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Review: Boatwright’s Dining Hall at Port Orleans Riverside

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.

Atmosphere

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.

Boatwright's Sign

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.

Boatwright's Check In

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.

Second Dining Room

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.

Seating

The detail of cloth napkins in a casual restaurant is always a nice touch, and I loved the little lanterns at each table.

Table Setting

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? ;-)

Fireplace in Dining Room

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.

Boatwrights Building

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.

Blueprint decor

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.

Eats

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.

Beverage Menu - click image for larger version

We tried the Hurricane and the Abita Flight. I love the laminated placemat, which helps you to keep your samples straight!

Abita Beer Flight Descriptions

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.

Abita Beer Flight

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!

Hurricane

The menu is heavily — I would say exclusively — influenced by the Creole and Cajun dishes of New Orleans and Louisiana.

Menu - click image for larger version

Smaller diners (and we mean kids here) won’t find such interesting options, though. The kid’s menu is the standard Disney offering.

Kids Menu - click image for larger version

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.

Corn Bread

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.

Gumbo

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!

Prime Rib

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.

Jambalaya

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.

Desserts Menu - click image for larger version

While there were some interesting after dinner drink options, ultimately, we stuck to the desserts.

Dessert Cocktails Menu - click image for larger version

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.

Pecan Pie

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. ;-)

Bananas Foster Angel Food Cake

Overall

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!

Yehaa Bob

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!

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26 Comments

  1. Emma says:

    Sounds like a great restaurant, thank you for the review! We have an ADR booked here for our trip in October, I’m even more excited now :) Looking forward to touring POR too as the resort looks beautiful.

  2. Kb says:

    Port Orleans is hands down the most comfortable resort to stay at. The walk along the river is the most relaxing time that I have in Disney World. Truly it is one of my favorite places to be!

  3. melissa sue says:

    Yay! I am so glad that you made it to Boatwrights and that you enjoyed it as much as my husband and I did!! And how funny–the same woman was working the front desk when we visited. Such a totally delicious meal.

  4. Alan says:

    Oh AJ, I want to comment on Boatwright’s as we have dined (and alas breakfasted) there dozens of times. Except for a couple of stays elsewhere, this resort has been our “happy place” since it opened in the very early 90′s. But your review says it all – right down to the zany Bob Jackson. Decor, ambience, food and entertainment are all conviently a walk away from your room on a rainy night or on an evening when your feet and legs say no more.

    The only difference from your story is that since we stay at the Riverside, we make the picturesque walk over to the French Quarter for biegnets in the morning. It’s about as good as it gets.

  5. Joline says:

    We tried it last month and were very impressed. We loved everything about it. Everyone was so friendly and the food was absolutely delicious. It was our favorite meal of the trip. Only regret – no room for dessert :(

  6. The Crabby Gator says:

    My wife and I ate their last weekend while visiting for our anniversary. I too enjoyed the cornbread, but found it a bit sweet. Definitely a northern style cornbread than a true southern one. But still good. For my entree I had the andouille crusted catfish. Really, really good and very filling. I passed on the daily vegetable of asparagus and got extra rice instead.

    Unfortunately, the rest of the visit wasn’t that great. Despite having a reservation 10 minutes past opening and tons of open tables, we waited an extra 20 minutes to be seated, and despite lots of empty tables for our small party near the fireplace, we were placed in a rather undesirable spot. We were seated, and didn’t receive the specialized drink menu you mentioned. All we got was the same drink menu they offer at the Polynesian and most other Disney restaurants. No mention of drink flights or anything else. When we passed on drinks and appetizers, the waitress lost interest in us from that point. When she came back, my wife asked about some alternatives as she is a very picky eater and agreed to eat here as a favor to me. Every restaurant we’ve been to on property has been able to make her a grilled cheese if she can’t find something she likes. The waitress immediately tried to get her to try a pork chop or other dish, which my wife politely declined. She came back, and told my wife the chef said the kitchen was too busy to make her a grilled cheese, despite there was perhaps only 10% of the tables currently occupied. She settled for chicken “tenders” which were just chicken nuggets from the food court next door, but ended up costing $4 more than we would have paid there. Our drinks were always empty for several minutes before we had to flag her down and request refills. By the end of the meal, we were too annoyed to try a dessert.

    As annual passholders and Florida residents, we eat on property frequently and it’s honestly probably the worst service we’ve had at Disney. It’s a shame because my catfish was quite delicious and I want to try some of the other dishes. Hopefully next time the service will be better.

  7. Nathan says:

    Yeah, you can’t go wrong with Purple Haze :). I can’t wait to try Boatwright’s out! We always forget about the smaller resort restaurants (the ones in the resorts that aren’t as accessible that is) but we will have to expand our horizons a little more I guess.

  8. Dana says:

    My husband and I always stay at Port Orleans Riverside when we go to Disney (LOVE IT!), but we’ve never eaten at Boatwright’s. Maybe we’ll have to try it when we go down in October!

  9. marcellina says:

    I’m so glad you reviewed this restaurant and loved it AJ! We stayed at Port Orleans Riverside this past February and my parents ate at Boatwright’s. I joined them and just had a water but I sampled the cornbread (YUM! I’m a big cornbread fan too). My dad got the pork chop and my mom had the blackened fish. I tasted both dishes and they were awesome! especially the blackened fish… mmmmmm! It really made me sad that I wasn’t going to have a full meal here on the trip (It was our last night and I had already had dinner). I would feel 100% comfortable recommending this restaurant to anyone!

  10. icewine says:

    LOVE Boatwrights! Dixie Landings was the first resort I stayed at and the breakfasts here are fabulous. Very different from the usual fare – especially the breakfast skillets. Have been for dinner several times and have never been disappointed! I totally agree with you, the prime rib is amazing :o)

  11. Sherri Erwin says:

    We ate at Boatwright’s years ago and came out with a different impression. The atmosphere felt sterile and cafeteria-like, not at all warm, friendly, or even interesting. The service was terrible. The food, meh, and we all felt ill afterwards. Based on your review, I would say we were having a bad day, or the restaurant was, and I would give it another shot if I was staying at Port Orleans Riverside or maybe French Quarter. But my memories of a terrible meal there keep me from making the trek if I were staying anywhere else.

  12. Amy says:

    After a lot of debate, POR and the Royal Guest Rooms got the nod over AOA for our upcoming trip. We’re planning a dinner at Boatwright’s while we’re there and this review leaves me looking forward to it even more. I only wish they had a couple of more adventurous options for kids–we took my daughter to New Orleans a couple of months ago and she LOVED gumbo, blue crab, crawfish, and just about anything else she could get her hands on. (She STILL asks us to take her back to Redfish Grill for dinner!) I know it’s not for everyone, but it would be great if they had one option that mirrored something on the excellent adult’s menu, in addition to the usual pizza-macaroni-chicken nuggets-etc. Still, I can’t wait to try it!

  13. Leslie Whitten says:

    We go to WDW at least once a year and ALWAYS stay at Port Orleans Riverside; it’s not even a discussion. We’re going this September, and I can’t wait to see the refurbished rooms and queen beds – psyched! As far as Boatwright’s, we ate there in 2010 and got right in with no reservation. Unfortunately, our experience was similar to Sherri’s. Cajun food is my husband’s favorite cuisine, but neither of us were too happy with the food or the service, especially for the price. I don’t mind paying a lot for good food (love V&A’s), but this just wasn’t worth it t me. I hope this means it’s turned around!!

  14. Andrea says:

    We stay at POR almost every time we go and have never eaten at Boatwright’s! Don’t know why…guess there are always just too darn many other places to try!! We’ll be there in September in the new Royal rooms and MUST fit this in! Can’t wait to try that cornbread. I LOVE me some good sweet cornbread :-)

  15. Grace says:

    We at there for breakfast in 09 and like Sherri Erwin, didn’t feel the magic you described. It’s too bad because your pictures and descriptions look wonderful. My husband even got very ill after eating there and he had to go back to the room for the rest of the day. It was a big bummer. Of course that could happen at any restaurant, anywhere, anytime. But the memory of it just makes it so unappealing anymore. But really, your review looks wonderful!

  16. Margaret West says:

    I wish they still served breakfast at Boatwright’s. I stay at POR a good bit and always had used the food court for breakfast before the parks. One year, on our last morning we decided to eat at Boatwright’s to start the day. I had the sweet potatoe pancakes with pecan topping and syrup. They were delicious!! The serving was so big that two of us split them. I think the butter served with them was a honey butter. I was bummed the next time we returned to find out that breakfast service had been discontinued. Next time I will have to try dinner.
    Thanks for the review!

  17. Marion says:

    We ate there in January of 2011 when we stayed at Port Orleans Riverside (yippee for trundle beds for families of five). We really enjoyed our evening in the resort too. We loved Boatwright’s for dinner, especially the cornbread. The bread pudding was a favorite of ours too. Then we went to the lounge and our entire family loved Yeehaw Bob’s show. So much fun for literally the entire family….not just the adults or not just the kids. My son’s especially enjoyed looking at the giant unfinished boat.

    Because we are a family of five and can usually find accomdations off-property much cheaper than on (we hit an annual pass sale when we stayed at POR), this resort has a special place in our heart! We also loved the boat to Downtown Disney, which is so fun and easy to do a little shopping.

    Thanks, A.J. for reminding me of a great stay at WDW!

  18. Trina says:

    We have eaten at Boatwrights several times. You should try the beef tenderloin medallions next time you go…..it is a great meal.

  19. Allison says:

    Thanks for the review, AJ – had never considered Boatwright’s as a dining to-do, but it’s on our list now (my husband loves boats and we both love Cajun/Creole cuisine). Should be a good one for our next trip.

  20. Charlotte says:

    We have never chosen to stay at the Orleans resorts… since we live in Louisiana and prefer to have a different atmosphere when on vacation. However I wanted to comment on the walk you mentioned at the beginning of your post. The Disney resorts are a hidden treasure I think most people neglect on their visits, choosing to focus on the parks and downtown during their stay. We set aside an entire day to focus just on the resorts during our last trip, and got around to the Orleans after dark. The walk along the river is fantastic. Beautiful, quiet, and relaxing… strolling alongside the river. Extremely beautiful. A great way to wind down after a busy trip.

  21. Tracy says:

    So glad you finally visited our hidden gem. On our last visit we sat directly in front of the fire place and had a fantastic meal. Pecan pie… yum!!!

  22. Cindy Kay says:

    We ate at Boatwright’s in 2006. We were on the dining plan (included appretizers, desserts and taxes). The service was extremely slow and server was rude. When I asked for the drink menu, the server reminded me that we were on the dining plan. I was willing to pay extra, but never did receive the drink menu. I got the prime rib… it was very overcooked and mostly fat. When I brought it to our server’s attention, she reminded me we were on the dining plan. When I asked for refills, she reminded me we were on the dining plan. As you can see, there was an ongoing theme to our meal… as we were reminded through out the entire meal that we were on the dining plan. Needless to say, we got our desserts to go. I really wanted the meal to beat spectacular (it was our last night), but left disappointed.

    We stayed at POR Riverside 3 times since then and never returned to Boatwright’s since that experience. I will be there solo in September and think I will give it another try. Wish me luck!

  23. Rhona says:

    We have eaten at Boatwrights several times. We used to eat breakfast there all the time when we were at Riverside which was most of our visits. We loved their breakfast but for some reason they shut breakfast down and I for one will no longer try to eat breakfast in their other eatery. Their dinner was also always very good. We always found our waiter/waitress to be friendly and helpful. We’ve not eaten there for a few trips but will have to go again for dinner. Their prime rib was always delicious as was the jambalya. Good place to eat.

  24. David says:

    I ate at Boatwright’s the last time I was at Disney. We were doing a 10 day vacation, and we caught a particularly hot (mid 90s) day in the middle of the trip. Our group didn’t think we could handle another few hours at Magic Kingdom, so we canceled our reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table and headed back to our Resort- Port Orleans Riverside. We stopped in at Boatwright’s and asked if they had an opening for 8 people. They told us they could fit us in. After only about a 20 minute wait they seated us. I ate steak at 6 or 7 restaurants during our 10 day stay, but Boatwright’s Prime Rib was by far the best. Others adults in our party had the Grilled Pork Chop and Jambalaya and they were equally impressed. We are planning another trip for 2013 and Boatwright’s is definitely on my list of must places to eat.

  25. Sue says:

    Just ate at Boatwrights and had to send beef medallions back to chef. They were horrible. I won’t be back.

  26. Cindy Kay says:

    An update from my past comment (see June 15, 2012 at 9:41 am)…

    My husband and I gave Boatwrights another try… and boy are we glad we did! The food (and the Purple Haze) were AWESOME! I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful the service was too. The waiter took his time with us, had a great personality and his suggestions were spot on! I had the Jambalaya and my husband had the Crawfish Etouffee’… both dishes were perfecto! Can’t wait to return… :)

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