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Sundae Smackdown

by Jeanine Yamanaka

Dessert Thunderdome: Two peanut butter sundaes enter, one peanut butter sundae leaves.

One thing I tend to do on solo trips to Walt Disney World is to eat lunch way too late in the day. This usually ensures that I’m not hungry for dinner until the parks–and most everything in and around them–are closed. In these instances, when there is only about an hour before the only food available is at Waffle House, it’s time to bag the rest of the meal, and just go straight for dessert before the kitchen closes.

On my last trip, I was able (thanks to a chronic lack of forethought) to sample two similar sundaes from two separate ice cream parlors: the “Gold Rush,” from Ghirardelli’s Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop, and the “No Way Jose,” from Beaches and Cream. Here’s how they stacked up.

Contender #1: The Gold Rush

The Eating Environment: Ghirardelli’s, located in Downtown Disney, is open until 11:30 p.m. weeknights, and midnight on weekends. It’s a counter service establishment, where the registers that take your order are almost outside, and your ice cream is brought to you after you seat yourself. Water is available self-serve, and the dining area is relatively open to the outside, so if the external temperatures are extreme, the internal ones are likely to be as well. Service was brisk, with quick order production and delivery, but not what you’d call congenial. Then again, the fact that it was after [11:00] at night may have had something to do with it.

The Food: They serve exclusively ice cream creations and drinks, so if you want anything more substantial, you’re out of luck. Prices for sundaes range around $8, with the exception of The Earthquake, which has eight scoops of ice cream with eight toppings and a plethora of other goodies to the tune of $29.95.

The Sundae: The Gold Rush is their peanut butter hot fudge sundae. In the first place, a photo of what the menu depicts:

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The one I got, looked like this:

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So it’s close, but frankly lacks a great deal in the esthetics of the appearance. For another thing, there didn’t seem to be any attempt at integrating the chocolate and peanut butter in with the vanilla ice cream, resulting in basically almost a solid layer of chocolate over an almost solid layer of peanut butter, over a cup full of ice cream. Perhaps it was partially due to the chilliness of the night air, but it was almost unmixable the way it was served and was consequently a little disappointing.


Contender #2: The No Way Jose

The Eating Establishment: Beaches and Cream, located in the Beach Club Resort, is open to 11 p.m. most nights. It’s largely a table service restaurant, although it does have a take-out counter on the side. Note that you cannot get the sundaes from the take-out counter part. As a Disney-run eatery, it has the uncommon distinction of not taking Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs), which is both its curse and its blessing: You always have the option of walking in on a whim, but you always have the assurance of about a 45 minute wait. Unless, like me, you happen to come in around 10pm, at which time most normal folk have had their ice cream and left already. The décor is much brighter than Ghirardelli’s and has a charming retro-feel. The servers are typically Disney quality.

The Food: Beaches and Cream serves sandwiches and hamburgers ($6.50-11.50) with the usual sides as well as ice cream, so you could have a complete meal if you so desired. A sundae here will run you about $8 as well, however these have three scoops to Ghirardelli’s two…but who’s counting? For large parties or just the large of appetite, they also offer the Kitchen Sink, with eight scoops of ice cream and everything else they can jam on top for $21.99.

The Sundae: The No Way Jose is their version of the peanut butter hot fudge sundae. I actually have had this before, and it looked like this:

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When I got mine this time, however, it looked like this:

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“…?”

The waitress explained “we usually serve this in beautiful glass goblets, but I can’t find any.” Oh well, it’s the taste that counts. This sundae certainly gave no troubles when it came to mixing in the toppings-I’m not sure whether the lack of structural restraints gave this extra volume, but it was a huge amount. Was it good? Yes. Yes, it was, in the way that only immense amounts of sugar and fat can be, which is to say better than roughly 70% of the rest of existence.

The Winner

So who reigns supreme, in this Iron Sundae competition? The No Way Jose was by far the better sundae, both in taste and consistency. The atmosphere is better at Beaches and Cream in general, than at Ghirardelli. And for the volume, the No Way Jose is actually cheaper than its Ghirardelli counterpart. The only factors Ghirardelli does have in its favor, however, are longer operating hours and shorter wait times, which are compelling in their own rights. If you have a choice, I think the No Way Jose should be your preferred partner; if it’s closed or you don’t have an hour to spare waiting around-well, Ghirardelli’s is far, far better than a poke in the eye.

I realize, in these times of plummeting economy and skyrocketing waistlines, one might judge this hardly the time to indulge in a dessert marathon. And on the other hand, when might we need it more?

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