We’ll stop by Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort to enjoy dinner at Boatwright’s and to take a look at the holiday decorations.
The dinner-only table service restaurant that Riverside shares with French Quarter is popular with bloggers and cast members for two main reasons.
First, unlimited, complimentary cornbread presented alongside whipped honey butter is provided by friendly servers throughout the meal.
Second, cast and their guests typically receive 40% off food, making the prices approach something resembling reasonable.
Disney describes the restaurant as the opportunity to:
Dine in a rustic shipyard warehouse and savor the flavor of tasty New Orleans cooking.
Hanging lanterns illuminate the cavernous dining hall, and the skeletal hull of a lugger fishing boat is suspended on high as its centerpiece. Warm yourself by the fire as you spy antique shipbuilding tools on the walls: C-clamps, saw blades, axes and more. Season your dinner with salt and pepper housed in a dandy tool box and wipe your maw with a shop rag—clean, of course! But first, get into some good eatin’.
N’awlins favorites like crawfish bisque and jambalaya offer a tantalizing taste of the Louisiana Bayou. Keep rollin’ down the river with Deep South shrimp and grits, prime rib or jambalaya. For dessert, crème brûlée, Mississippi mud pie and pecan tart weave their black magic. A cavalcade of carnival-worthy cocktails is available to revelers 21 years of age and older, as is a kids’ menu for little picayunes.
While that’s probably true if you were turning in a description of the restaurant midway through a freshman year creative writing course, the atmosphere boils down to some version of industrial homeyness. There’s basically four dining rooms split up onto multiple levels, which adds some privacy to what is otherwise an open floor plan. I like to sit up the stairs in the back of the restaurant, where there’s far less foot traffic, particularly with the walkway to the Riverside Mill Food Court sitting adjacent to the lower level seating, not unlike what you’d find at Kona Cafe. While the theming isn’t exactly transformative, it keeps with the overall atmosphere of the resort and ends up being a pleasant place to stop for a casual meal.
Six appetizers comprise the starters menu.
The $9 “Mardi Gras Fritters – House-made Pimiento Cheese Fritters with Pepper Jelly” are a favorite that we returned to during our meal earlier this month. It’s hard to go wrong with deep-fried balls of cheese and that’s exactly what these are with a thin layer of dense, crunchy breading giving way to the creamy, spicy, ooey-gooey cheese inside. The Pepper Jelly adds a sweet and spicy component that makes these little crunchy balls nearly irresistible.
Here’s a previous plating when the Fritters were served alongside a much more jelly-like…jelly. I think I preferred the concentrated flavor of the current offering, though there’s something to say for being able to roll the balls in as much of the sticky jelly as you’d like. The Fritters are available next door at the River Roost Lounge if you’d like to give them a shot without committing to dinner and a reservation here.
Moving right along, we have the $10 “Fried Green Tomatoes Served with Arugula and Spicy Crawfish Rémoulade.” These are very good too with four slices of Green Tomato fried up in a crispy batter and topped with crunchy, peppery Arugula. The Rémoulade is what makes this dish unique with big pieces of crawfish smothered in the creamy, spicy sauce with pepper, mustard, and horseradish notes. I liked how the tender crawfish contrasted with the juicy, crispy slices of tomato. It’s a nice starter that’s easy to pass around the table.
The Abita draft lineup is a fun one with the flight available to those that would like to give all three a try.
The Turbodog is my favorite, particularly during the fall and winter months, with its sweet, cocoa-forward flavor.
For a review of the various cocktails, including the Rum-A-Rita, Citrus Smash, Sassagoula Sweet Tea, Riverside Sunshine Peach Lemonade, and Sazerac, see my Riverside Roost review.
That review also includes items like this $11 plate of “Loaded Potato Puffs with Carolina Pulled Pork, Abita Beer Cheese, and Pico de Gallo.”
And this giant slice of Hummingbird Cake soaked in Bayou Spiced Rum and served with the most delicious Pecan Brittle ever on top.
Back to Boatwright’s, which seats guests from 5pm through 10pm with food available next door at the River Roost through 11pm. Exactly seven entrees make up the list of main courses. The All-You-Care-To-Enjoy Chef’s Platter is a relatively recent addition, popping up earlier this month. It includes the Turbodog Barbecued Ribs and the Nashville Hot Chicken that are available separately along with the Mashed Potatoes that are served with the Prime Rib and Street Corn that’s served with the Ribs along with Barbecued Beef Brisket and Smoked Sausage that are unique to the platter, in addition to Macaroni & Cheese and Green Beans.
Unlike some number of all-you-care-to-enjoy platters served around Walt Disney World, this one comes plated for each individual person to start.
The “Nashville Hot Chicken – Hand-battered, Crispy-fried Hot Chicken” on the lower left was everybody’s favorite, arriving with a deliciously crispy batter with a hint of peppery spice surrounding juicy, flavorful chicken. The honey glaze was a welcome addition, helping to sweeten up each bite and add a layer of complexity to what might otherwise be considered a “chicken finger.” Having spent this past Thanksgiving in Memphis myself and now being an expert in Nashville Hot Chicken, I can say that Disney’s version of the tendie is an adequate one, but I do enjoy pulling the chicken off the bone myself.
On the other hand, the ribs were overcooked and fatty with mushy meat and a bland sauce.
This is what a $24 order looks like. Fortunately, with the Platter, you’re only served two ribs and the fact that they aren’t fantastic is of little consequence when you’re not saddled with an entire rack. You may also have more luck than we did, though I’d say it’s been a few years of disappointment here on the ribs front.
The Smoked Sausage was just fine – an afterthought for the most part, though there was some spice inside of the casing that lacked the snap that I’m always looking for in a bite.
The Beef Brisket was meaty, lean, and flavorful, but not particularly memorable.
With so much great barbecue available across the United States, you really have to try to make a good impression. And it’s probably fair to say that Disney and Boatwright’s are not really trying. The Smoked Brisket, Ribs, and Sausage are all just fine, but it’s probably not what you’re going to be begging for when it comes to ordering seconds.
This, on the other hand. Behold Nashville Hot Chicken. Shortly after the Platter is delivered, your server will ask if you’d like more of anything. Depending on how many people are after a given item, you’ll either be served another individual portion or a large tray of the goods. The regular $23 entree portion is three pieces, so you could argue that this is more than $100 worth.
Turning the plate around, we have a better look at the sides. The Green Beans were just fine, cooked nicely and with less butter, salt, and pepper than I like.
The Mashed Potatoes have a little more of a cafeteria scoop vibe than I like. Somebody could be in charge of whipping them up on the plate a bit, but they’re buttery and smooth for the most part with enough little pieces of potato present to know that they’re homemade.
The little piece of corn looks cuter than it probably tastes good – the kernels clung to the ear harder than I hold on to my Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge FastPass+ and the bacon bits, green onion, and sour cream covering about a third of the surface area seems a little strange.
In the center is a little cup of creamy, cheesy pasta that complements all of the heavier meats nicely.
Overall, everything on the platter is okay at worst and pretty good at best, almost like a miniature buffet that you don’t have to get up and serve yourself. I’m not sure that the quality demands a special trip over to Boatwright’s, but if you’re hungry and don’t want to go to town on trimming prime rib that you’re not sure the grocery store price of, this is a good substitute. On the Dining Plan, it makes a lot of sense if you’re planning on ordering the Ribs or Chicken anyway, as you’ll be able to order as much as you’d like with a better assortment of sides. If we were served the Crawfish Mac & Cheese and the Cajun Steak Fries then this would be over the top. Oh, what could have been.
If you’re looking for something very different, the $23 “Deep South Shrimp and Grits – Sustainable Shrimp and Andouille Sausage served with Red Eye Gravy over our Creamy Charleston-style Grits” is another option. This was definitely on the small side – I see about six little shrimp on top of the clumpy grits with quite a bit of sausage on top. Disney’s version of Red Eye Gravy, probably made without the black coffee that’s required, added a salty, meaty element that helped dilute the dry grits.
The $19 “Boatwright’s Jambalaya – A New Orleans Dinnertime favorite! A Slow-cooked Spicy Shrimp, Andouille Sausage, and Chicken served with Rice” is my favorite entree here and you could almost order two for the same price of the all you can eat platter.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the pictures from my meal here when we ordered the $36 “Big Easy – 10-oz Grilled New York Strip with Crawfish Macaroni & Cheese, Seasonal Vegetables, and a Blackberry Port Demi” and $35 “General Fulton’s Prime Rib Slow-roasted Prime Rib rubbed with our specialty crafted Chicory-Coffee Blend, Mashed Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables, and Horseradish Cream.” Unless you’re visiting on the Disney Dining Plan, I’d probably look at one of the less expensive entrees. Both dishes are serviceable, but they’re awfully expensive for the quality of food you’ll receive. I’ll sneak those pictures into a future review when I’m not typing things up on my vacation tablet.
I’ll miss the ridiculously-sized Crawfish Ètouffé, which came in under $20 when it was offered.
And the Gumbo.
You can pull up Boatwright’s full online menu here, including what looks like an interesting kids’ selection. It looks like the youngsters have the opportunity to pick up to two desserts with their entree unless Mom makes them get the Broccoli and House Salad instead.
Overall, Boatwright’s remains what it always has been, a nice restaurant for those staying at Port Orleans who either find themselves unexpectedly back at the resort for dinner or would prefer a quiet, relaxing, comforting meal close to their room. With boat transportation to Disney Springs, you can do a lot better at the downtown shopping and dining district for similar money, but there is the time and hassle that goes along with that. I always recommend securing a reservation to eat here as it can be surprisingly popular, particularly when weather keeps a lot of people from visiting the Parks.
Riverside is decorated nicely for the holidays, here with a picture that is disturbingly wide.
While we’re here, a few more pictures of the holiday decorations:
Feel free to give me a high five on your way in to see Yehaa Bob as I’m leaving for Scat Cat’s at French Quarter.