Friday, December 11, 2015

Boathouse Restaurant, May Need a Life Vest

To celebrate my father's 77th birthday, I booked an early dinner reservation on December 10th, at the Boathouse restaurant at Disney Springs. It's a beautiful restaurant! I was really excited to go there since I had not yet had the pleasure of the experience.
The one thing that I admire most about Disney is the attention to excellence in service.  It is what makes Disney stand out above all other vacation destinations in the world.  So, when I notice a lack of good service at a restaurant on Disney property (although not "owned" by Disney), it stands out like a sore thumb.  Unfortunately, this was an issue with the Boathouse. One bad apple, luckily, did not ruin the bunch!
You are welcome to skip ahead to the food review section. However, I must address what I consider a serious service issue first. We arrived early.  I went into the restaurant to check-in and 1. Make a note on the reservation that it was my dad's 77th birthday. 2. Since there was no line and the restaurant was half-empty, I decided to request the big boat table in the middle of the restaurant.
I was in an ECV/motorized wheelchair, and I will say, for only the second time in the past 5 years of needing the ECV at Disney, I was treated exceptionally rudely.  
I spoke with a woman with blonde hair at the check-in podium.
I mentioned that I was there early (about 30 min). She didn't ask my name or any information to allow me to check-in.
I said I'd like to note my dad's birthday on the reservation. She said, "tell your server."  
I asked if the boat table would be available. She cut me off and said "NO, you can't reserve it." 
I told her that the reservation should already list handicapped accessible and that I could transfer out of the ECV, but not to the high tables. Her response was a disgusted grunt, eye-roll, and shrug. (I was immediately put off and embarrassed.)
I started to ask if I could wait for the big boat table. She turned away, ignored me, and I left the restaurant.
The entire time I was speaking to her, she stared down at my ECV. It was absolutely the worst (and most embarrassing) interaction I have ever had checking into a restaurant on Disney property.
Typically, I would have requested a manager and discussed the issue, but I was not about to get involved in that when trying to focus on celebrating my father's 77th birthday.  
After 15 minutes of waiting outside, my husband, father, and I went back in. The same woman was there. She never acknowledged us. She never asked if she could help us. She made no eye contact even. A group came in after us and she looked right past me, spoke to them, checked them in, and seated them! Again, absolutely embarrassing. Had we not been there for a birthday, I would have immediately left.
Luckily, there was a very nice, young, brunette who happily assisted us when the woman with blonde hair left.  AND, when my husband asked her if the boat table was available for our birthday dinner, she quickly went and asked permission, then took my cell number to text when the table was cleared and ready!! (It took less than 15 minutes to be seated there.) Getting the table was not at all necessary, but she was kind enough to at least ask and was very gracious.


Local Cedar Key Middleneck Clams ($15.00) garlic butter, white wine, and garlic crostini.
The flavor was good, although a bit salty. The crostini was very nice and crisp without being too hard. However, the dish was totally ruined by the exceptional amount of sand that was still in the clams and settled at the bottom of the broth. I've never had clams that were so sandy...ever. 

Boathouse Lobster Cocktail ($19) half chilled 1 1/4 lb. lobster, creamy, brandied cocktail sauce.
The lobster was ok but nothing special. The meat was really tiny inside and with the tail and claw combined, it was about 4-5 small bites. The sauce was delicious. Very much seemed like a thousand island dressing. I tasted no brandy at all. Still, a very good flavor. If you are put off by the taste of alcohol, not to worry. You'll still enjoy the sauce.

Dock Side Bucket of Crispy Alaskan Cod Fish ($16.00) with fresh cut fries.
If you don't mind fried food, the buckets are a great value here. The fish was fresh and delicious. It had big, thick pieces of cod in a crisp breading. It also was not greasy in the slightest.  Surprisingly, the fries were cold and mush. We saw so many burgers being sold with big piles of fries that we expected the fries to be piping hot straight out of the oil because there seemed to be fast turnover on them. These tasted like they were pre-plated and sat waiting for the fish to be added later. With fresh fries, this is a great option.

Chef's Special Angus Meatloaf ($25) with mashed potatoes, mushrooms, onions, and fried jalapenos. 

This was done very well. The potatoes were fluffy. The mushrooms and onions were caramelized well, and the jalapeno rings were a crispy surprise. I don't eat beef, but my husband nearly licked his plate clean. This was only listed on the Chef's Daily Specials Menu. Definitely make sure to look at that menu on your table. It holds the winners for the Boathouse!

Florida Sunshine Cake ($40, Serves Four) yellow cake, orange cream cheese icing, toasted almonds.
You may have heard about the S'mores Baked Alaska at the Boathouse, but this cake is equally impressive. The cake is very rich and similar to a butter pound cake. The cream cheese frosting is also rich. The orange flavor is not overwhelming at all. It's definitely a winner. I highly recommend ordering a side of vanilla ice cream ($3.00 for one scoop) to share. It cuts the richness and adds a creamsicle feel to the dish. VERY YUM!

Keep in mind that although this dessert says it serves four, it could easily serve 8 or more. All three of us had some and we still took home THREE overstuffed take-out containers of cake. It would be great if they had a take-out box that held the cake. I was sad that it needed to be chopped up and disassembled to take home the leftovers!
Not pictured, the dinner rolls are worth mentioning. They are sweet, warm, light, and soft. One of the best parts of the meal! (We had to request bread plates and one of our butter knives was covered in something greasy, but maybe we just hit a bad service day?) 
With the exception of check-in, everyone was extremely friendly. I appreciate that, but a few other service details could easily be improved. I mentioned that I wanted to look over the drink menu, but our server took our entire food order at once and never returned to ask about cocktails. None of the specials were mentioned or described. We found the Chef Specials Menu with the Dessert Menu standing up between the bottles on the table. Nobody ever asked how the clams were (sandy) or how any of the food was. My dad received lots of happy birthday wishes and playful banter, which is always nice, but the food wasn't really mentioned. And service was a tad bit rushed. We had appetizers, entrees, and dessert and were there about 45 minutes. The bill came with the cake and although the server said "no rush," it felt rushed. 

The Decor
The Boathouse has multiple seating areas. Low tables, high tables, bar seating, booths, and outdoor seating, and of course, the big boat booth*.

Live music in the center room of the restaurant.

An outdoor bar is also available.

The Boathouse is a nice looking restaurant. In the evening, the sunset view is mesmerizing. It definitely has some unique features like the seafood and desserts. I think it's a great place to have a little celebration with a fun over-the-top group dessert, but with all the other amazing dining options like Jock's Hangar Bar, Morimoto Asia, and Raglan Road in the Disney Springs Landing area, I don't think that I will return any time soon.

*The Boathouse is supposedly handicapped accessible. However, I was told my ECV must stay outside (A FIRST at Disney!) They said the ECV parking area was covered, but the roof covering it is slatted wood. Be sure to cover yours if there is a chance of a sudden Florida rain storm.
*Worth noting is that when sitting in the big boat table (I don't know if this applies to other seating areas), the fumes from the amphicar boats occasionally drifted into the restaurant since the front entrance was wide open. I'm sure it depends on the wind at the time, but it was so strong that it was sickening to all of us the first 15 minutes of our meal.  
*Tables in Wonderland is NOT accepted. However, Annual Pass and DVC discounts are available (15%). No discounts on alcohol.
*Find Jeanie on Twitter @PrincessPapers, Facebook @ThePrincessPapers and regularly on the Disney Dream Girls Podcast Twitter @DisDreamGirls.
*To book your next Disney vacation, please visit our sponsor Katherine, and let her know the Princess sent you.

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