Imagine kicking back with an icy cocktail and enjoying a meal as the sun shines on your face, the wind blows in your hair, and the sound of boats meandering through the water drowns out the noise of the outside world. But you’re not at the beach – you’re at Downtown Disney. The property’s newest concept, The Boathouse, allows you to escape to a seaside paradise without having to leave Orlando.
The Boathouse, which is the masterpiece of Schussler Creative, opened in the first phase of Downtown Disney’s transition into Disney Springs. Founder and CEO Steven Schussler had a hand in creating other Disney concepts as well, including Rainforest Café, T-REX Café, and Yak & Yeti. Five years in the making, Schussler is proud of the final product for The Boathouse, especially the 8,000-square-foot kitchen where Executive Chef Bob Getchell brings the menu to life. He is also quick to note that all seats in the restaurant face the water, so you won’t find a bad view in the house.
Start your meal with a taste of the sea by trying raw bar options like Oysters on the Half Shell and Wild Caught Baja Cocktail Shrimp, or splurge on the Anastasia Gold Caviar, which The Boathouse purchases locally from Evans Farm. Enjoy a Boathouse twist on small plates like Andouille and Beer Steamed PEI Mussels and the Coconut Frog Legs. Steamed in Samuel Adams Boston Lager, the mussels are served in a broth with red onions, creole butter, and Andouille sausage crumbles – the perfect toppings for a buttery garlic crostini. The Frog legs may not be the first thing you would consider, but Getchell created this dish to mimic coconut shrimp, making it more familiar for curious palates.
The menu is printed every morning because Getchell adjusts it daily to include new dishes based on fresh catches from local fishermen. A mainstay is the Cedar Planked Salmon. Its rich coloring comes from smoke produced by the plank, which is brought to such a high heat from the 850-degree oven that it is almost bursting into flames when it’s removed. While fresh seafood is an important part of the menu, it also focuses on steaks.
Since Gibsons Restaurant Group manages The Boathouse, the menu features certified USDA Gibsons Blue Star Heritage Angus. This special beef comes from a small farm in the Midwest and is cut to The Boathouse specifications in Auburndale. Steaks range from an 8-ounce Filet Mignon to a 32-ounce Dry Aged Tomahawk Rib Chop, which is meant for two, and each one is served with bernaise or house-made steak sauce.
The popular Gibsons “Sandwich King” Burger Hop Champion, a juicy and flavorful burger made with a mixture of Blue Star Heritage brisket and chuck, is topped with jalapeno Havarti, crispy cherry peppers, and spicy mayo. It comes on both the dinner menu and the outdoor dining menu. Also on the outdoor dining menu is a decadent New England Lobster Roll. Served in true northeast fashion, the fresh whole Maine lobster salad is piled high in a toasted split top bun.
While the meal will certainly fill you up, don’t even think about skipping out on dessert. The Key Lime Pie in a Mason Jar is a festive Florida treat. The tart lime flavor is balanced with a light, house-made vanilla bean cream, seasonal berries, and a crumbly graham cracker crust. If you’re up for the challenge, take a spoon to the Gibson’s S’mores Baked Alaska. The concoction of rocky road ice cream encased in toasted marshmallows and pieces of melty chocolate bar towers over the table. This monster dessert was created for four people to devour.
Before or after your meal, take a stroll along the dock to view a collection of 19 rare dreamboats on display. Then connect with an experienced captain for a 20-minute ride around the lake in an amphicar that can drive on land and float through the water. Only 3,878 of these vehicles were produced between 1961 and 1968, and The Boathouse has a fleet of nine, with only six kept on site at one time. Enjoy a more romantic dreamboat experience with chocolate covered strawberries and a champagne toast on The Lady Rose (built in the 1800s) and the Venezia, a 40-foot mahogany yacht from the ‘80s.
At The Boathouse, it’s all about the experience. From the high-quality food and waterfront views to the vintage dreamboats, it’s an experience that you’ll be coming back for again and again.