Boatwright's Dining Hall, a Hidden Gem at Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resortby Donna Fesel, contributing writer
I am a woman on a mission. I am going to eat at every single restaurant on Walt Disney World property, no matter how long it takes. My trouble is, I have at different points in time, favorite WDW restaurants that I return obsessively to on every trip. Right now, I have places we must eat on each trip: Narcoosee's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (great service, amazing view, and top notch seafood), Mr. Kamal's (a food truck at Disney's Animal Kingdom serving samosas and falafel, a mother and son tradition), Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney's Yacht Club Resort (terrific steak and chimichurri), and my son's must do, Casey's Corner (a Magic Kingdom Park staple dishing up dynamite chili dogs and cheese fries).
We love eating breakfast in our room in our pajamas before we face our busy WDW day, and often we return to our WDW resort for a quick bite midday. Add this all together with the many varied and delicious dining options at WDW and what am I to do? I almost felt like my project of eating at every restaurant at WDW was on track, and now Disney Springs has thrown my plan into a tizzy with a laundry list of "I'm-dying-to-dine-there" establishments (I can't even believe Rick Bayless is coming to Disney Springs—I'm beyond excited). I'm feeling overwhelmed. Deep breath... slow and steady. Join me as I try one new restaurant on every WDW trip and plug away on my journey.
On our most recent trip to WDW, my son headed over to the Sandcastle Club at Disney's Beach Club Resort (one of WDW's child care centers where he makes new friends and does activities supervised by cast members, while my husband and I enjoy a few hours alone). My husband and I headed to Disney's Port Orleans Riverside to dine at Boatwright's Dining Hall. It was destined to be an evening of firsts: our first time visiting the Port Orleans Resort—centered around the Sassagoula River, which winds past both Riverside and its sister Port Orleans French Quarter—and our first time dining at Boatwright's.
GPS programmed, we headed out of Beach Club for the short drive to Port Orleans. At first we were concerned about being able to figure out which part of Port Orleans was the French Quarter, and which was Riverside. Once we arrived, our fears were allayed, as they have distinct entrances and are very clearly marked. We made our turn into Riverside and checked in with the security guard at the resort's front gate.
When asked where we were going, the guard pointed us to Riverside's main building, and inquired if we had visited before. When we said no, he helpfully added, “Get the prime rib, you won't be sorry!” Parking in the convenient parking lot across from the Riverside's main building, we entered the pleasant and festive Mississippi Bayou, old South-themed lobby, where a cast member directed us toward Boatwright's just a few steps away.
Out the back of the Boatwright's lobby, we spotted a carriage and popped out to investigate. Horse and carriage rides are available behind Riverside's main building, and typically operate from 6 to 9:30 pm. Rides are $45 for 25 minutes, and each carriage can hold four adults, or two adults and three small children. Same day reservations for rides are available at Riverside's marina, and advance reservations are available by calling (407) WDW-PLAY. Unfortunately our schedule for the evening didn't work into the available time slots, so we headed inside for dinner.
As we were taken to our seats by Boatwright's cheerful hostess, I was immediately struck by the restaurant's nautical theme. An enormous wooden boat hull hangs overhead upon entry. Rustic wood and sea theming runs through the entirety of Boatwright's spacious dining areas. The decor is warm, inviting, and lovely.
Do you like to get your Southern food on? If so, you are in luck. The Boatwright's menu is chock full of Southern favorites, including chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, jambalaya, gumbo, étoufée, pimento cheese fritters and pepper jelly, and the very inventive sweet tea-brined pork chop with collard greens. As a lover of all of these wonderful Southern classics, I ordered a cocktail to enjoy while I mulled things over. My choice? The Southern classic Sazerac, featuring rye whiskey, agave, bitters, and Pernod for a hint of anise. Delicious, and perfect for sipping.
For an appetizer, I had Colonel Peace's Pieces, a delightful medley of fried crawfish, shrimp, and oysters accompanied by a zesty remoulade. My food was crunchy, salty, and zippy—everything a good fried seafood snack should be. My husband had an arugula salad, adorned with a slab of fresh watermelon. We savored our original and delicious food, and enjoyed the airy dining space, pointing out interesting seafaring decor to one another.
Next, for our entrees, I heeded the security guard's recommendation and ordered General Fulton's Prime Rib; my choice of a rare cut was served with amazing horseradish mashed potatoes and collard greens. It is a lot of food, but every bit as tasty as our friend had suggested it would be. My husband enjoyed the Flambeau Fish, a sustainable catch of the day, blackened and served with black-eyed pea salsa. I snagged some; it was very flavorful and light.
With very full bellies and our date night time running out, we skipped dessert to explore the resort's grounds on a cool Florida evening. We meandered, taking in the lovely buildings, and passed several pool areas where everyone seemed like they were having a blast. We reluctantly headed back to our car a short time later, with great stories to share with our son, and lots of wonderful new memories. If you discovered Boatwright's long ago, and have been enjoying it all along, I'm jealous. If you are in search of a new WDW dining experience in a fantastic setting like I am, head on over and give Boatwright's a try; you won't be sorry.
Boatwright's serves dinner only, and is open nightly from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Boatwright's is one Table-Service credit on the Disney Dining Plan. Tables in Wonderland is accepted, and a discount is available for Disney Annual Passholders of 10 percent off for the Passholder and up to three guests.
If you have a WDW dining favorite you think I should try, post it below. It can be a quick service wonder, fancy-pants dining, or your secret tasty must-have. I'm on a quest, so please help me out.