Heavy roadwork on Buena Vista Drive and Hotel Plaza Blvd continues as crews widen the road to ten lanes. My advice is to avoid both as much as possible and use Epcot Center Drive and Bonnet Creek Pkwy as far as you can. You’ll still turn onto Buena Vista Drive for a short stretch as pictured above at the turn, but you can take a left into the parking garage and avoid almost all of the current roadway construction.
The parking garage nears completion.
Another look at the first garage, the pedestrian bridge over from Team Disney, and construction.
The parking garage uses these lights above each parking space to indicate whether the spot is occupied. Electronic signs at the garage’s entrance also identify how many spots it thinks are open on each floor. The system didn’t work so well when the parking garage “soft-opened,” but has seemingly worked swimmingly on each of my more recent visits.
Downtown Disney’s guest-accessible areas are actually looking relatively good these days. With the on-going construction, my advice is to try to visit Downtown Disney as early in the day as possible, ideally on a weekday early in the week. Here in the afternoon we’re not going to run into a lot of people and parking was easy.
This is 5pm.
This is 9pm.
On the other hand, some people may prefer the more happening evening vibe when the bars are buzzing with people racking up $90 bar bills for three drinks.
Changes to the West Side have been few in number thus far, but Super Hero Headquarters replaces the United World Soccer store. It’s a store themed to S.H.I.E.L.D. that predominantly sells Marvel merchandise. The nearby Hoypoloi store is expected to close May 22nd with United World Soccer returning in that space. I guess because more kids kicking soccer balls around public spaces is good.
While my favorite bathroom locations are a closely guarded secret and future feature content of a very expensive crowd calendar subscription service that only seven of you will be able to afford, this set mostly hidden next to the West Side Starbucks is a good choice.
With Superhero Headquarters taking the Marvel stuff, D-Street is now back to…well mostly Star Wars stuff you could just as easily get at Target. These Mickey shirts are all new though.
I have never seen anybody wear this print.
But Disney is putting it on everything.
Maybe for a dollar at the outlets.
Oswald merchandise remains relatively popular. This print is on shirts, journals, postcards, magnets, mugs, bags etc.
More Oswald stuff on the back left.
D-Street is also the home to Vinylmation.
And Wonderground apparel.
While it remains to be seen what Disney Springs traffic flow looks like, at least for now, Raglan Road looks to be the big loser.
Most guests had to pass Raglan while walking from the West Side to the Marketplace before the construction began. Now it, Cookes of Dublin, and The Hole in the Wall bar are sort of on a dead end, though they keep the side door open near the check-in podium so you can pass through. Most guests will instead head toward The BOATHOUSE®: Great Food, Waterfront Dining, Dream Boats™.
Construction in this area:
And down to the right of T-Rex and across from Portobello and T-Rex:
You might be able to get a better idea about how big this construction project is from the pictures above, including the glass windows that will soon house the Morimoto Asia restaurant in The Landing section of Disney Springs. You may recognize it as the old Mannequins Dance Hall space.
This lousy panorama may or may not help. The Landing is otherwise home to the bulk of the new retail coming to the revamped shopping and dining district.
Disney named another 13 or so new tenants last week in this post:
- Tommy Bahama
- Lilly Pulitzer
- L’Occitaine en Provence
- Edward Beiner
- Blaze Pizza
- Vivoli Gelateria
- Tea Traders by Joffrey’s Tea
The timing of the announcement coincides with some excitement building around the I-Drive 360 project, which is now home to the Orlando Eye, a Madame Tussauds wax museum, and an aquarium, in addition to a bunch of new restaurants, bars, clubs, and other nightlife choices. I’m not sure Disney was expecting to have to compete so hard to bring in clients.
Construction closer to Planet Hollywood:
Here you can see some of the pathways and waterways that will make up “The Springs” section once complete.
Back to The BOATHOUSE®: Great Food, Waterfront Dining, Dream Boats™ (occasionally shortened to The BOATHOUSE for the sake of brevity) in the distance on the left. Disney recently announced that the Hangar bar that will be opening next door will be loosely tied to Indiana Jones’ longtime pilot, apparently named Jock Lindsey. Personally, I think it’s more than a little rude that they didn’t go with Launchpad McQuack – a hero and a gentleman.
We’ll take a very preliminary look at The BOATHOUSE based on eating dinner there on May 6th. Reservations are now available on Open Table here: http://www.opentable.com/the-boathouse-lake-buena-vista. It’s usually easier to find a reservation there rather than Disney’s clunky system and you won’t have to guarantee the reservation with a credit card and $10/person cancellation fee for complete no-shows. BOATHOUSE is now on the Disney Dining Plan as a signature restaurant that costs two credits. Tables in Wonderland is not yet accepted, but cast members receive 20% off with valid ID.
Here you can sort of see the sun setting through the windows on the side of the restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant was so busy that taking a lot of atmosphere pictures wasn’t a prudent option. I had wanted to go back for lunch in order to offer a more thorough review, but I think it’s better if we cover this now and get to that later.
The BOATHOUSE offers several menus throughout the day and in different areas of the restaurant. This was the standard dinner menu from our meal:
The restaurant was on the receiving end of a lot of ire when Disney Food Blog posted an inaccurate screenshot of the menu from My Disney Experience showing the side of asparagus would cost $21, in addition to the $115 steak. Of course, the asparagus price ended up being wrong and the steak is 32-ounces and serves at least two. While you can’t really argue that some items on the menu are “expensive,” I think I would argue that this is potentially one of the less expensive signature dining experiences on property, if you consider all the dishes on the low end.
Check out your entree options from our last visit to Yachtsman:
Not only is there a $110 steak on the menu, but no entree comes in under $31. BOATHOUSE has over ten entrees under $30 on the dinner menu.
They also serve an outdoor/bar menu, which was also provided to us when we were seated for dinner:
The full menu is available here: http://www.theboathouseorlando.com/outdoor-dining-menu/. This menu otherwise adds another 10+ entrees under $30.
You can’t get out of here for less than $30/entree either and even then, your selection is tofu.
Anyway, my point is that The BOATHOUSE can certainly be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. The Beach and Sea Lobster Bake For Two would run you $30/person. There’s a $20 burger, which you see on virtually no dinner menus property-wide and certainly on no other signature dinner menus. On the other hand, you could certainly spend a lot of money if you wanted to.
Wine and drinks:
Service was comically bad from the get go. Our server had no idea what a Sidecar was and wasn’t sure anyone in the bar would be able to make one (cognac, orange liqueur, lemon juice), got the negroni wrong, and brought out blue cheese salad dressing instead of Bearnaise sauce for the porterhouse, among other missteps. Since the restaurant started serving guests over the first week in April, they had over a month of service under their belts before we arrived, so it isn’t like I bum-rushed them on day one in order to bring you a litany of carefully prepared nitpicks.
I ordered the $14 Old Fashioned – Jack Daniels Single Barrel, Cherry, Orange, which had a lot of alcohol in it even if the ice sphere takes up a significant amount of real estate. It was mixed well and while not particularly innovative, it’s always nice to see a classic done relatively well. A far departure from going off-menu with a standard negroni.
Lisa ordered the $11 Cucumber Cooler – St. George Citrus Vodka, Sweet and Sour, Sprite, Cucumber. Lisa enjoyed it – it was refreshing, well-balanced, and without the overpowering cucumber flavor that sometimes comes from drinks with that ingredient.
Two thing I don’t like are small water glasses and ice-less water and The BOATHOUSE seems intent on providing both. The water glass next to the low ball isn’t much larger. Your server will provide a carafe of water should you wish to serve yourself throughout the meal, but your water isn’t going to get any colder.
Complimentary bread is served with dinner – the rolls are fresh and fluffy, but nothing about them made me want to waste space with a second helping.
Since I was planning to order seafood for my entree, I went with the $18 Seared NY Strip Carpaccio – Arugula, Olive Oil, Shaved Grana Padano for an appetizer. The BOATHOUSE®: Great Food, Waterfront Dining, Dream Boats™ is operated by Gibsons Restaurant Group out of Chicago. I don’t know much about them other than they’re well known as providing one of the better steakhouse experiences nationwide. And they seem to live up to that reputation here with the lightly seared, melt-in-your-mouth beef that lines the entire plate underneath the arugula and cheese.
The quantity makes it easy to share, though the high quality may give you second thoughts about offering.
We’re joined by George, who many of you will recognize from the forum, in addition to Greg, Erica, and Phil.
Like a boss, Phil went straight for a dozen of the Oysters on the Half Shell – Cocktail Sauce and Cucumber Mignonette, though there is no minimum order. At $3.50 each, this is $42 worth and there were three different oyster locations to choose from. Fresh and excellent with a very good mignonette.
George and Greg shared the $17 Jumbo Lump Crab and Avocado with Tarragon Remoulade, which is potentially not the most attractive looking dish I’ve ever seen, though we are far from Angus Pizza Burger territory here. I’ll let George interject an exacting opinion in the comments if he’d like, but I’m fairly certain they enjoyed it thoroughly.
Erica ordered the Caesar – Traditional Anchovy, Egg & Parmesan Dressing – pictured here with extra anchovy because anything worth doing is worth doing right. Except for this review I guess. Anyway, I’m not sure if it looks stupid big in the picture, but this is easily enough salad for two or three people to share, though there’s no indication of that on the menu like a few of the other things. I recommend requesting an extra plate or letting them know you’d like to share it – they should split it up in the kitchen.
Lisa ordered the $24 Jumbo Lump Crab Cake – Coleslaw, Tartar Sauce. It might not look like much on the plate, but it was packed with lump crab cake with little filler and virtually no off-putting fishiness. The tartar sauce must have been made no more than a couple of minutes before and had a nice zesty, lemony kick to it. I am not a big coleslaw person and would probably opt to try to switch it out for something else, but it was light on the mayo and full of fresh, crunchy vegetables.
Erica ordered the $34 Local New Smyrna Beach Jumbo Fluke with sugar snap peas, fennel, kalamata olives, cucumber, jumbo lump crab meat, arugula-fennel pesto, and blistered tomatoes. Even the boat that caught it is listed on the menu. This seems like a dish that probably won’t be on the menu on your potential visit, but it was well executed and indicative of high quality specials in the future.
I ordered the $45 Baked Crab Stuffed Lobster – 1¼ lb. Split Maine Lobsters, Jumbo Lump Crab Stuffing, Grilled Asparagus, Creole Butter.
I had ordered a similar dish at nearby Fulton’s Crab House a few years ago and even then, it was north of $50 and accompanied by just three red potatoes. There isn’t much use in comparing the two as Fulton’s is in line for a “re-imagination” to a Louisiana creole theme in the near future, but the point remains that this kind of price point is nothing new to this area.
Anyway, I was particularly impressed with how much meat was in the lobster’s claws, in addition to the generous helping of lump crab meat spiced up with what was probably cayenne pepper in the butter.
More on the asparagus in a minute, but it came with most of a full side. Overall, I was impressed with the dish and thought it was a good value for the money, considering the amount of seafood. I can’t imagine a lot of restaurants are stuffing whole lobsters full of crab for much less money than this.
The $12 side of asparagus with hollandaise, which I feel like everyone is obligated to order, is plenty for two people to share. It’s nicely grilled to a nice al dente and perhaps over-salted, but you can always add more of the rich, buttery sauce.
$8 buys you a Pound of Roasted New Potatoes with Old Bay Remoulade, which really spiced things up and added a new dimension of flavor that I can’t adequately describe in this dimension. It’s a lot of food for the money and you could easily create three or four adequately sized sides out of it.
Lisa ordered the $9 Steamed Broccoli with Hollandaise. I feel like they look a little Tyrion Lannister sized in the picture, but they are actually closer to Hodor-size, at least as far as broccoli stems go. Anyway, Lisa is more of a broccoli floret girl than a broccoli stem girl and these were largely stems, which wasn’t quite what was expected. The broccoli otherwise doesn’t have as an intense of a flavor as the more-heavily seasoned asparagus, which may be preferable.
This is the $60 28-ounce Porterhouse for Two – Certified USDA Gibsons Blue Star Heritage Angus with choice of sauce, which George and Greg shared. The steaks are served without any sides. So if you were to add the asparagus and the potatoes to the steak, you’d be looking at a cost of $80, or $40 per person. That’s still less expensive than just about any two signature restaurant steaks, which usually come with predetermined sides. Remember that Yachtsman’s 32-ounce porterhouse for two was a whopping $110. Anyway, the steak here is a cut above just about anything else on property – easily giving Shula’s or Yachtsman a run for their money in tenderness and overall flavor. Gibsons is well known for a reason and they bring it to their Orlando concept.
Dessert if you’re so inclined:
I’ve heard good things about a lot of it, but it’s hard to imagine being hungry after all of that.
BOATHOUSE’s atmosphere is kind of strange – we were seated in one of the three main dining rooms inside the restaurant and the vibe is extremely casual, from the decor to your probable interactions with the staff. In a lot of ways, this is high end dining without the fuss. It made me think of what vacationing in the Hamptons must be like, when you’re in the mood to drop 500 bucks on lunch and drinks but don’t want to change out of your swimsuit cover-up.
Otherwise, I think these prices cause most people to expect a nice, special night out and this is not your typical fine dining steakhouse atmosphere. There’s nothing overtly intimate about it. But that may also be exactly what you’re looking for. While you might feel out of place at Citricos or California Grill (or people might wish you felt out of place) in a t-shirt and cargo shorts, you wouldn’t be at all out of place at The BOATHOUSE.
We’ll return for a better look at the restaurant and bars.
Almost all of the walls that used to plague the area around the Lego Store are gone.
With no congestion outside World of Disney in the middle of the afternoon.
World of Disney is seeing some changes inside and out as the world’s largest Disney store gets even bigger.
Additions to the back side.
Disney Tails merchandise is finally available:
Aimed squarely at the canine crowd, a lot of it is pretty adorable, particularly the Haunted Mansion bow tie and collar (which comes in a pack of four different sets for $11.95) and Mickey ice cream bar chew toy ($11.95).
More collars and dog tags.
Marketplace Co-Op art:
Plenty more stuff:
I’ll have a separate merchandise update with a few hundred more things in the next couple of days.
It looks like the other pedestrian bridge across Hotel Plaza Boulevard will connect outside the Once Upon A Toy and Earl of Sandwich area.
A camera phone shot of the bridge in place.
As I mentioned before, even the Value resorts are getting in on the resort-specific merchandise thing. The somewhat generic “All-Star Resort” ornament here probably isn’t the best example.
Some Art of Disney artwork:
It’s always a nice collection.
A grander Dockside Margaritas recently opened in place of what was once a shabby-looking shack.
“Bud Light Pale Lager.” The draft list is actually half decent for only offering three taps.
It sort of feels like the patio section of a Lowe’s Hardware with the hodgepodge of adjacent seating.
The bar wraps around the other side and has multiple ordering windows for quick service.
That’s most of what’s going on at Downtown Disney.
Still have the Polynesian Studio/Trader Sam’s and I’ll have a big post covering the Magic Kingdom 1-day touring plan from the cheat sheets shortly.