Boatwright’s Dining Hall
Melissa Sue is back with more great Disney World restaurant coverage! This time she’s taking us along to Boatwright’s for a meal at the Port Orleans Riverside resort.
My husband and I headed out to Boatwright’s in early December to fortify ourselves before a long, long night at Magic Kingdom. With closing set for 2 a.m., and our ADR set for 7 p.m., we were planning to fuel up and head out, but as you’ll see, the charm of Boatwright’s and Port Orleans sucked us right in!
You’ll find the entrance to Boatwright’s behind the main Sassagoula Steamboat Company building — just walk across the old-style porch, and it’ll be there on your left.
You can also access the restaurant from within the main Riverside building — at the entrance, just head straight back to the left, passing River Roost Lounge and walking straight on through.
We arrived a little early for our ADR, so we walked over to Old Man Island (where the resort’s main pool is located) and looped over to Magnolia Terrace, where guest room buildings are built to look like “mansions.” Riverside is well-lit and more compact than I expected, but still peaceful and romantic. It was a lovely walk, and I can’t wait to go back in the daytime so I can explore the area more fully.
Eventually, we headed back toward Boatwright’s to check in for dinner, and though I’d seen pictures, I was unprepared for how huge and museum-like Boatwright’s really is. As you walk in, you’re looking right up at the replica skeletal wooden hull of a flat-bottomed “New Orleans Lugger” fishing boat, suspended above the check-in area and dining room.
The walls are lined with vintage shipbuilding hand tools, like c-clamps and hand saws.
After a short wait, we were taken to our table in the main boat room, where our silverware was wrapped in down-home, checker-cloth napkins. Unfortunately, the wooden ship-builders’ tool boxes that used to contain the salt, pepper, and silverware were not out during our visit.
The restaurant is lit with many lantern-style fixtures along the walls, which makes getting a good photo a bit of a chore; so apologies in advance for the quality of the photos.
After being seated, we were served a basket full of warm cornbread along with a small side dish of perfectly round butter balls.
The bread was clearly freshly baked and then rewarmed in the oven, creating a soft center and a crisp, slightly toasty crust on the outside. Perfect corn bread texture, and the flavor — if you’ve only ever had cornbread from a box of Jiffy mix, you are missing out! This is the real deal. Slightly sweet and fully awesome.
We took some time to peruse the yummy menu!
I could have supped solely on the cornbread, but our appetizer came out quickly: Cajun-seasoned Crawfish Bites with a slightly spicy remoulade.
Served on a bed of shredded lettuce, the bites were over-seasoned, creating a muddled flavor. They weren’t very exciting and were actually quite salty — my husband says they’re “thirsty work.” The portion, though, was huge. I’d recommend splitting it between three or four guests rather than one or two.
Our entrees came out next. We split the Grilled Tenderloin Medallions and the Grilled Pork Chop.
The tenderloin was perfectly rare, extremely flavorful, and served with mac and cheese, a crawfish beignet, and asparagus.
On the menu, “mac and cheese” was in quotes. I’m not sure why, and I was afraid to ask, but it was delicious. Not quite as sharp as I’d make at home, but a delicious, homemade-style dish.
The asparagus were also very well prepared, with a slight bite to them. The beignet, on the other hand, was odd. It was very small, more like a hush puppy than a beignet, and it didn’t have much flavor. It seemed thrown on, like an afterthought more than a component in a well-planned dish.
The chop was a beautiful thing to behold. It had a smoky flavor and was covered in a sweet and sour Amber Ale BBQ sauce, which made me think of pineapples in the best possible way. It was a little dry on the outside, but it became pinker and fattier as we worked our way to the bone, where it was a near perfect medium.
It was served with cheesy grits and onion rings. I never, ever thought I’d say anything like this but … this plate really needed something green on it. Between the stick-to-your-ribs goodness of the grits and the thick, greasy rings, I wanted some broccoli or green beans. Something to make me feel like I wasn’t a cowboy.
I’d recommend a glass of beer with your meal. With our dinner, we ordered a glass of Abita Amber beer, which we first tried during a beer tasting at The Wave in the Contemporary resort in December 2010. It has a great flavor, and it was the perfect beer to pair with (and cut through) this slightly spicy and well-seasoned food.
Dessert was an epic struggle. I really wanted to order pecan pie because it seemed like a classic way to end the meal, but my husband was all about the Bananas Foster Angel Food Cake.
In the end, we compromised and ordered the New Orleans Bread Pudding because I love bread pudding and it included the foster sauce Rob was craving.
This turned out to be an excellent dessert. The foster sauce was a little thin, but it was well soaked into the bread pudding, which was delightfully sweet and soggy. The accompanying rum raisin ice cream was worth the cost of the dish alone—talk about a showstopper! This was my first experience with rum raisin, and I’m almost afraid to try it again.
Throughout the meal, I forgot, more than once, that I was in Disney World. The restaurant is comfortable and well-themed — it feels more like a cozy, local family restaurant than a theme park restaurant. I loved the atmosphere almost as much as I enjoyed our entrees and dessert. I’ll absolutely be back to this little gem, though I’ll probably skip the appetizer round.
After dinner, we got sucked into River Roost Lounge, where we watched YeHaa Bob Jackson perform several songs before we were pulled into Fulton’s General Store for some shopping.
The whole resort has such a relaxed, comfortable vibe, it wasn’t easy to leave. We did end up making it to Magic Kingdom for Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade, with full bellies and slower steps.
Have you dined at Boatwright’s? What’s your favorite dish? Tell us in the comments!
Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley works in higher education communications in upstate New York, where she lives with her husband, Robert, and her cavapoo, George. She is the co-editor of Mouse on the Mind.