If there’s one thing you can say about Richmond it’s that there is definitely not a dearth of places for a tasty meal, be it breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, linner…
The Boathouse is no exception. Located on the James River at Rockett’s Landing (4708 East Old Main Street, Richmond VA 23231), The Boathouse occupies the top floor of the recently restored Power Plant building, which once provided electricity for Richmond’s fleet of trolley cars (aside: how cool would it be if Richmond still had a trolley??). The decor of the restaurant–for it being a seafood restaurant on the water–was not overly themed or nautical. It was, actually, quite tasteful and minimalist and modern. The brick oven in which they make their famous pizzas provided a warm, orange glow to the room and added an air of coziness. The booths were open, large, and quite comfortably seated our party of five. The bar area had high tables with comfortable stools. Per the restaurant’s own managers, they do not take reservations, but we were able to snag one on Open Table. Upon questioning of the [15 year old] hostess, we were informed that they are having issues with Open Table and that they are going to limit reservations to parties of six or more. There were, actually, mostly larger sized parties while we were there, and the dining area filled up quickly and stayed going strong until we left.
The restaurant specializes in seafood but offers a variety of other dinner options, as well. We happened to all partake in the non-seafood entrees–and, sadly for the case of writing a balanced review, three of the four of us ordered the filet. But what a filet it was. Cooked perfectly to order (and we each ordered it a different temperature) the meat was pretty much fork tender and melted in your mouth. Accompanied by creamy (as in taste, not texture) mashed potatoes topped off with cheddar cheese and asparagus, this was a selection with which not a single one of us was disappointed. The mashed potatoes were the perfect consistency, each bit flecked with some potato skin (but not in an overwhelming way) and with a lump here and there to prove authenticity. The asparagus, which also accompanied the grilled pork chops (which was the fourth entree we ordered) was the star of the evening. Grilled to the point of being a few shades shy of slightly charred, the asparagus was green and crisp and salted and peppered to marvelousness. The grilled pork chops were also succulent and tender and came with a side of potato and gruyere gratin.
Each of us added a half side salad to our entrees for an additional $5. The wedge was “classic,” with bacon, diced fresh tomatoes, and ranch dressing. Rather than the traditional “normal” blue cheese, the Boathouse wedge was adorned with crumbled gorgonzola, which added a nice touch–it was not so strong as to overpower the rest of the flavors. The salad was dressed between layers of lettuce, not drizzled with the dressing so, while it appeared as though you did not have enough dressing (and, really, who can ever have enough ranch?) there was the perfect amount. The pear and gorgonzola spinach salad with sliced onions and a balsamic vinaigrette was also a hit.
Note: if you want bread, you have to ask for it. But you’ll be glad that you did.
Another note: if you have a child with you, be sure to order the $5 (yes, $5!!) cheese pizza for him or her. If you’re anything like the adults we are, you’ll want to have a bite or two (ok, a slice) of the large pie. The thin crust lended itself well to the generous sprinkling of mozzarella, with a sweet tomato sauce. As our waiter, Ethan, said, “it’s the best $5 you’ll ever spend.”
We ended the evening with the Pizzookie which, as you can imagine is, a cookie pizza. What appeared before us was nothing short of magnificent: a chocolate chip cookie the size of a dessert plate, baked just enough to be cooked but not nearly enough to have true cookie consistency. Topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, and hot fudge, this is a dessert not to be missed. It is recommended that you eat it AS FAST AS YOU CAN, as it melts into a soup (albeit still delicious) very quickly. Not to shun a dessert, but I will say it could’ve used a minute or two more in the oven, just to be a better receptacle for the toppings.
I can’t write a proper review of The Boathouse without saying that, if you are to make it there for a meal, I’d strongly suggest making it your evening meal and suggest even more strongly that you go at or near sunset. It was breathtaking to see the sun descending over the James, with the Richmond skyline in the distance. The reds, pinks, oranges, blues, and purple were vibrant and stunning and added to the already warm and cozy atmosphere of the restaurant. Though it was chilly the night we were there, we could all easily imagine sitting on the outside patio, cocktails in hand, watching the sun go down on a warm summer night. With a basket of bread and maybe some crab hush puppies in front of us, of course.