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Friendly staff and big tables full of families.

Before I start, I should be clear about one thing: I’ve never been a huge fan of Downtown Disney, that monolithic Disney-fied outdoor shopping space selling merchandise you can find in just about any mall across the country. It never made sense to me to come all the way to Disney World to shop when there are four amazing parks where you can’t possibly see everything in one trip.  Add to that the fact that it’s nearly impossible to find a parking place and always crowded, and it was never a draw for me. Still, when Disney announced plans to revamp the space a couple of years ago, I was intrigued.  Recently, one of those new additions, The Boathouse, opened up and I decided to try it the first chance I got.  Reviews of this restaurant, which is a high-end mix of seafood and steaks, were reasonably good, but to be honest, I was unsure how reliable they were: A lot of reviewers appeared to be “invited” by the management. I wanted to hear from regular guests or try it myself before I decided.

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The view really is spectacular.

First, the Boathouse is bright and airy with a nautical theme–as one would expect being called the Boathouse and all–and exceptionally loud. More so when the band, which played 70s easy listening tunes that were bad then and worse now, started playing.  However, every person who spoke to us was super friendly, right down to the person who brought us our water and left a small pitcher behind, a nice touch.

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More of the view. If you go, ask for a waterside table.

I was able to get a walk-up at around 6:30 (on a Wednesday night) and had my pick of tables; about 30 minutes later, the place was packed, so they’re not hurting for patrons. Our server showed up about 15 minutes after we were seated and flashed one of those perfect smiles that no doubt make up the dreams of orthodontists everywhere and which, unfortunately, did not immediately allude to the fact that she was terrible at her job.  So terrible in fact that I tipped low, something I haven’t done in ages.   Friendliness only goes so far.  It’s called The Boathouse, not Hooters.

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Nondescript rolls and cold butter.

Some time after our initial introduction, our server brought us a basket of soft rolls and it was well, it was bread, which is to say that the 8-year olds at the table thought it was absolutely divine but I can tell you, because you’re a grownup and have discerning tastes, that it was essentially a basket of disappointment that looked buttery and yeasty but was simply bread. And cold.

When you order a steak here, you’ll order just that: A steak. You’ll pay extra for any sides and when I say you’ll pay extra, think in the $9 to $20 range, so you’d better like your steamed broccoli a lot is all I’m saying.  Same for the basket of fries which, in our case, was delivered cold. This in addition to a steak that will set you back around $50.

I’d spent most of the day driving from Atlanta by myself with three children in the car who alternated between feuding and laughing and wanting to kill each other, so at this point, I was not only hungry, I wanted a little bit of comfort and I was hoping that this steak would deliver. Sadly, this wasn’t the case.  Overly charred on the outside and unevenly cooked on the inside, this steak was over-seasoned and tough in places. I could almost forgive the fact that the temperature was inconsistent, ranging from well done to rare when I’d ordered medium rare,  if the meat itself had been edible, but the cook was so heavy-handed with the seasoning that I ended up cutting off pieces of the outside and giving the well-done parts to my eight-year old.

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I know, that doesn’t look like a $58 hunk of meat to me either.

The kids meals were also lacking, with one child not being served at all.  The menu is pretty typical: Burgers, fries, and a side, for around $10. My daughter ordered a burger which resembled a tiny hockey puck.  She’s a good eater but she barely picked at it. My older son got some over-cooked nuggets. Those were ignored as well. Both kids also received a microscopic side order (or was it a garnish?) and perhaps owing to the cuteness factor, they actually liked those.  In the end, the kids were still hungry after their meal, especially the kid who never got his order in the first place.

At this point, I don’t think The Boathouse is undergoing growing pains. I think it’s actually just a substandard restaurant in a long line of not so great Downtown Disney–excuse me, Disney Springs–establishments. I’d had high hopes for this place, but I’ve had better (and considerably cheaper) steaks at Chefs de France or Grand Floridian Cafe, both non-signature restaurants, to say nothing of really standout steaks at Disney’s signature restaurants like Yachtsman Steakhouse

My advice: Skip The Boathouse and save your money. Go with a Disney-owned steakhouse if you have a craving for a steak.

If you must:  We were told that The Boathouse only offers a few tables per night for Disney’s online reservation system, so if you can’t find a spot online, call the restaurant directly.  Expect to pay around $80 and up per adult.