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Boatwrights Dining Hall
By Jack Spence, AllEars® Feature Writer
This article appeared in the July 1, 2008 Issue #458 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
UPDATE: Boatwrights is now closed.
Boatwrights Dining Hall is located at the Port Orleans - Riverside Resort. This is the only full-service restaurant at Port Orleans and is open for breakfast and dinner. Boatwrights is closed for lunch as the majority of the resort's guests are in the parks during the day. If you need a bite to eat at noontime, try Riverside Mill. This food court serves a wide variety of meals from hamburgers to complete dinners featuring carved meats.
I like the atmosphere of Port Orleans - Riverside. The resort check-in area is designed to look like you're booking passage on a paddle-wheeler for a trip down the Mississippi. Outdoors, this theme is continued with a small harbor and a number of watercraft that you can rent. It's also here that you can catch a water taxi for a leisurely trip down the Sassagoula River to Downtown Disney. For me, this is one of the most relaxing activities at Disney World, and in the evening, one of the most romantic.
Boatwrights Dining Hall is fashioned to look like an old-time woodworking shop where boats are constructed from the keel up. Supported by large braces and suspended from the ceiling are the beginnings of a new vessel. The keel and hull are well underway and I always marvel at the craftsmanship when I look at the re-creation of this wooden marvel.
Hung on the walls is a large assortment of antique woodworking tools -- the type that would actually be used to construct the current work in progress. Children are given an 8½ x 11 sheet of paper with pictures and names of many of these tools.
The 200-seat dining room is separated into several, smaller sections to help give the restaurant a more intimate feel. Beneath the boat-under-construction you'll find two of these sections, each on a different level, separated by a half-wall. In this area the ceiling is high in order to accommodate the boat. This area has a more informal feel to it than does the other half of the restaurant.
Up a set of stairs in the center of the restaurant you'll find two more dining areas separated by a working brick fireplace. Here, the ceiling is low and the floors are peg-and-groove wood planks. Various nautical pictures and bric-a-brac adorn the walls. This atmosphere is definitely more sedate than in the "boat" room and I would suggest sitting in this area if you're looking for a cozier feel.
To complete the ship-building theme, each table has a small wooden toolbox sitting on it. Inside the box you'll find your salt & pepper, sugar, crayons, and other condiments. I think this is a cute touch.
A close observer will also notice that the exterior of the building continues the ship-building theme. Two very large doors can be opened to gain access to the construction area once the boat has been completed. Past these doors is a gate that can be opened and a boat-ramp that can be lowered into the water, enabling the crew to easily move their finished project into the river.
Next door to Boatwrights Dining Hall is River Roost. This lounge/bar is designed to look like a cotton exchange and serves a small selection of appetizers as well as specialty drinks. This is a nice, quiet spot to relax and unwind after a long day in the parks.
I have eaten at Boatwrights a number of times. I've never left this restaurant displeased, but I've never left thinking that I must hurry back, either. For the most part, the food is good, but I'm not sure it's worthy of the prices Disney charges. As always, before I write a review, I try to eat at the restaurant a couple of days before I sit down at my keyboard. Here is a rundown of my most recent meal.
I invited two friends to join me (Donald and Jackie) so we could sample a larger variety of food. I made reservations for 5:30 and we arrived a few minutes early. We were given a pager, which it seems all Disney full-service restaurants are using these days, and asked to take a seat until our table was ready.
A few minutes later, my pager was activated and we were taken to our table -- the table that sits directly next to the check-in podium... the table that will get all the distractions from other guests checking in... the table that will be bumped as other guests enter or leave the restaurant. In other words, the worst table in the restaurant. Since there were only about eight parties in the place, it was completely beyond my comprehension as to why they would try to seat anyone at this table. There were dozens of better locations. I politely asked the hostess if we could be seated somewhere else and of course, she immediately accommodated my request and led us to a more out-of-the way location.
A few minutes later, our waitress approached the table and asked if we were ready to order. I spoke up first and said that I'd like to have a diet Coke. She then asked me if I knew what I'd like to eat. I said "No, not yet." Donald and Jackie then ordered an iced tea and a diet Coke. Our server noted this in her pad and left the table.
When she returned with our drinks and a basket of warm, tasty cornbread, she once again asked if we were ready to order. This time we were and gave her our choices. Since I could already sense that we were going to be rushed, I told our waitress that we were in no hurry and would like to have a leisurely meal. She said this wouldn't be a problem. Before she left, Jackie asked if we could have straws as she had forgotten to give them to us. The waitress pulled several out of her pocket and placed them on the table.
An appropriate time later, a young man approached the table with our appetizers. Jackie and I each ordered the Crawfish Cakes, served with Fennel and Mango Slaw with Remoulade. The food was attractively displayed on the plate and we both found everything to be quite tasty. Big chunks of crawfish could be found inside the cakes and the Remoulade was a nice touch.
Donald ordered the Spinach Salad with Grape Tomatoes, Bacon-Herb Vinaigrette, Roasted Beets, Mushrooms, and Goat Cheese -- hold the beets. This salad was very attractively served and tasted every bit as good as it looked. Donald couldn't have been happier.
Jackie and I finished our Crawfish Cakes first and as Donald was taking his last bite of salad, the same young man appeared at the table with our entrees. So much for a leisurely paced meal.
He stood there for several seconds, just looking at us, when we realized he expected us to rearrange our dirty dishes to make room for the plates he was carrying. After some awkward juggling, we cleared some room and he set our meals before us. He then cleared the dirty dishes and disappeared.
Our waitress returned a few minutes later with drink refills. She then proceeded to pick up Donald's straw from his empty glass and place it into his fresh drink. Bad waitress! Luckily, Donald only uses his straw to stir the sugar into his iced tea so she didn't actually touch anything that he was drinking with. I know it's Disney's policy to bring a guest a new straw with every refill. This waitress needs a refresher course.
For my entree I ordered the Jambalaya with Spiced Chicken Thighs, Andouille Sausage, Shrimp, Rice, and Vegetables. I have only good things to say about this meal. Instead of all the meats being cut up into small pieces and mixed into the rice, it was left in larger sections and placed attractively on top. It was pleasant to look at and tasted exactly liked I wanted it to.
Jackie ordered the Slow-roasted Prime Rib, with Three-Cheese Hash Brown Potatoes and Cabernet Sauce. She too was happy with the taste of her meal. She especially liked the three-cheese potatoes and the cabernet sauce on the meat.
Donald ordered the Grilled Filet Mignon, served with Crawfish Hollandaise and Three-Cheese Hash-Brown Potatoes. He thought the filet was good, but not outstanding. However, like Jackie, he especially liked the three-cheese potatoes.
The one negative comment they had about their meals was the presentation. Only having two items (meat and potatoes), their plates looked naked, especially Donald's, as a Filet is small to begin with. There was more china showing than food.
A new trend I see emerging at Disney World restaurants is a lack of vegetables accompanying the entrees. Vegetables are available at Boatwrights, but at an extra cost. I feel like I'm being gouged. At almost $30 for a Filet, at least throw in some green beans. They're cheap.
Jackie decided to skip dessert, but in the spirit of doing a thorough review, Donald and I forced ourselves to indulge. I ordered the Pecan Pie. No complaints here. It was tasty and the serving was generous -- almost enough to share without feeling cheated.
Donald ordered the Fresh Seasonal Berries. He was less than pleased. It seems that in the middle of June, the only berries that are in season are strawberries, cuz that's all he got. A bowl of sliced strawberries, unattractively served in a small bowl. I'm pretty sure I saw blackberries and raspberries at my supermarket last week. I guess Disney shops somewhere else. Since I couldn't finish my pecan pie, I let him have the rest.
So, once again, I left Boatwrights with mixed feelings. For the most part, the food was good, but nothing to write home about. The food presentation was hit-and-miss, and the service definitely wasn't up to Disney standards.
If you're staying at Port Orleans - Riverside, I'd suggest trying this restaurant for breakfast. For dinner, I think there are better choices for the same amount of money -- like the Captain's Grill at the Yacht Club or the Kona Cafe at the Polynesian.
Boatwrights Dining Hall is open for breakfast 7:30 - 11:30 a.m. and dinner 5 - 10 p.m. Reservations are suggested and can be made up to 180 days in advance by calling 407-WDW-DINE.
Reader Reviews of Boatwrights Breakfast: http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showproduct.php?product=191&cat=49
Reader Reviews of the Boatwrights Dinner: http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showproduct.php?product=192&cat=49
Other articles by Jack Spence: http://allears.net/btp/jacks.htm
Jack Spence's blog, The World According to Jack: http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.