Dining at Disney: A Review of The BOATHOUSE
Everyone has a favorite restaurant at Disney Springs. The official site lists more than 50 places to grab a bite or have a drink. I say half-proudly and half-ashamedly that I’ve tried more than half of these eateries, loving almost all of them. Still, some of them rise above the rest, and I can easily reduce my list of favorites to a top three. Today, I’d like to talk about one of them, arguably the most novel eating experience at Disney Springs. Here are my thoughts about eating at The BOATHOUSE.
The Personal Touch
I want to express a certain amount of bias in advance. In 2015, my family planned to meet Internet friends of ours for the first time after knowing one another 15 years. We wanted to do something special to commemorate the occasion, and I’d followed Disney Springs news enough to know about the impending arrival of The BOATHOUSE. Alas, a problem existed.
Since the restaurant wouldn’t open for a few months, it didn’t take Advance Dinner Reservations yet. We couldn’t guarantee that a meeting 15 years in the making would happen in a timely manner without checking with the restaurant. I reached out to the business in charge of the construction of the restaurant, and he referred me to the recently hired manager of The BOATHOUSE. That gentleman booked what probably was the first reservation ever at the restaurant. I’ve felt a special kinship to The BOATHOUSE and its management team ever since. Having acknowledged that, what follows is something I consider a fair review of an establishment toward which I have a significant bias.
A Marvelous Theme
Schussler Creative is known for several Disney Springs restaurant designs. They’re the creative force behind Rainforest Café, T-Rex, and Yak & Yeti. When Disney approached the company about a new design, they came up with something straightforward for the area. They would build a nautically themed eatery at Disney Springs, one that actually connected to the waterways in novel fashion.
This restaurant is The BOATHOUSE, and you will never wonder about its theme once you walk inside. Naval memorabilia is visible from any seat in the restaurant. The walls are adorned with miniature ships, giant rowing paddles, stuffed fish, and pictures of all things aquatic. The BOATHOUSE takes its theme so seriously that one of the tables actually sits inside a boat.
There’s even a merchandise store just past the check-in area inside, and it looks like a fevered dream from Gilligan’s Island. If you’ve ever fancied yourself as a yachtsman, you can find the perfect outfit to look the part here.
Oh Yes, The BOATHOUSE Serves Seafood
Before you plan a meal at The BOATHOUSE, you should know a couple of things. For starters, it’s not a Table Service meal on the Disney Dining Plan. Instead, Disney lists this establishment as Signature Dining, meaning that you’ll pay two Table Service meal credits to eat here. Only a handful of Walt Disney World restaurants fall into this category, and they are among the most expensive meals on the Disney campus.
Yes, The BOATHOUSE is expensive.
The business even played up this premise in the days leading up to its debut. Many foodie sites like Eater chronicled the $115 steak that they offered. The headlines failed to mention that this item would serve two people and that it would be available only for a limited time. All of the early reports crystallized the perception that The BOATHOUSE is too expensive to eat there regularly. I’m going to dispute that notion in just a moment, but let’s go over the menu first.
Name Your Own Price
The BOATHOUSE is only open for lunch and dinner, as is the case with many Disney Springs establishments. Its menu is decidedly seafood-intensive. All of the raw bar offerings come from the sea. Whether you favor crab, shrimp, oysters, lobster, or yellowfin tuna, the bar has you covered. These offerings cost $4-$19, allowing you to choose the right fish for your budget.
There is also an entire section of the menu called Fish Features. All of these items are more affordable than you might expect for an entrée here. Prices range from $22-$33. Although one menu item lists for $60, that’s a bit misleading since it serves two people. Even the related Sea & Shore options are affordable. Six out of eight entrees are under $30. The primary exception i.e. the splurge choice is a $48 Baked Crab Stuffed Lobster.
Sensitive to the criticisms of menu costs, The BOATHOUSE also offers sandwich options, even at dinner. Several of them are under $20, which leads to a logical conclusion. While the early press indicated that this restaurant would be one of the most expensive at Walt Disney World, it doesn’t have to be. The depth of the menu provides customers with the flexibility to buy a meal that they can afford.
Sure, a couple of entrees cost more than $50. I’m looking at you, Filet Mignon Oscar Style, with your alarming $64.50 price point. It’s a special occasions order, though. Most meal will wind up costing roughly the same as any other Table Service restaurant at Walt Disney World.
The Author’s Experiences
To wit, the celebratory meal I mentioned above took place in May of 2015. Based on early buzz about The BOATHOUSE, I had allotted $400 to spend on a party of six. When the bill came, it was only $160, or less than $27 per person. Members of our party have since visited the restaurant several other times, and the song’s remained the same.
During our most recent outing, my wife and I were on the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan. The other couple wasn’t. Our server went out of her way to split the bill in a way that charged as much as possible to the dining plan. One party paid four Table Services credits, which is a lot for most dining plans but not significant to the Deluxe version. The other party paid $37 out of pocket (plus a truly historic tip). In our collective group experience, The BOATHOUSE is much more affordable than its reputation. In fact, it’s right in line with most Table Service restaurants when we pay out of pocket.
I say all of this to lead to the most important point. The food at The BOATHOUSE is otherworldly. They serve ginormous portions of seafood delicacies, and this particular carnivore can confirm that the steaks are exquisite as well. Appetizers like the pimento cheese, the carpaccio, and the clams are all world-class dishes. The entrees are just as fabulous, and they’re scalable to boot. You can pick the meal option that fits your stomach and wallet on a given day. Lighter fare like the filet mignon sliders is only $14 while a New York Strip is $48.50. Whether you go light or heavy, the flavor’s sublime. The BOATHOUSE is quietly one of the best compromise choice restaurants at Disney Springs in that everyone will find something to eat on the menu…and seafood lovers will feel like they’re invited guests at Poseidon’s Table.
Every Disney Experience Needs Plussing
Walt Disney believed that all of his attractions should have that special something that put them over the top. And The BOATHOUSE honors his belief with a singularly unique experience. I’m speaking, of course, of the Amphicar tours available onsite. During the 1960s, James Bond movies persuaded people that the car of the future would cross land and sea alike. A few manufacturers briefly produced aquatic cars before accepting that the public had limited interest in low-application, high-maintenance cars. As novelty vehicles, however, Amphicars are the best.
At The BOATHOUSE, you pay $125 (although you get a $25 discount with a restaurant receipt from The BOATHOUSE), an admittedly steep amount, in order to receive a 12-minute tour of the waterways surrounding Disney Springs. You’ll drive by Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and several of the Disney Springs landmarks during your tour. I certainly wouldn’t recommend making something this expensive a regular part of your Disney vacation, but I can say that I’ve done it before. As a one-time experience, it was absolutely worth the money.
Admittedly, I freaked out a bit as the car drove straight into the water. A lifetime of driving has trained me to steer away from the lake, but it was a true thrill to feel the car float as it hit the water. I rode with a 9-year-old girl (none of the adults was brave enough to join me on this journey into the unknown), and she absolutely loved it…at first. After ten minutes of sameness, she felt a bit trapped in tight quarters with two boring adults. That’s something to keep in mind if your kids push to ride the Amphicars. They may love it more in theory than in execution. Still, I’d recommend this to everyone as something to try at least once.
Stating the obvious, eating at The BOATHOUSE has become one of my family’s favorite things to do at Walt Disney World. It’s an elegant meal in a refined but convivial atmosphere. It also has one of the most novel tourist experiences available at the Disney campus. While some of the meal options are cause for concern for the budget-conscious, I’m confident that you can plenty to eat here that you’ll love and still have plenty of money left over for Mickey Ears.