Boatwright’s Dining Hall
Um. Boatwright’s is awesome.
During a recent trip, we were SO glad finally to have a chance to dine at this seems-like-it’s-been-there-forever-but-we’ve-never-eaten-there restaurant at Port Orleans Resort, Riverside, in Walt Disney World. The warm, relaxed feel of the space, coupled with some menu items I definitely wanted to try, made this a spot that we couldn’t wait any longer to check out.
Seriously, we loved it. This is the type of old school restaurant that’s right up our alley, so forgive me if I ramble on.
Since we were staying at Port Orleans French Quarter Resort next door, we decided to walk to Boatwright’s for our dining reservation. First up, we thoroughly enjoyed the easy, 10-minute stroll from the French Quarter portion of the resort to Riverside, where the restaurant is located.
And while this was our first official visit to Boatwright’s, Port Orleans has long been a favorite of ours. There is such a lovely “Disney Imagineering” feel to these resorts; there’s a lot of attention to detail, and there are so many activities that guests can enjoy. Plus, everything is contained in one compact space for ease of use.
You’re also really close to Downtown Disney while you’re here, so that’s definitely another big plus.
As you walk in, your eyes are immediately drawn upward to the huge, partially-built riverboat suspended above the check-in area. The boat (more about it in just a sec!) crowns the larger and more open of the two dining rooms.
The lofty space lets in plenty of natural light during the early evening of the dinner hour and truly appears to be the workroom of a shipbuilder.
The smaller dining room has a cozy fireplace and a more intimate feel, with lower ceilings that feature beams, giving it a homey, vintage atmosphere.
The honey-colored wooden tables and spindle-backed chairs, hardwood floors, and “shop rag” napkins make you feel less like you’re in a restaurant, and more like you’re dining in the warm, weathered home of a relative who lives somewhere on the river near New Orleans.
The detail of cloth napkins in a casual restaurant is always a nice touch, and I loved the little lanterns at each table.
There is just something so incredibly welcoming about a fireplace, isn’t there? And this one is two-sided, dividing the smaller dining room into two, cozy spaces. Did we mention this place was cozy?
Now back to that boat! The story of the restaurant’s main feature, the partially-built boat hoisted high above the heads of guests, is an interesting one.
When Disney decided to build a shipyard-themed restaurant, they actually called on a real shipbuilder — Brewer’s Shipyard — to build a partially completed, 46-foot lugger, which is a type of flat-bottomed boat that would have been used on the Mississippi River to haul cotton up and down the mighty waterway back in the day.
To lend credence to the theme, guests can also look at vintage boat blueprints, which are displayed on the walls alongside antique shipbuilding tools. Lanterns dangle throughout, completing the rustic feel.
As with so many Disney restaurants, the theme is done well here. With all of the little touches, you truly have the sense that you’ve been transported to a shipyard in Louisiana.
And now that you have a feel for the setting, let’s get down to the important stuff — supper! The perfect word, because that’s exactly what we are about to experience.
We started out with a few drinks, of course. I love to visit Disney restaurants that feature unique drink options, which really serve to cement the themeing. These, I think, set the eatery apart from the dozens of other restaurants you could have chosen from all over property.
The drink menu featured specialty cocktails, like the Blue Bayou, The Big Easy, and Boatwright’s version of a Hurricane — the “Southern” Hurricane. There were also offerings from Abita — appropriate, since the craft brewery is located just north of New Orleans.
We tried the Hurricane and the Abita Flight. I love the laminated placemat, which helps you to keep your samples straight!
My dinner companion really liked them all, and commented that the Purple Haze was better than he had remembered it when he’d had it before. The flavors were subtle and really refreshing.
While the Amber was pretty standard, the Turbodog was rich and dark, with a hint of sweetness and bitterness to round out the flavors.
The Southern Hurricane was good, although a little sweet for my taste, probably due to the substitution of Southern Comfort for the rum that normally appears in the drink. While it could have used a little sour counterpoint, I would have had another!
The menu is heavily — I would say exclusively — influenced by the Creole and Cajun dishes of New Orleans and Louisiana.
Smaller diners (and we mean kids here) won’t find such interesting options, though. The kid’s menu is the standard Disney offering.
The complimentary bread service featured some seriously delicious, warm Cornbread, served with an equally rockin’ Sweet Butter.
I love cornbread, and I love anyplace that serves it, so this wasn’t a hard sell :-). But the quality was really great, and the sweet bread was the perfect way to whet our appetites.
Next up on the table — the Chicken and Andouille Gumbo. It was fantastic! The thick soup, served over white rice, was pretty spicy, but enjoyable nevertheless. And this was a perfect portion to serve as a starter (with some to share). Seriously yum.
For entrees, we chose Prime Rib and Jambalaya.
First up: Prime Rib! I don’t usually order Prime Rib, as I often find it tasteless and boring (I know; I’m weird). But excellent does not even begin to describe the juicy, tender, well-marbled cut of meat that we got at Boatwright’s.
This was the best prime rib either of us had ever had, anywhere. The demi-glace was lovely, and that tangy, pungent horseradish sauce put this dish over the edge. The watercress and Yukon Gold potatoes finished the dish perfectly, and were delicious dipped in the accompanying sauces. Wow!
The Jambalaya was pretty fantastic as well. The consistency actually reminded me a bit of risotto, a favorite dish of mine. While it wasn’t creamy necessarily, there was a great sticky texture to the perfectly-cooked rice all mixed up with yum flavors, meats, and veggies.
My first thought when I saw the huge bowl and tasted this dish was “Man, I want to be sitting on my couch watching my favorite TV show while I dig into this.” Which just goes to show you that, yes, this is true comfort food!!
It totally reminded me of a Spanish rice recipe that my dad made a lot while I was growing up…remind me to get that recipe, Dad!! Comforting, cozy, with a hint of creamy spice, and topped beautifully with sausage, chicken, and shrimp. Sigh.
As we finished our amazing entrees, it was time to turn our attention to the dessert menu. This is what I’d really been looking forward to — the appetizer and entree wonderfulness were a surprise!
Many of the offerings sounded predictably delicious. However, since the general feel of the meal had been comfort food done right, having familiar options wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
While there were some interesting after dinner drink options, ultimately, we stuck to the desserts.
After some deliberation, we chose the Pecan Pie and Bananas Foster Angel Food Cake.
The Pecan Pie was spot-on. Rich and super sweet, with a perfectly set filling and pecan halves crowning the top.
The Bananas Foster Angel Food Cake…well…we wanted to like this better than we did. The Bananas Foster topping was delicious, and so was the ice cream, but the cake was…you know…angel food cake: sweet and spongy with no real character. Next time I order this I’ll ask them to hold the cake.
Boatwright’s was a home run for us. Every single dish we tried was feel-good food, prepared extremely well.
We really enjoyed the comfortable, homespun vibe that made us believe we were in a reeeeeally good mom and pop restaurant. The beautiful surroundings, delicious food, and decent service combined to provide a relaxing and enjoyable evening during a somewhat busy trip. We heartily give Boatwright’s an enthusiastic thumbs up!
And of course, before we turned in for the night, we had to stop by for a little Yehaa Bob at River Roost Lounge next door!
This Disney entertainment legend is a blast for adults and kids alike!
Here’s some video of this Disney superstar in action so that you can be a part of the fun, too!
If you are interested in dining at Boatwright’s during your next visit to Disney World, keep in mind that this deliciousness is only open for dinner, and not breakfast and lunch. Also, if you are looking for a quieter dining experience, you may want to book your Disney Dining Reservation before 8:00 p.m., when Yehaa Bob takes the stage, since the fun tends to seep through into the restaurant!
Have you ventured to Boatwright’s or stopped into Port Orleans Riverside to see Ye-Haa Bob? Let us know in comments below!