We’ve been waiting, and it’s finally here! The Boathouse is now open!
[dfb-restaurant id=”432″ align=”right”]
The restaurant is located in what will be The Landing Area of Disney Springs (still officially Downtown Disney, but it seems to be getting closer to the changeover everyday.)
The Boathouse opened its doors on Monday, but don’t rush out to get an Advance Dining Reservation just yet. While we’ve had success booking through the Open Table website for May 15th and after, Disney still isn’t offering ADRs — a signal that this is clearly a soft opening period, and a time for the staff and kitchen to work out the kinks.
There’s been a ton of hullabaloo over what we can expect, food and price-wise. We have lots of information and pics to share with you — as well as some information to clarify! So let’s get started.
I’ve been dying to get a peek behind those walls forever — and now they’re down! And the new restaurant is pretty beautiful.
You’ll see the entrance to the restaurant to the left. The big green tower that we’ve all been watching for a while now is the entrance to the Ship’s Store, the Boathouse’s gift shop.
Between the two entrances on the day we visited, there was this tiny little boat right by the front door. I’m thinkin’ it would be pretty fun to take it for a spin. 🙂
Here’s a shot from across the water. This is a great way to sort of get your bearings if you’re still wondering where in the grand scheme of Downtown Disney that The Boathouse is located. This also gives you a glimpse of how The Boathouse has “grown” rather organically. I’m looking forward to hearing the story here. Because we all know — this is Disney. There’s always a story.
But The Boathouse will be more than just a place to eat. It will also be home to several boat-themed attractions. In other words, it really is a boathouse.
We gave you a glimpse of Amphicar dress rehearsals taking place the other day ahead of Monday’s soft opening. And today, we have a few more pics to show you! You’ll find the Amphicar Launch around the side of restaurant, to the left of the main entrance.
So you think they just hop in the car and drive it into the water, right? Well, of course, it’s not quite that simple.
See this Amphicar Captain? That wheel behind him is more than just a fancy prop. The captain’s wheel has many gears just behind and under it. When a member of the staff turns the wheel, it actually rotates the turntable that the Amphicars are parked on. When they come in from the lake, they are facing the street. The car wheels are locked down, and the captain turns this wheel, which rotates the car 180 degrees, so that it’s facing the water again. Pretty swift, eh?
And in case you aren’t tired of looking at these cute little overachievers, here’s another shot. The teal one may just be my favorite.
And…off he goes! Super fun.
But the amphicars aren’t the only game in town. While we haven’t yet seen the 40-foot Italian Water Taxis that are touted as another Boathouse draw, there are plenty of interesting watercraft to check out.
Like this gorgeous option. I wouldn’t mind cruising the harbor in one of these.
And then, there’s the U-22 Alter Ego, a vintage racing boat. This thing is fierce; it looks like it’s about to blast off to the moon, doesn’t it?
While it looks like they’re still trying to get everything arranged and situated, you can definitely tell that this area is going to offer some fantastic opportunities for vintage boat fans to enjoy a look around.
But now, let’s get back to the restaurant. Behind The Boathouse, you’ll find one of the restaurant’s three bars, the Dockside Bar.
While you take a walkway to get to the bar, there’s quite a bit of seating situated closer to the building. The sense here is that it will be walk up seating — an outdoor extension to the first inside dining and bar area (which we’ll show you in just a sec).
Check out this awesome firepit! I can’t wait to hang out here with an adult beverage.
And I thought this was a pretty fun detail. You may ask, “What happens if one of those fancy vintage Amphicars suddenly loses power?” Well, these little guys will come to the rescue and tow the Amphicars back to the dock.
Whew! How’s that for a look around outside! Now, let’s head inside for even more touring.
When you walk into The Boathouse, you enter directly into the first bar — the Captain’s Raw Bar. This area features a cathedral ceiling and lots of rich wood accents. The feeling is refined, although it has almost a workshop-like vibe.
The Raw Bar is actually part of a bar which also serves drinks. Those crazy multitaskers.
Good news if you’re looking to catch part of a game or your favorite team’s score — there are large TVs situated over the bar area.
There is seating at the bar, of course. And it’s important to note that, while comfortable, none of the designated bar seating includes chairs with back support. If you topple over easily, you may want to request a spot in the dining room!
Trendy communal seating has made its way to The Boathouse as well. While these tables seating 8 are termed “family seating”, especially during the soft opening phase, walk up patrons may find themselves seated here with other parties.
There are smaller tables available too, though.
One detail we learned early on was that The Boathouse planned to offer live music, and we found that to be the case during our visit. Over the duration of our meal, two different musicians played in this area, and the music was piped throughout the entire venue.
As you would expect, boats and parts of boats figure strongly into the decor of The Boathouse — especially in this first room.
Outboard motors of all makes and sizes are mounted on the walls and displayed on stands. The staff was very quick to tell us that the models were actually working motors. Why this is important, I’m not sure. But I guess…authenticity?
But the other detail that you’ll see plenty of are these whimsical Rubber Ducks. While the duckies you spy throughout the restaurant are affixed in place to make sure they don’t walk off 😉 , there are plenty of cute varieties for sale in the Ship’s Store. We’ll look at a few options in just a bit.
Another fun feature of this area is the booth in a boat! Would you expect anything less from Schussler Creative, who gave us a booth in in the belly of a triceratops at T-Rex? (I must sit at this table.)
The custom Chris Craft Boat features a nifty niche cut out, big enough to accommodate at least five.
From here, you segue into the the next dining room. Ceiling heights come down, but the boat touches remain.
We saw spare use of aquamarine in the first dining area, and that same color is carried through here. It serves to unify the spaces, as the decor here is drastically different from the entrance. A large central fan keeps air circulating. Chairs in this area have backs, but there are also a few semi-circle booths that you can choose from.
From here, you move to the third dining area, which seems to me much more refined and upscale. This is also where you’ll find the Admiral’s Club Bar.
This room feels more like a private club. The aquamarine and bright white color scheme differ drastically from the more rustic areas we’ve seen prior to this.
Be sure to check out the glass “fish tank” that’s the centerpiece of this room. What a fun, low-maintenance way to incorporate marine life into the decor!
Finally, we move on to an area that will be reserved for private dining functions. The rooms are appropriately called The Regatta and The Trophy Room.
The rooms, which may be used for overflow dining during busy times, have two main focal points. This large, built-in wine storage area showcases some of the restaurant’s wine collection.
The other is a stately fireplace with a marble surround and a mantel that holds The Boathouse’s trophies. Impressive!
Now, clearly, the area is being used to store extra chairs during soft opening. Still, you get a sense of how nicely appointed it is.
And this is a really cool detail — check out the photo of the boat, and a replica of a boat that’s very similar to the one in the photo, displayed together!
Seating here is very similar to what we found in the previous dining room.
Don’t you love the lights?
Whew! Hang on! We are almost to the food!
The last space that I’d like to show you before we dig in is the Ship’s Store. Remember back at the front of the restaurant? You veer right if you’d like to shop a bit.
Here you’ll find all manner of merch, from apparel and mugs, to models, and even board games.
And yep — there are rubber duckies, too.
Okay…now that you’ve had a look around, let’s get to the food.
During this time, The Boathouse is featuring two menus: a Bar Menu and a Table Service Menu. Essentially, the bar menu includes raw bar items and more casual fare. There is some overlap to the menus, but if you’re looking for a burger, head to the bar. If you want steaks, it’s the dining room for you.
However, if you’re sitting in the bar area, you can order from either the bar or table menu. At least for now.
For our first time out, we decided to stick to entrees, sides, and dessert. But we were lucky to snag a few pics of some raw bar items. Everything that we saw looked extremely fresh and well prepared.
If you’re very observant, you’ll see that we’re seated in the second dining room, right next to the boat booth. Alas, maybe it will be my turn to sit there another day. 🙂
You may have noticed during our tour of the dining rooms earlier, but Crystal Hot Sauce is the preferred brand here. You’ll find a bottle on every table.
We began our meal with Complimentary Bread Service and Butter. It was perfectly fine, but nothing out of the ordinary. Interestingly, they also brought a Carafe of Ice Water so that we could help ourselves.
We dug right into our entrees. We began with the Swordfish, which is served on a bed of Sweet Corn, Fennel, Andouille and Potato Hash, and Creole Butter.
Definitely a Louisiana and Cajun vibe here.
While we couldn’t identify every spice used here, we really enjoyed the dish — especially the savory components. Apparently, chefs are doing a lot of sweet sides with swordfish these days, but this was a good approach. While some have thought the dish too salty, we didn’t feel this way.
Of course, we also had to give a steak a try — so we ordered up one of my favorites — the 8-Ounce Filet Mignon. Steaks are served with your choice of Sauce — Béarnaise, Peppercorn, Red Wine, or the signature Boathouse Steak Sauce. We asked to try them all, and our server cheerfully obliged. (We somehow ended up with a bonus sauce…I’m pretty sure it was an extra order of Hollandaise. And who in the world would complain about that??)
The steak had a nice crust and was well-prepared. It may have been cooked slightly longer than I would have liked, but it wasn’t tragic. The meat had good flavor and was very tender. In fact, we joked we could have cut it with a spoon.
A word about the sauces…while they were all good, I really liked the signature sauce. Our server shared with us that it actually came about as a result of an internal contest among the chefs. This was the winner! And it’s made fresh in-house, daily.
We opted for a couple of extra sides as well. Our first choice was the Grilled Asparagus.
Now, first thing I have to clear up — the side is $12, not $21, as was previously discussed. I know, I know. It’s still expensive. But I can tell you that it was incredibly good quality, came with a side of Hollandaise (woo!), and was more than enough for two people.
But we also couldn’t pass up the Shrimp and Andouille Mac and Cheese.
It was, in a word, awesome. And huge! I could easily have made an entree of this side dish and happily called it a day.
Even though we were more than satisfied with our large meal, we couldn’t pass up a chance to sample The Boathouse dessert menu. (If you’re looking for it on the menus above, you’ll find the sweet stuff in the lower left hand corner of the bar menu.)
To be honest, the only thing that jumped out at us was the Whiskey Caramel Cornbread Cake.
Basically, this was a take on an old fashioned berry shortcake, but with a cornmeal cake.
The flavor combination was delicious, even though we would have preferred a sweeter cake. Still, it was fresh and well prepared. And the texture of the cornmeal cake held up nicely to the thin caramel sauce.
And with that, our very first meal at The Boathouse was in the books!
So. What do we think of The Boathouse? Well. The jury is still out.
Across the board, the food that we ordered was good to great, and we enjoyed friendly, relaxed service. The setting is beautiful, with thoughtful, upscale detail. You really do feel like you’re dining at your chi-chi yacht club.
But — those prices. When I take a step back and look at them, they’re a little…well, pricey. $19 for Chicken Fingers? And still, we have sticker shock — albeit less so than previously — from that asparagus.
Yes, when The Boathouse comes online with the Disney Dining Plan (and we expect that it will), it will very likely be a Signature restaurant; and participating in the DDP will alleviate the issue of cost for some guests. But still, for these prices I want to have the best meal of my life. Can The Boathouse deliver that? We’ll see!
Are you excited to try The Boathouse at Downtown Disney? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts!