Boatwright’s Dining Hall at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside probably isn’t the first restaurant that comes to mind when you think of Walt Disney World, or likely even the second or third. That’s what makes this laidback table-service restaurant themed after an old Mississippi River shipyard such a delightful surprise.
But, should you cruise on over for dinner during your next trip to Disney? Boatwright’s Dining Hall has a lot to offer, from its casual, largely crowd-free setting to cozy, comforting dishes perfect after a long day in the parks. So, read on to learn more about this family-friendly eatery and whether it’s right for you and your crew when visiting Disney.
Boatwright’s Dining Hall, a Hidden Gem at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside
As much as we love trying out all the different restaurants in the theme parks, these meals often come with a few unfortunate accompaniments: heavy crowds, high demand for reservations and a steep price tag to match. Sadly, even venturing just outside the parks can often yield the same results. (Darn you, ‘Ohana! Why must you be so tasty?)
That’s why we love going out of the way for hotel restaurants tucked in some of the slightly less-traveled corners of Walt Disney World. Sure, it might be a pain in the butt to get there, especially if you’re stuck using only the Disney Skyliner, monorail, bus system or water transportation to get around.
However, once you get where you’re going, you’re usually rewarded for your efforts with fewer people and, if you’re lucky, lower prices than what you’ll find in and around Magic Kingdom or Epcot – not to mention tasty menu options, attentive service and often a charming, easygoing atmosphere. That is certainly the case with Boatwright’s Dining Hall.
Getting to Boatwright’s
Disney Port Orleans Resort’s one and only table-service restaurant is Boatwright’s Dining Hall in Riverside. (As is appropriate for a pair of moderate hotels inspired by a state sometimes hailed as the birthplace of the cocktail – sorry New Orleans, you’re not – four of the resort’s six other dining outlets are either a lounge or pool bar. Who’s ready for a Hurricane?)
That’s right, folks. If you’re staying over in Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter and craving a sit-down meal, you’ll need to walk next door to Riverside to get it. Don’t worry, it should only take 10 minutes or so to get there.
For other guests dining at Boatwright’s, Disney Springs is the closest attraction to Port Orleans Riverside. You can even take a relaxing water taxi from the must-visit entertainment district (for free!) to the hotel’s marina, which is conveniently located directly in front of the restaurant. Alternatively, if you’re driving, keep in mind that you will need to have a valid dining reservation to enter the resort.
Boatwright’s Dining Hall is only open for dinner, with service offered from 5 PM to 9 PM. Thanks to its out-of-the-way (AKA slightly inconvenient – trust us, it’s a blessing in disguise) location, reservations are usually available, even the day of, and walk-up wait times tend to be reasonable.
Ahoy there, folks! We’re about to launch into a bit about the restaurant’s backstory. To skip ahead to what’s on the menu, click here. To jump directly to our review, click here. Otherwise, if you like digging into the magical details as much as we do, let’s set sail for storytime.
Rustic Charm Meets Southern Hospitality Along the Sassagoula River
Nestled a little ways off the lobby of Disney Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, Boatwright’s Dining Hall is a natural fit for this charming hotel. Southern charm that is. So natural, in fact, that you might not even notice the riverside eatery as you walk past the resort’s quaint waterfront.
Designed to look like an idyllic, old-timey town along the Mississippi River delta, the restaurant – sandwiched between River Roost, the hotel’s lounge, and Riverside Mill Food Court, its quick-service outlet – seamlessly blends into the scene.
The understated vibes continue inside the restaurant too, which is evocative of an old shipbuilding warehouse. A boatwright, you see, is someone who crafts wooden boats, and you’ll find the remnants of their hard work all over the restaurant.
Without a doubt, the centerpiece of Boatwright’s Dining Hall is the authentic replica of a partially built “New Orleans Lugger,” a flat-bottomed sailboat that roamed the mighty Mississippi back in the 1820s, that is suspended over the center of the restaurant.
Once you can tear your eyes away from that impressive piece of workmanship, you’ll also want to take some time to appreciate the many other details sprinkled around the restaurant, like vintage shipbuilding tools and hanging glass lanterns. The whole thing really sets the scene for a simple, homey meal that would feel right at home in Louisiana.
Southern Comfort Food with a Dash of Pixie Dust
It wouldn’t be a trip to the bayou without some flavorful Cajun and Creole food. Boatwright’s Dining Hall dishes up all sorts of Louisiana favorites, as well as palate-pleasing classics from other parts of the South. Disney Parks trivia nerds, meanwhile, will appreciate the subtle nods to the hotel’s backstory.
Here’s what you can expect to eat at this family-friendly restaurant at Disney:
From the time your appetizer hits the table, you’ll be treated to a parade of Southern flavors and Louisiana mainstays. Amelia’s Salad ($10) brings a soul-food spin and a splash of color to basic lettuce and tomatoes with rainbow carrots, watermelon radish and a sprinkle of crispy black-eyed peas.
Looking for finger food that’s as delicious as it is fun? The Boudin Balls ($13), pronounced boo-dan, are yummy fried orbs of andouille sausage and dirty rice, with remoulade and Creole mustard for dipping. And don’t get us started about the Mardi Gras Fritters ($12). More on those in a bit.
You can even get French Onion Soup Au Gratin ($10), with a savory beef broth that, as the story goes, hails from the home village of Pierre d’Orr, one of the city of Port Orleans’ founding fathers. Talk about a commitment to theming!
The Cajun-Creole vibes continue with the main courses, along with nods to other styles of Southern cuisine. It doesn’t get any more quintessential than the chicken, shrimp and andouille sausage-studded Boatwright’s Jambalaya ($21). Or, for all you plant-based folks out there, try Boatwright’s Harvest Jambalaya ($21).
Chicory coffee is another New Orleans icon, and you’ll find it rubbed all over General Fulton’s Prime Rib ($36.00). Or, for a light yet flavorful Cajun dish that also masquerades as healthy, try the Blackened Salmon ($26). Splurge on a side of Fried Okra or Southern Greens ($5 each) for even more comfort food credibility.
Starving after an exhausting day roaming the theme parks? The All-You-Care-to-Enjoy Chef’s Platter ($35) is for you. This bottomless feast of saucy ribs, smoky sausage, Nashville hot chicken, BBQ beef brisket, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese and more keeps the Southern favorites (and meat sweats) coming.
Not that hungry? You can also get the Nashville Hot Chicken ($23) all by itself. Or, take a trip to the Lowcountry (like we did – see our review next) and go for the Deep South Shrimp and Grits ($24).
Port Orleans lore also makes an appearance on the dessert menu, titled A Finale From The D’Sert Sisters. This sweet tribute is a reference to Celia and Delia D’Sert, whose father was a candy magnate who made his fortune selling treats in Port Orleans.
So, be sure to save some room for a Southern-inspired Sorbet ($6) trio, the gluten-free Mississippi Mud Crème Brûlée ($8) or, if you can have gluten and are feeling boozy, get the Pecan Pie Cheesecake ($8) with a bourbon-infused caramel sauce or Banana Cream Pie Bread Pudding ($7) dotted with bourbon-soaked golden raisins.
Speaking of booze, when in Rome New Orleans, don’t miss out on one of The Big Easy’s signature cocktails, like a Sazerac ($14) or Southern Hurricane ($13), or try an Abita Beer Flight ($10.25), brewed in the great state of Louisiana. Not into alcohol? No worries! You can still get into the N’awlins spirit with a French press pot of New Orleans Chicory Coffee ($9) for two.
Boatwright’s Dining Hall Review – How’s the Food and Is It Worth It?
Ok, let’s get down to the delicious details. It was a first going to Boatwright’s Dining Hall for this writer. And let me tell you, for someone who tends to stick to places she knows, like Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Sanaa or Trail’s End Restaurant at Fort Wilderness Campground, I was excited to give it a try.
Stepping into the dining room, Boatwright’s Dining Hall, though slightly cookie-cutter, feels inviting and even kind of homey, thanks to the rough wood accents, semi-dim lighting, antique tools and a casual collection of chairs. But, the pièce de resistance is definitely the unfinished boat, which really is impressive to behold. Seeing it when you walk into the restaurant truly is a ‘wow’ moment.
Luckily, the food and the service are every bit as warm and welcoming as the setting. For our meal, we decided to try the Mardi Gras Fritters and Deep South Shrimp & Grits. But first, the free bread! Who doesn’t love some complimentary carbs?
At Boatwright’s, the meal begins with an entire loaf of Sweet Cornbread – complete with a Hidden Mickey pat of butter – and let us just say, this stuff is GOOD. Cutting a slice, you’ll notice that the crust is crispy, which I was worried would translate into a dry and crumbling mess inside. Nope! Instead, it serves as an almost caramelized shell for some moist and subtly sweet cornbread.
Next, we set our sights (and stomachs) on the Mardi Gras Fritters. Because what could be wrong with the grown-up version of mozzarella sticks? Absolutely nothing, that’s what. 10/10, would eat again.
Stuffed with house-made pimiento cheese, fried until golden brown and drizzled with pepper jelly, these decadent pucks of cheesy goodness are a true delight. The pimiento cheese is gooey and flavorful, and while the pepper jelly could use a little more heat, the sweetness cuts through this rich starter nicely.
For our entrée, we had to try the Deep South Shrimp and Grits. I really enjoyed the Lowcountry classic during Mardi Gras at the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory over at Port Orleans French Quarter, so I couldn’t wait to give this one a go.
Happily, I wasn’t disappointed. The shrimp were perfectly cooked, the andouille sausage added a wonderful smoke to the dish and the grits were wonderfully creamy. The whole thing was enveloped in a spicy cream sauce. Though tasty, if I had to gripe about one thing, there was just a little too much of it.
All in all, while we didn’t try too many things, what we did try was surprisingly yummy. But, was it worth the trip out to Port Orleans Riverside?
Is Boatwright’s Dining Hall Worth It?
Absolutely! Not only was the food at Boatwright’s really good, but the price was surprising reasonable as well. In fact, most of the entrées on the menu are cheaper than what you’ll find at table-service restaurants in the theme parks, along with some outside the parks, too.
For folks looking to stretch their budget, that can be worth the extra time and effort it will take just to get there. Plus, to make the trip worth your while, do some resort hopping and take some time to enjoy the rest of Port Orleans either before your meal or once you leave Boatwright’s.
Cajun-Creole cooking isn’t the only thing you can enjoy at Riverside. Make the most of your time and let the good times roll before or after your dinner by exploring the rest of Port Orleans. Listen to live jazz as you nibble on a beignet over at Scat Cat’s Club in French Quarter or head next door to River Roost for the musical antics of Yehaa Bob.
Port Orleans is beautiful, with Riverside’s oak trees dripping in Spanish moss and the quaint cobblestones and wrought-iron balconies of French Quarter. So, you might enjoy a leisurely stroll or surrey bike ride around the resort or, to see the Port Orleans like a VIP, hop on a horse-drawn carriage. You can even go cane fishing the old-fashioned way at the Fishin’ Hole on Ol’ Man Island, home to Riverside’s feature pool.
Have you had a chance to try Boatwright’s Dining Hall? What did you think? Let us know in the comments! Then, save some cash for more tasty eats with our discount Disney World tickets.