Looking to make the most of my limited time left in Central Florida (one month and counting!) I was really looking forward to visiting Boatwright’s Dining Hall located in Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside resort because it meant meeting up with two friends and fellow bloggers- Alexis from Gluten Free in Orlando and Sarah from Gluten Free and Dairy Free at Walt Disney World. While we seemingly cross paths all the time covering gluten free food at Disney and Central Florida, it’s hard to coordinate a time to sit down and catch up in person. When deciding on where to visit, Boatwright’s immediately came up as a must-do restaurant and I happily agreed having never been there before and excited by the prospect of discovering one of their favorite restaurants!
We had reservations at 5:20 and were seated right away. The staff were all smiles and were super friendly, which immediately made the restaurant feel homey and welcoming. Once at our table, we were welcomed and assured that the Chef was on his way to talk to us. Once again, Disney reaffirmed my belief that they are the most magical place on earth for those with food allergies and sensitivities. I wish dining out was this easy everywhere, but then again, it makes coming on property a rare treat to be relished. Chef Tony, as he introduced himself, came out shortly after and sat down to catch up with Sarah and Alexis before going through the menu list. Talking to him made me feel right at home and I was totally flattered when he mentioned reading up on my blog! When he did an overview of the menu, I was excited to discover that most of the entrees can be made gluten and dairy free either as is or with slight modification with the exception of the gumbo and crawfish etouffee. Leaving us to mull over our selections for the evening, he promised to take care of us with some great starters to begin the meal.
Dinner rolls, though commonplace for gluten eaters, is a rare occurrence that I’ve only had a couple of times eating out. At Disney, one of the brands of rolls found at many locations on property are GNI’s dinner rolls. Though these were my first GNI rolls, I was already familiar with them thanks to the countless reviews revering and reviling them I’ve seen online. The key is in the preparation and presentation it seems, and as far as Boatwright’s take on them, I really enjoyed our rolls because they were heated well and had a good texture. Chef Tony brought out olive oil and herbs for dipping which made them all the better.
Next up, I tried a bit of the seasonal salad the Chef prepared for us. Almost too good-looking to eat, I wish this photo could more accurately capture the rich contast of the colors and the wonderful taste of the almonds, greens, and balsamic vinegar drizzled over on top. Every ingredient was just so fresh and perfectly suited for a hot summer afternoon.
When Chef Tony was listing the appetizer options initially, my ears perked up when he mentioned French onion soup. This particular soup is rarely gluten and dairy free friendly so I definitely took advantage of the opportunity and ordered that as a starting course. Though he was pretty sure it was gluten and dairy free, Chef Tony did double check to make sure it was safe because it’s allergen-free status can change with the use of different ingredients and prep methods. Luckily it was safe that night I could enjoy the soup sans cheese or croutons. As simple as it was, I really loved the rich onion-infused taste of the beef broth which was really comforting. As an onion lover, I relished the rich caramelized taste that was unmistakably authentic. The portion was perfect and just enough to enjoy without jeopardizing my appetite for dinner.
Rounding out our appetizer order was the crawfish bites, which can be made gluten and dairy free with advance notice. Though I’m kind of hit or miss when it comes to fish, I tried a little of the dish, but it wasn’t really my thing. Granted, it was good, but in the interest in saving room for the main dish, I decided to pass on these.
For the main dish, I had to go with Jambalaya. After all, at your first time at a New Orleans themed restaurant, how can you not go with this classic of Cajun cuisine? The presentation of the dish was thoughtfully laid out as it was beautifully arranged with a generous portion of rice topped with two andouille sausages and two large shrimp. After stopping to snap a picture and take in the effect, I started in on the dish. Keeping the sausage and jumbo shrimp to the side to reserve them, I tried the rice first. It was spicy and flavorful, but not hot and almost risotto-like in texture. Folded into it was peppers and onions as well as baby shrimp, chicken and sausage pieces which were bite-sized and tender. As comfort food goes, this hit the spot. It’s the kind of dish I’ll be dreaming about six months from now as the Baltimore winter wears on my born-and-bred Floridian nature. The two jumbo shrimp were cooked perfectly and were well seasoned and delicious, but at this point, I had reached my saturation point for the evening and as much as I would have liked to, I just couldn’t polish off the last of the sausage. With the prospect of beignets in the near future for dessert I just didn’t want to max out on stomach space prematurely. As far as dessert options go, we were offered non-dairy ice cream, but knowing how stuffed I was, I knew I had to pass up on this as well.
Boatwright’s Dining Hall has earned top marks in my book for the warm and welcoming atmosphere, impressive gluten and dairy free options, and amazing team of wait staff, chefs, and others who make the experience truly magical. Don’t let this little restaurant fool you- it’s a hidden gem worth making the trek to whether you are a local or a vacationer. I know I’ll be back before too long to sample more of their tantalizing options and take in the picturesque Port Orleans resort. Definitely plan on coming with an empty stomach and don’t expect to leave here feeling anything less than happily full! Be sure to check out part two of my Port Orleans adventure in which I discover the magic of New Orleans’ favorite treat: beignets.
Want to read Alexis and Sarah’s take on Boatwright’s? Check out their reviews here:
- Alexis’ updated review features her specially-created GF chicken and waffles dish.
- Sarah’s review covers her fried chicken dish.
- Note: both of these dishes have to be requested through Special Diets at least 14 days in advance of the reservation.
Website: Disney’s website for Boatwright’s
Cuisine: Southern, comfort food, New Orleans favorites
Ideal For: Dinner
Price: $15-30 per person average
Accessibility: The restaurant was wheelchair accessible.
Special Features: Make reservations in advance here. Be sure to specify your dietary needs on the reservation and arrange with Disney’s Special Diets for any special or off menu requests as soon as possible.
Disclaimer: This review is based upon the information I have at the time of the review and does not reflect changes in ingredients or availability of items. Please contact the restaurant directly for up-to-date information and feel free to to contact me with any questions or comments. I was not compensated for this review and it is a reflection of my personal opinion.