IF YOU GO
The Boathouse, 990 Broad Ave. S., Naples; (239) 643-2235
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday Cuisine: Seafood and steaks
Beverages: Full bar
Atmosphere: Casual and pleasant, the dining room offers great views of Naples Bay
Prices: Appetizers around $10, main courses between $20 and $30
Verdict: The Boathouse needs to work on both its food and its service if it wants to be considered more than just a tourist trap.
When I walked into The Boathouse for the first time I thought it looked like a wonderful spot to have a casual dinner by the water. Unfortunately, both my visits to the establishment were less than satisfactory. If I only had to use two words to describe the restaurant on Naples Bay I would pick “tourist trap.” Which is a shame, really, because I remember having a fantastic time at that same place years ago, when it was still called the Chart House.
The atmosphere and the decor in the dining room haven’t changed much from the older times — the vintage maritime theme was untouched and the large windows overlooking the bay still provide gorgeous views of the water. Both the lounge area and the dining room are pleasant and the menu sounds promising if you are in the mood for traditional continental seafood fare.
The service and the food, alas, were not up to par. I’m not one to make a big fuss about service that is on the slow side, as long as the server in question has a good disposition and a smile on his or her face. The Boathouse wait staff, though, brings new meaning to the term “bad service.” On our first visit, after the hostess seated us, we were abandoned at our table for 25 minutes, while the wait staff marched by as if we were invisible. When our wait — without drinks or water, mind you — was nearing the half hour mark I walked to the hostess and asked her to send a server to our table.
She was apologetic, but our troubles had just begun. Our waiter showed up with an attitude, one that included a lot of eye-rolling and talking down to us condescendingly. Throughout the rest of the night he was, at best, uninterested in us and our dining experience and chronically disappeared for long periods of time.
The food, too, could have been better. The menu is heavy on the seafood, as one might imagine from a waterside restaurant, and the selections cover the typical fare one would expect from a Florida establishment. The calamari ($7) were fine, although I’ve had crispier. The biggest let-down was the marinara dipping sauce, which didn’t have much flavor to it. The two crab cakes ($18) were also fine, although they didn’t shine as the best in the town. The cedar clams ($9) were probably our least favorite starter — 12 clams cooked in a tomato and bacon sauce sounded good on paper, but when the dish arrived at our table the clams had dried out and so had the bacon.
Although the menu lists about 10 different fishes that can be prepared to your liking, our waiter informed us that they only had two available “because the fish is all fresh and caught locally.” Imagine my surprise when he proceeded to tell us that the local catches of the day were grouper and salmon. While I have no problem believing that the very same grouper I ordered was still happily swimming in the Gulf waters that morning, I found it difficult to accept that someone had caught salmon in Southwest Florida.
Since we could choose how we wanted our fish prepared, we went for a salmon in lemon and butter sauce ($22) and a grouper Provencale ($23), prepared with tomatoes, olives and capers. While the salmon was a good, solid dish — the buttery lemon sauce agreed with the buttery texture of the fish itself — the grouper wasn’t well prepared. I was expecting the fish fillet to be pan-seared in abundant garlicky and savory tomato sauce. It wasn’t. The fish was pan-seared with virtually no salt, pepper or herbs and then served “naked,” with a tiny saucer on the side containing literally two tablespoons of sauce.
To add insult to injury, the sauce, too, was bland. I would have sent it back, something I rarely do, but our waiter had disappeared again. On a more positive note, the king crab legs ($29 for a pound) were good, served whole with lots of melted butter for dipping.
Sure, dining by the water is nice, but after both my visits I found myself wondering whether it’s worth the $5.75 beer or the less than stellar fare. And truth is, it isn’t. Not for me.
Naples has many great restaurants that offer superb seafood in a nice, casual atmosphere. The Boathouse just isn’t one of them.
Connect with Chiara Assi at www.naplesnews.com/staff/chiara-assi