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Guest Review: Boatwright’s Dining Hall at Port Orleans Riverside

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!

Atmosphere

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.

Boatwright's Exterior Entrance

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 check-in desk located below the Lugger.

The walls are lined with vintage shipbuilding hand tools, like c-clamps and hand saws.

Antique shipbuilding hand tools adorn the walls

More shipbuilding tools

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.

Salt and pepper, no tool box

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.

The Lugger, as seen from our table

Another shot of Boatwright’s

Eats

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.

Delicious basket of cornbread

Cornbread, buttered and ready for eating

We took some time to peruse the yummy menu!

Dinner menu - click image for larger version

Drink Menu - click image for larger version

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.

Crawfish Bites

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.

Grilled Tenderloin

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.

Grilled Pork Chop

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.

Dessert Menu - click image for larger version

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.

New Orleans Bread Pudding

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.

Overall

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.

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19 Comments

  1. Pudge the Fish says:

    For many years Boatwrights was my go-to restaurant at WDW but I have not been there in over a decade. Sadly I don’t feel that I need to return anytime soon. They once had an incredible pirouge of seafood with cajun shrimp, scallops and catfish over pasta in a garlic-y cream sauce. Followed by a Mississippi mud pie for dessert, it was a perfect meal to me. While the menu has changed I still love the decor of the restaurant. Thanks for sharing your review.

  2. melissa sue says:

    Pudge: Sorry that your favorite meal is no more! I hope you’ll get back to Boatwright’s sometime. And thank you for reading.

  3. Alan says:

    I agree with Pudge’s comment completely. Since Port Orleans opened over 20 years ago, Port Orleans-Riverside has been our favorite resort and we have stayed there over 25 times. My feeling is that the food was more varied and interesting in it’s earlier days and has been less than that since the onset of the DDP. It used to be very convienent to eat there, when staying at that resort; a real time saver. However, now we take the time to eat at some of the other resorts such as the Yacht Club, The Grand Floridian, or Polynesia.

    Maybe, they need a little modernization of their menu.

  4. marcellina says:

    first let me say (jokingly) that with all those handtools on the walls it sorta looks like a torture chamber in there! LOL.

    seriously though.. we are staying at POR (very!) soon and I wasn’t planning on eating at Boatwrights but my husband and I do happen to love southern (Louisiana) food and I love me some cornbread.. so if there is a night we are back at the resort and to tired to venture out perhaps we will stop in. I know we are going to see Yee Haw Bob though and I’m really excited for that! Do you think the drinks on the drink menu at the restaurant could be ordered at River Roost?

    thanks for a great and timely review! It’s getting me even more excited for our upcoming trip!!! :D

  5. For the record, I think the light-fixture filled photos look great!

    Sorry to hear that the crawfish beignet wasn’t life-changing (it sure sounds good in theory) but I have to say, even this mainly-veggie eater is drooling over that pork chop.

  6. AJ says:

    Pudge — Thanks for the review! Fingers crossed the menu will change up again for ya!

    Alan — Ooh… love the idea of modernizing. What would you add?

    marci — Chances are the River Roost can make any drinks on the menu at the restaurant (they actually probably COME from the River Roost when you’re at the restaurant). Have fun!! :-)

    Tracy — No kidding! Doesn’t the food look great! I’m drooling for that cornbread! Even wrote to Melissa Sue after getting the guest post to tell her she’s updating my restaurant list for next trip! ;-)

  7. Lisa says:

    The “macaroni and cheese” was probably in quotes because they didn’t use actual “macaroni” noodles in the dish, they used pasta shells instead so technically it’s not macaroni and cheese it’s pasta shells and cheese.

  8. NT3 says:

    Wow…I never even considered this place but that menu sounds excellent. I want to try half the appetizers and would eat any of the entrees. And major brownie points for serving Abita beer. I love that Disney has that in a few places at Port Orleans…a great authentic touch that some of the other resorts can use.

    And as far as the “mac and cheese” I’m guessing it’s just because of how informal a phrase it is, compared to the detailed descriptions on the menu. They’re saying “mac and cheese”; not “pasta with cheddar and colby jack cheese sauce.”

  9. Carol says:

    Boatwright’s has been a family favourite since we “discovered” it on a trip in 2007, when we were very tired one evening and didn’t want to leave the resort for dinner (we were staying at POFQ, our favourite resort). We all really loved our meals, everything was prepared and presented beautifully. We’ve returned ever since, my most recent visit was September 2011, when my sister and I had a “girls only” holiday. We both skipped appetizers, raved about (and devoured) the cornbread, and each had the pork chop for our entree. We loved every bite! I had the bananas foster angel food cake for dessert and my sister went for the pecan pie, both desserts were incredible! We’ll be returning on our next trip this October! :~D

  10. Aubrey says:

    We dined at Boatwright’s in 2008. While we enjoyed our meal we felt it wasn’t exactly showstopping. I still have lots of Disney restaurants to check out before I feel the need to return to Boatwright’s. Still, if you are staying at POR it is a convenient choice with good food.

  11. Marianne says:

    We ate at Boatwrights about a year ago because we were staying at POFQ. I had pretty low expectations, but I was very pleasantly surprised. I had the same steak as Melissa Sue. It turned out to the best beef I had on-property that trip–perfectly cooked and wonderfully sauced. Even the asparagus was good, in November! I also recommend the mixed drinks. They can be a bit weak and generic at WDW restaurants, IMO, but my Hurricane was anything but! (Wish I had one now.)

  12. Sharon C says:

    If only Boatwright’s would bring back breakfast. The sweet potato pancakes served there were my favorite breakfast food in all of WDW.

  13. Monica L says:

    The Boatwright was one of my husbands favorites!! But since they took the Fried Chicken off the menu we have only been back once and we were a bit disappointed!!!

  14. JoAnn says:

    I had an ADR at Boatwrights for my trip in November 2011 but had to cancel when we needed to reschedule the Fantasmic Dinner Package. Maybe I’ll try again this year.

  15. melissa sue says:

    @marcellina: so glad this was helpful to you and your family as you plan your trip! We didn’t order mixed drinks, but it looks like AJ answered your question below.

    @tracy: thank you, lovely!

    @lisa: that makes sense! I was worried it was going to be made with fake cheese or something. I didn’t want to ruin the meal by finding out something weird or gross.

    @NT3: I am glad this has put Boatwright’s on your radar! I LOVE Abita–we only drink it at WDW, so it’s doubly special to my husband and I.

    @Carol: Thanks for sharing your review, too!! I am so glad you enjoyed the desserts … I wish I’d had more room to try different desserts. Next time …

    @Aubrey: I agree–it won’t become a “must visit” for us, there are too many other things to try!! But I’d absolutely go back if it were convinient or if I were in the mood for killer cornbread.

    @Marianne: Yum!! I am glad you enjoyed your meal. I’ll have to try the Hurricane when I go back to the River Roost Lounge.

    @Sharon: Have you had the sweet potato pancakes at The Wave? They’re amazing …

    @Monica: Sorry you had a disappointing meal! I hope you’ll give it another shot some time.

  16. shannon says:

    Oh, how I miss Boatwrights breakfast!! We used to make time for it several times a year… Those omelets were worth the trip.

  17. Beth says:

    I really miss Bonfamilles at Port Orleans. Loved the beignets. As a whole, while I still love dining at WDW, the food is slowly becoming less spectacular and more like something I can get at a restaurant anywhere. That is what I really liked the most about WDW was the special food that was so creative and somewhat themed to the location.

  18. Kimber says:

    I just returned with my 10 year old son, mom and dad after a glorious week at the Port Orleans – Riverside! Our last night we ate at Boatwrights! I have frantically been trying to find the recipe for the “mac and cheese” I ate with my Sirloin Medallions! What kind of delicious pasta and sauce did they use?! Someone please email me @ kpt12273@cox.net if you have the inside scoop on that particular recipe! We loved our trip and are ready to return!

  19. Milo Bean says:

    I’ve been to WDW three times as an adult, and three times I stayed at the Port Orleans resort and three times I’ve enjoyed Boatwrights.
    My first visit involved the Prime Rib which I found delicious though fattier than I like, but good enough to draw me back for my second visit. It was cooked to rare perfection with a spicey horseradish sauce that I just can’t seem to replicate at home. the roasted potatoes were slightly dry and the demiglaze on them didn’t really compliment the meal. I too wished to see something green on the plate.
    My second visit involved an old favorite of mine, Chicken and Waffles with warm maple syrup and a side of collareds…yeah, something green. This was a good dish, though I’ve had better. Unfortunately, on my third trip, this dish was a thing of the past.
    My third trip, I ordered the beef medallions with ‘mac and cheese’. I found it quite good, washed down with a glass of sweet iced tea and lemon.
    The service has been outstanding on all three trips, though Li, on our last trip, riled my pet peeve by asking if I needed change back.
    Planning a fourth trip this Fall, and I’m fairly certain Boatwrights will see my smiling face again and again…

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