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CUCKOO FOR CALABASH: Boathouse fries up seafood platters like a pro

If Calabash-fried seafood is your jam, Boathouse has your shrimp frying!

I’ll be honest: I was expecting a waterside view. This is a beach town, after all, so I pictured my visit to the “Boathouse” restaurant would include a sunny, marina-side meal and lime-infused brews.

STAR OF THE SHOW: Fresh Calabash shrimp is the Boathouse’s forte and one of Rosa’s favorite choices from the menu. Photo by Tom Dorgan

STAR OF THE SHOW: Fresh Calabash shrimp is the Boathouse’s forte and one of Rosa’s favorite choices from the menu. Photo by Tom Dorgan

At least I was right about the second part.

Boathouse is technically near the Intracoastal—it’s just not right on it. So, diners looking for a Croakie-clad locals gathering for crab dip on a dock may not find it their cup of Long Island Iced Tea. But they will find Calabash-style grub with a side of nautical décor.

Boathouse is a Southern, family-friendly American joint, serving up generous all-day meals with an emphasis on coastal eats. Regulars rave about their creamy crab cake eggs Benedict for breakfast, their famous fried seafood platters for lunch, and their prime rib special for weekend dinners.

They had me at “fried.”

In a world where requesting airplane pretzels now requires me to reach for my wallet, I appreciate a restaurant who still believes in the value of complimentary snacks. My boyfriend and I took our seats at the bar, where, within a matter of seconds, a basket of corn-perfumed nuggets arrived under our noses. These hushpuppies didn’t taste fresh out of the fryer, but they were free, so I wasn’t complaining. I was hoping for a more expansive beer list—no Modelo or Pacifico?—but domestics seemed to be the pour of choice. Landshark, it was.

Boathouse’s atmosphere suggests “bring your sunburnt kids,” so I suppose they’re not looking to sway the craft-brew crowd their way. Here’s some good news: I instantly felt welcomed by our bubbly server, and she didn’t even blink an eye as I rambled my colossal order her way. Wonderful customer service from start to finish is never something I take for granted.

I found folks online had gone gaga for Boathouse’s fried green tomatoes, so that was first on deck. The green rounds had a hearty coating—as opposed to a light dusting of cornmeal— and were a bit more heavily fried than I prefer. I had my fingers crossed for a delicate batter, but Boathouse is a Southern-inspired restaurant, after all. The tomatoes themselves still had a tender bite. Hats off to the chef for choosing an unusual dipping partner: a chunky chutney featuring mangos, raisins and spices. If anyone’s into sweet and salty, they’ll be pleasantly surprised at this unexpected combination. If longing for savory flavors, opt for a side of scratch-made ranch.

Speaking of ranch…

Thanks to a mostly deep-fried dinner, I called upon the house salad to freshen up things. Sure, it may sound bizarre to be impressed by salad at a seafood spot, but damn those greens were good. Tossed in with crunchy lettuce was crumbled hard-boiled eggs and salty, crispy bacon. Combined with freshly chopped tomatoes and homemade, herby ranch, it was like a surprise, inside-out BLT. Ain’t nothing wrong with that!

Boathouse is famous for their fried seafood, but I’m a pan-seared girl myself. Luckily, the menu allowed me to double up on the protein in my platter—so I did. A heaping portion of battered shrimp appeared alongside a single crab cake. Seeing as it was an extra $2 to add crab cakes to the meal, I presumed there would be multiples. Had it been richer or better seasoned, I’d be slightly less bummed; but despite high marks on Yelp, I did not want to have this cake (and eat it, too).

The shrimp, however, stole the show. Each piece was thoughtfully flash fried and actually tasted like, wait for it … shrimp. It’s not easy to find Calabash-style seafood that isn’t 90-percent batter, but these tasty tails were light, fresh and addictive.

In an attempt to test Boathouse on their broiling skills, I set my sights on the flounder. “Impeccably cooked,” online reviews said. “Moist and tender.” I really do like you, Boathouse. I know you mean well. That being said, I’m guessing I visited during an off-night. The fish was overcooked and lacking in flavor. The only savior was its tangy tartar sauce.

As for other sides, the green beans were as traditional as it gets. This means diners raised on canned goods will be joyfully whisked back to their mama’s kitchen. Folks who want fresh veggies should just stick to the slaw.

On a brighter note, I learned several former restaurants have failed in this location (previously home to a Hardee’s). Boathouse, however, has been going strong for several years now. So, they’re doing something right.

At the end of the day, they definitely serve authentic Calabash-style food. Also, they’re prices are reasonable, the seafood is fresh and the hushpuppies are … free!

DETAILS:
Boathouse
6328 Oleander Dr.
910-679-4224
Mon.-Sun., 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.

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