Review: Boatwright’s Dining Hall: Disney’s Port Orleans Resort
The name of this restaurant does not do it justice. Yes, I know Disney loves theming and the name is designed to fit with the up-river story of this hotel, but I don’t think “Boatwright” says delicious Southern comfort food and “Dining Hall” doesn’t give fair shake to the friendly wait staff found at this table service establishment.
The first thing you need to know is how to find Boatwright’s Dining Hall. It’s at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, not at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter. (Some Disney trivia: Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside opened in 1992 as Disney’s Dixie Landings Resort, but the name was changed in 2001 when the sister resorts were merged into one.) I, of course, parked at the wrong hotel, despite having asked the entrance security officer if I was at the right property and being assured that I was (points off for that one, Disney). You can walk from French Quarter to Riverside, but it’s a ways and not a good idea when you’re late for your reservation like my party was.
We walked into Boatwright’s 20 minutes late and learned that our reservation was canceled at the 15 minute mark. The hostess, though, was very friendly and said she’d try to move us up near the top of the waiting list since we had made a reservation and had been misdirected by other staff. She was good on her promise; ten minutes later we were being led to our table.
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Boatwright’s Dining Hall can seat over 200 guests in a space designed to look like you’re sitting on the floor of a boat construction warehouse. A nice touch is the hull of a large boat under construction hanging above your head. We were promptly greeted by Ampor who immediately impressed us as a seasoned Disney server and called us “my angels” whenever she checked in with us throughout our meal. Ampor told us about the best appetizers and entrees on the menu without being asked before taking our drink order.
My guest and I were famished, so we wasted no time in making our selections. For our appetizer, we chose the Bourbon Barbecue Shrimp and the Cajun-seasoned Crawfish Bites. Shortly after a basket of cornbread squares and whipped butter was placed on the table, our first course arrived (the cornbread was delicious, by the way). I can still taste the absolutely yummy Bourbon Barbecue Shrimp which was the best dish I ate that night. A good handful of perfectly cooked shrimp sits on top of a grilled grit cake and the whole thing is covered with a sweet bourbon and garlic infused sauce. I’ve never tasted anything like that sauce and, even though the dish was technically my partner’s, I kept going back for one more taste. The more muted cheese-and-chive grits cake made the perfect backdrop for the other lively flavors.
The Cajun-seasoned Crawfish Bites was a good-sized portion of seasoned and breaded crawfish pieces lightly fried and served on a bed of shredded lettuce. The spicy remoulade drizzled on top and a squirt of fresh lemon gave these bites just the right kick.
We experienced a longer wait for our entrees, and when my partner’s arrived just on the edge of still being hot and mine arrived steaming we figured something had gone wrong in the kitchen. Perhaps in keeping with the idea of Southern hospitality, both meals were a generous plate of food. I enjoyed the Andouille-crusted Catfish with cayenne butter sauce and chive aioli. It was served with crisp-tender asparagus and buttered rice. The andouille crust on the tender and flakey fish was what surprised me. I am not a big sausage fan and wasn’t sure how the chef was going to keep such a distinctly flavored meat from over powering the fish. I needn’t have worried because the andouille is finely ground with bread crumbs to the point that it is hardly noticeable. The slight flaw in my entrée was the chive aioli drizzled over the fish. A bright taste at first, it soon left me feeling “too much mayonnaise” as I progressed through the meal. Consider asking for it on the side.
My guest ordered the Grilled Pork Chop cooked in amber ale barbecue sauce. Normally served with hand-battered onion rings and cheesy grits, my partner substituted the restaurant’s mac and cheese for the grits. His first comment was that the chop was tough. Although he liked the sweet barbecue sauce with its hint of spice, he didn’t feel that it compensated for the lack of tenderness. The mac and cheese wasn’t a home run either. It’s made with orecchiette pasta and had more butter than cheese in my opinion.
We ordered two side dishes with our dinners—the sautéed mushrooms and the Southern Collard Greens. The mushrooms were nothing out of the ordinary, and were even teetering on the edge of lukewarm. The collard greens, however, had real possibility. Be warned that they are very spicy with a heat that lingers in the mouth. Okay, I’m a northerner who’s only recently started eating canned collard greens, but I imagine Disney’s recipe is pretty authentic. I liked them best when I mixed them with the plain rice to balance out the heat.
I only ate half my entrée in order to save room for dessert. I really wanted the New Orleans Bread Pudding with Run Raisin Ice Cream and Foster Sauce. It did not disappoint. I’m not sure who supplies Disney’s ice cream, but man is it good. And, although I would have like the bread to have been soaked in more custard, the fosters sauce more than made up for it. Shared with my guest, there were multiple cries of “mmmmm” while our spoons went to work emptying the bowl.
Food – This is some Southern goodness. It’s my impression that those in the kitchen work hard to deliver authentic flavors. The menu includes meat, chicken, fish, pasta, and a vegetarian meal.
Atmosphere – I liked the décor and the big sunflower print dresses on the servers, but the place has the potential to be very loud with all its wood and tile. This is more a family restaurant than a place to have a cozy dinner.
Service – I got a pro. Friendly, attentive, and proficient.
Tips – Don’t miss your reservation. Boatwright’s Dining Hall is the only sit down restaurant serving the pair of Port Orleans hotels. During peak capacity months I imagine wait times could get pretty long.
The DisDining Mama Says – This is a restaurant the whole family can love. There are lots of familiar Southern and American favorites, plus Disney’s kid-friendly menu. Did I mention the ice cream is really good?