crew’s Cup Lounge on the savory front and Ample Hills Creamery for desserts. However, Beaches & Cream possessed a certain intangible allure far superior to both of its counterparts. It’s tough to articulate why, but we loved the place and experience of being there without feeling strongly about anything on the menu.
We were hardly alone in our love for Beaches & Cream. The popularity of the restaurant had exploded in the last decade, leaving Walt Disney World with the unenviable task of increasing capacity while not compromising that inarticulable quality that made Beaches & Cream so beloved.
Whether they successfully balanced those competing interests is a matter of perspective. I think a lot of the new touches work nicely in reinforcing the look of a bygone-era, Disneyfied soda shop. The character artwork scattered on the walls is a nice touch. So too is the beach ball motif, which has been retained.
In other regards, it falls woefully short for my liking. The decision to cram as much seating in the already expanded seating area is off-putting. There are zero booths, the tables are cramped, and the overall look is simply too clean.
For me, a big part of the ‘secret sauce’ of Beaches & Cream is that it leaned into its kitschy brand of Americana. It was bright, vibrant, and visually cluttered…which was the entire point. The campiness was a feature, not a flaw. In addition to removing the intimacy, the reimagined Beaches & Cream dialed the over-the-top kitsch back way too much.
Some of this could be remedied. Triple or double the amount of artwork lining the walls. Splash more pastel colors throughout the restaurant. Relocate the jukebox to be the centerpiece of the seating area, rather than resigned to a distant corner. Replace the trendy-modern light fixtures with cheesy ones.
In short, give Beaches & Cream more personality–even a corny one. That’s better than trying too hard to make it chic (IHOP has done the same thing with its designs), which was never the point of this restaurant in the first place.
With all of that said, anyone who has no experience with the old-look Beaches & Cream or went primarily for the food and ice cream in the past is highly unlikely to have these same reactions to the reimagined design.
It’s not that Beaches & Cream is suddenly bad–far from it. The problem for us is that the balance tipped a bit too far towards ‘function’ over form when balancing theme and capacity.
Not a ton has changed about the menu at Beaches & Cream, aside from a handful of new items. We ordered some of these along with tried and true favorites for a good mix.
First up, Sarah ordered the Salmon Sandwich with Bacon Aïoli, Bibb Lettuce, and Tomato on Multigrain Bun. The price for this is an eye-popping $21, but she was still a fan of the sandwich. It had two hearty salmon fillets, and the accompaniments admirably balanced healthiness with tastiness. Sarah was really impressed by this, and would order it again.
For my entree, I ordered the Patty Melt with Swiss, Sautéed Onions, Mushrooms, and Garlic-Peppercorn Dressing on Marbled Rye Bread.
Ever since Crew’s Cup Lounge jacked up the price of its burger and eliminated the truffle fries, it has offered a less-pronounced advantage over Beaches & Cream. Upon tasting this patty melt in all of its decadent glory, I might have a new go-to mid-range entree in the Crescent Lake area. Everything about this was absolutely fantastic–it’s been a few years, but this is much better than I recall the burgers at Beaches & Cream being. Highly recommended.
For her side, Sarah upgraded to the Chili and Cheese Tots: Loaded Plant-based Tots with Chili, Cheese, Sour Cream, and Green Onions for an extra $1.50.
These are one of the new menu items, and are another in a line of vegan items that mimic standard dishes. They weren’t quite as hearty or indulgent as their meat-based counterparts, but if you weren’t advised that these weren’t plant-based, you might not have known.
For my side, I upgraded to the Cheese and Bacon Tots Tots with Cheese Sauce, Bacon, Red Onions, and Garlic-Peppercorn Ranch.
These were likewise a glorious guilty-pleasure, but one really well done. I’d absolutely order these again, and I think the Patty Melt plus these plus the No Way Jose would be the ultimate recipe for one utterly blissful food coma.
Unfortunately, the No Way Jose is not what we ordered for dessert. Instead, we opted for the new Cookie Fries with Dipping Sauce: Plant-based Cookie Fries with Assorted Dips.
These ended up being not just one of the worst desserts we’ve ever had at Walt Disney World, but one of the worst anywhere ever. We previously knocked Epcot’s Cookie Stroll as tasting like stuff you could buy at Publix, but this dessert had us wistfully longing for that.
The Cookie Fries managed to be cold, hard, dry, stale, and largely tasteless. I’d expect better results if you just sliced up some random cookies that were lying around. These were actively bad–imagine slicing up and eating random Amazon boxes you have lying around. The provided dipping sauces did a bit to mask that, but with the cookies themselves being so listless, we couldn’t even finish the dessert. (A rarity for me.)
While the Cookie Fries may be an affront to good desserts, we can’t really hold that against Beaches & Cream. There are still numerous fan favorites and iconic items on the menu, we just so happened to choose the one plant-based thing (because it’s new). We should’ve known better, and that’s sort of on us.
Overall, if you loved Beaches & Cream Soda Shop before primarily for the kitschy style and intimate atmosphere, you might be disappointed with the new look. If you appreciated it primarily for the American fare and iconic desserts, you’ll likely be happy. If you enjoyed a mix of the two, it’s tough to say where you’ll fall with the reimagined restaurant.
If you’ve never visited Beaches & Cream before, this is all new to you either way. You will probably enjoy the atmosphere coupled with the savory entrees and fun desserts. Perhaps you won’t become as enamored with the place as you would’ve if visiting for the first time 5 years ago, but Beaches & Cream is still a winner that’s worth checking out if you’re staying in the Crescent Lake area.
Have you tried the new-look Beaches & Cream Soda Shop? What do you think of its style? What about the menu? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!