The Boathouse is a table service restaurant at Disney Springs in Walt Disney World. This review features food photos, and our analysis of the value & quality of this new hot-spot at “The Landing.” The Boathouse is a recent addition to the Disney Dining Plan, but it does not (yet) accept the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. Oddly, it does do a 15% Annual Pass discount for lunch and 10% discount for dinner. As a 2-credit Signature Restaurant, the Boathouse is a poor use of a counter service credit if you are looking to Maximize Value on the Disney Dining Plan.
Technically, the Boathouse is actually The BOATHOUSE®, with a name achieving the rare obnoxiousness trifecta: 1) “The” preceding a proper name for a false air of importance (e.g., The Ohio State University); 2) vanity capitalization for no discernible reason; 3) Registered Trademark symbol for a fairly indistinct name (with 34 other “Boathouse” registrations in the USPTO system, good luck on an infringement claim).
Beyond this, the Boathouse has taken its fair share of criticism from a Disney blogging corps with insufficient material to cover and excessive snark. We also latched onto an sample menu that leaked out, and some of the seemingly absurd prices on it. I’ll admit that I was taken aback by the $21 asparagus, but thankfully those prices proved to be inaccurate.
Add to that steep pricing, short duration, and seating for only 3 (?!) guests on the amphicar rides (we weren’t about to spend that, but they sure look fun), and there was a bit of backlash from the fan community before the Boathouse even seated its first guest. Of course, all would be forgiven if the ambiance and food measured up…
We finally headed to the Boathouse a few months after it opened after hearing feedback from several friends that the food did, in fact, measure up. I was still a bit apprehensive, as the prices most certainly are not cheap, and without Tables in Wonderland, we’d be paying full price for that meal.
The same scenario has played out on both of our visits: after late nights at Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar, we have headed over to the Boathouse for a meal. Usually, you’d do the bar as the nightcap in situations such as this, but what can I say: we like to eat.
On our first visit, we arrived at the restaurant just before 11 p.m., and inquired with the hostess as to whether the kitchen was still open. She happily informed us that it was, and that we had plenty of time. The clear attitudes of all of the restaurant staff were that we were fine to take our time.
I don’t normally comment on service much in these reviews because it’s too variable, but this same scenario more or less played out on our second visit (and we didn’t finish eating until after 1 a.m. on that visit), so kudos to the Boathouse crew for being friendly in a scenario that often tests the patience (to put it mildly) of restaurant staffs. Both times, our service has been impeccable.
Thematically, it’s a (surprise!) boathouse. The restaurant has a fleet of classic watercraft that not only give it a retro-inspired charm and vibe, but also cost a lot of money. Beyond the amphicars, there are water taxi and other boats, almost all of which are exotic in appearance. It’s sort of like Jay Leno’s garage–if he were into watercraft.
Then there’s the interior of the restaurant, which has several distinct personalities. The most pervasive feeling is one of trendiness, and this mostly works well but there are places where it feels a bit much. Largely, the restaurant appears to take pride in nautical heritage and embraces a chic retro-modern design style. It’s not a stuffy “gentleman’s” yacht club, nor is it not posh waterfront fine dining. It’s much more approachable and inviting than either of those styles.
That’s not without drawbacks. The ambiance of the restaurant itself skews very casual, especially by Signature standards. I know fine dining isn’t everyone’s thing, but the ambiance feels, to me, a bit at odds with the menu prices. From the communal seating to the live music to the boat motors adorning the walls, it feels like a trendy bar. (At least, this is the case with the main dining areas–there is a third dining room and private dining areas that look nicer, but these weren’t seating on either of our visits.)
Irrespective of that, the theming at the Boathouse is done well, and for many guests who are on vacation, the more fun and relaxed vibe of the place might very well be a plus. Personally, I like to really suit up in the finest Floridian styles when at Walt Disney World, but I guess here I’ll just stick to my relaxed captain’s hat and ascot.
As for the food, we or our friends visiting with us have tried numerous menu items. While Boathouse is technically a Signature, the menu caters to a range of price points, and we’ve always gravitated towards value maximization paying out of pocket. That means this review might be problematic if you are on the Disney Dining Plan and trying for value maximization. Here’s a run-down of what we tried.
The Mahi Mahi Tacos were wild-caught fish with a jerk spiced rub, and topped with slaw, avocado, and serrano-chili cream. Moderately priced, Sarah thought the fish here tasted fresh, with the jerk spiced rub giving it more complexity than you’d get from normal fish tacos, and the rest of the toppings rounding out a well-favored dish.
The Yellowfin Poke was a dish that didin’t particularly wow–especially for the price and size–but was good. Light and refreshing, it was exactly what you’d expect out of a good poke, but it didn’t really blaze any new frontier. It was adept, which is a bit of a letdown for a restaurant like the Boathouse.
The Jumbo Lump Crab Cake is a dish that did wow. While we are often skeptical of crab cakes since they are so small and often not filling (and containing filler), Sarah ordered it based on our waiter’s recommendation (who called it the best item on the menu). It was primarily lump crab meat, with the flavor of the crab mostly speaking for itself (a wise decision by the chef, as the crab was excellent). The crisp exterior gave it a nice texture, rounding out the dish. Sarah really couldn’t say enough good things about this crab cake.
A couple of our friends ordered the Filet Mignon Sliders, and at $12 for two sliders plus fries, this has to be one of the best values on the menu. They seemed impressed by the burgers and their flavor. This is probably the first menu item that will see a price increase, so if you’re planning a 2018 visit, plan accordingly.
The Double Cheddar Cheeseburger was perfectly-prepared and worth the money. What I enjoyed about this burger was the way the bread & butter pickles and Dijonnaise sauce provided a light contrast to one another, with the end result being a clearly high-end burger with a unique, mildly sweet flair. It was expensive for a burger relative to other table service restaurants at Walt Disney World, but I felt that was justified by the lively and full flavor, and quality of ingredients.
Besides, when all is said and done, it’s only a few dollars more than the average table service. What else do you expect from a Signature? All said, I felt it was worth the cost. This burger goes down as one of my top picks at Walt Disney World, and between it and the Crew’s Cup Lounge burger, I really need to update my Best Burgers at Walt Disney World list.
Another of our friends ordered the “Yacht Club” Club. While he was pleased with the amount of meat (noting it contained “all the meat!”), I think there was some disappointment as it was essentially a standard club sandwich without bringing anything unique to the table. It’s definitely a safe and inexpensive option, but not a reason for making a trip to the Boathouse.
Having passed on the mac & cheese earlier in the day on our visit to Skipper Canteen, I decided to try the Shrimp & Andouille Mac N’ Cheese. Am I ever glad that I did. The cheese was thick and rich, to an extent that a normal mac & cheese probably couldn’t go without being too much, but with the delicious shrimp and sausage there to offset the richness of the cheese, it became a savory indulgence that was incredibly filling. If two people split this and a smaller fish entree, it would be the perfect meal.
Finally, there’s the Baked Alaska. The stuff legends are made of. The dessert that has slayed 37 (and counting) tourists. Standing at a height approximately as tall as a toddler in the 90th percentile, the Baked Alaska is huge. You can never go wrong with Baked Alaska, and this one is no exception. The rocky road ice cream, meringue, torched marshmallow, and chocolate chunks all compliment one another perfectly to make the ultimate decadent dessert for sharing. The graham cracker crust is the proverbial icing on the cake, and the inexplicable highlight that puts this over the top on the awesomeness scale.
Don’t waver on the $40 price. Get this dessert if you have a party of at least 4. The thing is huge, and will easily feed 4, and more realistically, 6-8. Mark my words: the Boathouse’s Baked Alaska will replace Beaches & Cream’s Kitchen Sink as Walt Disney World’s most iconic dessert.
Whereas the Kitchen Sink has some weird stuff just thrown in (for shock value?) everything in this behemoth adds to and enhances the flavor. The only way the Baked Alaska loses points is for not being torched at the table. Everything tastes better with a flaming table side presentation.
Overall, we like the Boathouse more than this review probably conveys. I view it as the centerpiece of the Disney Springs project, a restaurant that has good food and fun ambiance, and also adds great kinetic energy to the area. I do have my qualms about the ambiance in terms of Signature Dining, but perhaps that’s personal. For the mid-range ($12-28) menu options, this has become a Walt Disney World go-to for us, and when viewed from that perspective, Boathouse ranks as one of the top restaurants at Walt Disney World. Thanks to our positive experiences thus far, we look forward to returning to try the more expensive menu options at some point (once they start accepting Tables in Wonderland), perhaps when I can bust out my seersucker suit and captain’s hat for a special occasion.
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Have you eaten at the Boathouse? Did you find the ambiance too relaxed, or was it more to your taste? What did you order? Go for a cruise in the amphicars? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments!