Cajun-spiced Crawfish Bites Boatwright's

*This dining experience took place in February 2014 and includes my gluten free & dairy free review, a gluten free & yellow food coloring review, and a vegan review.

Veggie Jambalaya

Vegetarian Jambalaya Photo Copyright Disney by the Numbers

Located near the lobby of Port Orleans Riverside lies Boatwright’s Dining Hall, a hidden gem of Disney restaurants. Serving New Orleans/Cajun inspired fare, I have long been wanting to dine at this location for dinner. I hadn’t been to this resort or the restaurant since 2006, when I made a Mother’s Day trip to Disney with my mom. We loved the charming and relaxing atmosphere of the resort, and we also enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Boatwright’s (which is no longer served).

When I was deciding where to go for my birthday celebration dinner, I immediately thought of Boatwright’s. I have been spending entirely too much time lately at Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory next door at Port Orleans French Quarter getting those fantastic gluten free, dairy free, egg free (and vegan) beignets. But, it had been prompting me to want to try dinner at Boatwright’s. So, my birthday dinner celebration was set. Friends and family joined in on the fun, including Alexis from Gluten Free in Orlando and Tony from Disney by the Numbers. Both of them have special dietary needs too, so it was cool to see what they ordered on the menu.

First up, I have to apologize that I didn’t take any photos of the restaurant. Apparently, I was too busy having fun to take photos. But, it’s an impressive and cozy restaurant — built a bit like a shipyard. We had nice seating on the top level of the restaurant, near the warm fireplace (very appreciated after a cold rainy day) — with a roaring fire, it was the perfect back drop.

Chef’s Tony & Paul took care of our table during the meal, and let me tell you they did a stellar job. This was one of the best meals I’ve had at Disney in a very long time. First up, they went over the menu offerings. For appetizers, gluten free (and some modifications for dairy free) included: shrimp and grits (not dairy free), the French onion soup (minus the crouton & cheese – this one might still not be dairy free), the house salad minus the croutons (not dairy free – this one has a green goddess dressing – which looked fantastic), and spinach salad (minus the crouton). These also sounded great, but as soon as I heard that they could make the cajun-seasoned crawfish bites gluten free & dairy free…well, you know which one I chose!

Cajun-spiced Crawfish Bites Boatwright's

Normally, the cajun-seasoned crawfish bites are not gluten free & dairy free – but if you contact the Walt Disney World Special Diets Department ahead of time, they can arrange to make it safe for you. Of course, you now I couldn’t pass up something battered and deep fried and smothered in remoulade sauce (we’ll get to that momentarily). I have to tell you, this appetizer is hands down one of my favorites on property now. These were outrageous. First up, it’s a huge portion (which I had no problem scarfing down), second it was piping hot and perfectly seasoned. Fried foods really need to be salted properly, and I can tell you the balance on this dish was perfection. Both Alexis & I ordered this and I think neither of us spoke for a good several minutes other than to say “oh my gosh, these are amazing.”

I adore remoulade sauce and this version was divine. The perfect combo of spice along with the crawfish. I may also have dipped some bread in the remoulade sauce too!! (heck, you could dip an old booth in this remoulade and it would probably taste amazing). Speaking of rolls, we were served GNI brand rolls along with Smart Balance (which is GF and vegan) for me and regular butter for everyone else. 

GNI Rolls w/butter Boatwright's

For dinner options, we had an impressive amount – and many didn’t even need dairy free modifications which was great. Here are the gluten free options:

  • Jambalaya
  • New York Strip
  • Voodoo Chicken (with some modifications)
  • Vegetarian Jambalaya (also vegan)
  • Andouille-crusted Catfish (with some modifications)
  • Slow Roasted Prime Rib
  • Blackened Fish
  • Sweet Tea Brine Pork Chop (with some modifications)
  • Slow Cooked Beef Short Rib (with some modifications)

With so many choices, most of us were having a hard time choosing. And wouldn’t you know it we all got something different! (on a side note, I kind of would love a sampler platter entree here – like a Taste of the Bayou with small portions – or I just need to go back soon so I can try other dishes).

Alexis chose the Slow Cooked Beef Short Rib which looked fabulous. You can read her full review on Gluten Free in Orlando. Tony got the vegetarian jambalaya which looked delicious as well. I know he really enjoyed the dish. And my other friend ordered the Voodoo Chicken. The red beans & rice and collard greens are not currently gluten free, so he got green beans and potatoes instead. He kindly shared it with both Alexis and I, and wow! The sauce on the chicken was terrific. It was a peach marmalade and totally sweet and spicy.

Voodoo Chicken Boatwright's

For my entree, I went with the Sweet Tea Brined Pork Chop. I have to admit, what got me was the onion straws. The same batter for the cajun spiced crawfish bites was used for the onion straws and they were amazing. They aren’t normally GF/DF, so this is another one you’ll want to contact Special Diets ahead of time if you want. 

Sweet Tea Brined Pork Chop Boatwright's

I have to tell you, this entree was amazing. It exceeded my expectations and then some. The pork itself had a subtle sweetness from the brine and a great grill flavor. Add in the bacony, smoky, sweet potato hash and the fried onion straws…well, it was the perfect dish. It was also huge (side note, if you go to Boatwright’s be prepared for massive portions – seriously, the prices and portions at this place are a steal). I had leftovers and they were fantastic the next day too. I admit, that I might have a hard time ordering other dishes at the restaurant after this one — even though I do want to try others!

If you’re looking for gluten free dessert options (and yes, believe me we somehow managed to make room for dessert), Boatwright’s currently has butterscotch creme brulee, bananas foster angel food cake without the cake, ice cream, or OMG…It’s Gluten Free cookies and brownies. They also have Babycakes Brownie Cupcakes on hand. Chef Tony jazzed up one for me with a chocolate sauce, fresh raspberries (my favorite), and vanilla Rice Dream. Oh yeah…about that candle. I also got a restaurant serenade to help celebrate the occasion. Perfect way to end the meal! 

Chocolate Cake Boatwright's

Overall, I can’t say enough good things about Boatwright’s. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and quality of the food. Honestly, this is a hidden gem of a restaurant, and I can’t believe more people haven’t discovered it yet. Everyone at the table (and there were 11 of us!) raved about the meal and really enjoyed it — special diets or not. I can tell you, I will certainly be back to try out new dishes…but those cajun-seasoned crawfish bites, they’re totally going to be a permanent fixture on my visits. They were to-die-for!

Thank you again to Chef Tony & Chef Paul for making this a memorable and delicious birthday dinner. This restaurant was a solid 9 out of 10 for me!

Have you been to Boatwright’s before? What are your favorite dishes?