The BOATHOUSE opened today as the first new restaurant that is part of the massive redevelopment of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs.
The new eatery is an important marker for what will be a transformation of Downtown Disney into a much more upscale environment, and a true destination in itself.
Perhaps the most interesting part of The BOATHOUSE is how it positions itself, and the market it aims for. The restaurant offers upscale, high-end dining, with pricing to fit. But unlike many restaurants of its type, it is an extremely accomodating destination that is suitable for families, couples, groups of friends, and even business meetings.
The BOATHOUSE is located in the area of the former Pleasure Island, just between Portobello and Raglan Road, in The Landing district of the future Disney Springs. It occupies a large area on both land and water, giving views onto the water from much of the building. The restaurant is large, with seating for 400 guests inside, and 200 outside.
The BOATHOUSE is comprised of three full service bars, a high end seafood and steak restaurant with three dining rooms, two private dining rooms for events, boat tours and cruises on the lake, and a merchandise store offering nautical goods.
The main bar area of The BOATHOUSE is the Captain's Raw Bar, which is a wide open space with high ceilings, and a whole host of boat inspired decor - including an actual speedboat. It is a large bar with lots of seating at the bar itself, and lots of bar seating with tables that offers the full menu. This area also has TV's, live musicians - and is ideally suited for those guests who want to stop in without a reservation to grab a an appetizer and a drink.
Heading outside onto the deck area at the rear of the building is the Dock Bar, which is another full service bar. Uniquely, it sits right on the water with a full 360 degree view out onto the water. This area will be especially popular in the cooler months and the evenings. The Dock Bar offers great views out onto the lake, Disney Springs itself, and across the water to Saratoga Springs Resort.
Returning back inside you will find a third bar area, which is a more formal offering, located inside one of the dining areas. The Admiral's Club Bar offers bar seating with a quiet ambiance than the much larger Captain's Raw bar area.
The Restaurant Dining Rooms
The main restaurant features three dining rooms, with three distinct visual styles. The Runabout, Twin Transoms, and The Lake House. Each seat around 100 guests, and helps disguise the fact that you are in fact in a very large capacity restaurant. There is also seating for 200 guests outside on the deck area.
There is no question that The BOATHOUSE is beautifully designed and built. Everything about it screams quality, from the flooring, to the vast ceilings, to the marble in the restrooms. It is without question the best looking restaurant, both inside and out, at Disney Springs.
The ambiance of the restaurant is somewhat casual. There is no dress code, and there are a wide variety of guests enjoying the restaurant. It is not library quiet, nor is it Cosmic Ray's loud. We found the ambiance to be perfectly fitting of its intended audience - and is particularly ideal for families looking for a special dining experience.
It raised a few eyebrows when Disney released the menu last week, mostly because of the presence of a couple of $100+ dishes. We feel the menu is a great line-up, which offers something for almost every taste.
There is a large range of seafood, everything from lobster, scallops, crab cakes, salmon, mahi, tuna to an extensive raw bar.
The steak offerings cover all the bases, with New York Strip, Filet, Porterhouse, and yes, that $115 Longe Bone Rib Chop - which is a 32oz monster for two. There is no Rib Eye currently, which may disappoint some.
Outside of seafood and steak, there is chicken, pork, and even grilled tacos. The BOATHOUSE is also home to Gibson's famous 'Sandwich King' $20 burger.
You can read the full menu here.
It is all well and good having a beautiful restaurant, but the real criteria to judge has to be the food - so how did The BOATHOUSE fair?
It was announced last year that Chicago's famous Gibson Restaurant Group would be operating the restaurant, and based on today's visit, that was a great decision - the food was exceptional.
[Just to clarify, like all of our restaurant reviews on WDWMAGIC, this review is not based on a complimentary tasting, the meal was paid for in full by the reviewer.]
We started off with the Seared NY Strip Carpaccio for $18. Gibson is famous for its beef, so no better way to get things started than with this dish. Melt in your mouth beef, very lightly seared, with Arugula, Olive Oil, Shaved Grana Padano Cheese - delicious! The serving size is on the large side, and would be enough to share for two.
Next up came the main dishes, and with The BOATHOUSE being a seafood and steakhouse, we ordered a Cedar Plank Salmon and Filet Mignon Steak.
The steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare, it was moist, tender, flavorful, all with a beautiful seared crust on the outside. It is an 8oz cut, and you'll be wanting more. The filet is priced at $39 - and it is perhaps the best you will find at Walt Disney World.
Like other high-end steak houses, you do not get sides with the steaks, so we ordered some grilled asparagus and new potatoes. The servings again were big, and would be suitable for sharing with the table. Each were priced at $12, with the potatoes being the star of the side show with an especially tasty Old Bay remoulade.
The Cedar Plank Salmon dish was prepared to a perfect medium, with a glistening moist interior, a sear on the top, and perfectly seasoned. Unlike the steaks, it did some with its own sides as a complete plate, with Frisee, Roasted Wild Mushrooms, Petite Green Beans, Grape Tomatoes. The $29 dish was a perfect lighter option, and comes highly recommended for salmon fans.
For dessert, we chose the Key Lime Pie in a Jar for $9, and the Whiskey Caramel Cornbread Cake for $10. Both were beautifully presented, and were large in size, suitable for sharing. The Key Lime Pie was the favorite, although the Strawberry Shortcake inspired Cake was also extremely good.
A bread service was complimentary, as was a sampling from the raw bar, in our case a rather delicious Oyster on the half shell.
The best food is complimented by great service, and The BOATHOUSE also succeeds in this area. Like many high-end restaurants, each table is served by multiple servers, refilling water, delivering complimentary bread, and generally being extremely attentive to any needs. The service we experience today was equal to any of the best service we have received at any other high-end Walt Disney World restaurant.
Entertainment, Amphicars and More
The BOATHOUSE is about more than just food and drink, it also features an array of entertainment.
There are live musicians inside the bar area, daily flag ceremony's both on land and water, and even musicians on boat cruises departing from The BOATHOUSE.
Probably the most visible aspect of The BOATHOUSE is the amphicar fleet that offers tours of the Disney Springs Lake. The beautiful restored vehicles start off on land, and seamlessly transfer to the water as a boat. Seating is for three guests, at a total cost of $125 for the 20 minute trip, operating from 10am to 10pm daily.
Want something a little more upscale? The Venezia, is a 40-foot wooden Italian Water Taxi offering a Captain's tour of the lake, with live music, chocolate-covered strawberries and a champagne toast. The cost is $75 per person or $50 per child under age 13. Finally, there is an Antique Steamboat Tour aboard Lady Rose at a cost of $150 per couple.
Rounding out The BOATHOUSE offerings is the Ship Store - a nautical gift shop offering a whole range of boating and water inspired gifts. There is BOATHOUSE logo items, apparel, watches, clocks, toys, watches, models - and more.
The BOATHOUSE has catapulted itself right to the top of our list of the best of Walt Disney World's restaurants. It offers food that is of the highest quality, a highly varied menu, superb service with attention to detail, and an atmosphere that can accommodate any type of occasion.
Many will look at the menu and dismiss it for being too expensive. Yes it offers some dishes that are over $100 each, but then it equally offers some great dishes in the $20 to $30 price range. We feel this again underlines the restaurant's ability to appeal to a wide group of guests, with different taste and budgets. Your visit to The BOATHOUSE could cost $70 for a couple eating a mid-price entree and sharing a dessert, up to $300+ for a couple indulging on some of the high end offerings like caviar and Tomahawk Steak.
When you are looking for high-end dining at Walt Disney World, it is now time to consider The BOATHOUSE alongside some of the existing signature restaurants that are so hard to find reservations. It may be the newness, or just the fresh lake air of Disney Springs talking, but we'd take The BOATHOUSE over Le Cellier, Yachtsman, Brown Derby, Citricos and co.
If this is a taste of what is to come from the rest of Disney Springs, we are in good hands. Already announced for 2015 is Morimoto Asia and STK. The dining compeition at Walt Disney World is heating up, which can only be a good thing for everyone.
The BOATHOUSE is not on the Disney Dining Plan, and will be available for reservations on both Open Table and the official Walt Disney World website for dates starting May 15 2015. Until then, the restaurant is open daily for walkups from 11am to 2am.
Also see our opening day photo tour of The BOATHOUSE.
Apr 13, 2015 / 3:26pm EDT