It’s been three weeks since The Boat House opened in the old Sam Maverick space in the Seminole Square Shopping Center, which was about four weeks after the September 20 estimated opening date we reported back in August. We aren’t at all surprised by the slight delay. Restaurantarama has learned to tack at least a week onto opening-date predictions due to minor unexpected snafus with the contractors or with scheduling the final health department inspection. And these Boat House folks had the additional issue of figuring out how to securely fasten gigantic wooden sweep boats upside down from the ceiling so they won’t come crashing down on the guests. There are several of these boats floating overhead at the otherwise modestly renovated restaurant, as well as wooden paddles affixed to the walls and various other rowing paraphernalia and photographs decorating the space. When we spoke to part owner Bob Slade this summer, he told us the inspiration for the Boat House concept, which he developed with his partner Al Chadsey, was Boathouse Row—an historic landmark of old racing boat houses on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.
Follow your theme: In addition to hanging gigantic wooden sweep boats from the ceiling, The Boat House owner Bob Slade has decorated the walls with rowing paraphernalia and photographs.
Knowing what we do about Slade—that he’s a longtime regional restaurant developer and one of the masterminds behind other prototype themed restaurant concepts, such as the PGA Tour Grill in Rockville, Maryland, and Sam Maverick (the latter of which unfortunately imploded at the flagship Charlottesville location after Slade and his partners sold the prototype business and license)—we knew this place would be set up and run, at least initially, like, well, a tight ship. To be honest, though, we were a bit surprised that the interior turned out so classy. The Maverick table arrangement has been opened up a bit, which lets in a lot more light, and a lounge was added with a fireplace and comfy leather seats. The rowing décor is subtle and sleek—we particularly like the rusty metal rowing seats fashioned to the wall as a sort of totem pole-like art piece, and the rowing house colors used on the backs of the booth seats. The exterior has a new façade reminiscent of the Victorian roofline of some of those old Boathouse Row houses in Philly. Unfortunately, due to what Slade refers to as “very strict lighting regulations” on the part of the county, he was unable to line the entire exterior of the building in LED lights to mimic the Christmas gingerbread house-like effect that Boathouse Rowe has when it’s lit up at night. Maybe now that Charlottesville can claim its own rowing Olympian—Charlottesville native and UVA alum Lindsay Shoop, who won gold in the U.S. Women’s Eight at the Beijing Olympics—the county will get more into the spirit of things.
The food here is your ubiquitous upscale pub-like fare—steaks, seafood, burgers and big salads with various regional cuisines and ethnicities thrown in for good measure. There’s your teriyaki tuna and southwest chicken salads, your pork barbeque sandwich and key lime pie and our own personal favorite fusion—a Southwest egg roll appetizer.
Server Felicia Garcia tells us the menu is pretty similar to what was served at Maverick, and as a former Maverick employee, she would know. Apparently, though, the crowd is already much different. “We were slammed this past Monday,” she told us. “I’ve been working in restaurants for a long time and Mondays are never busy.”
If the Charlottesville location proves successful, you may see a roll out of more Boat Houses soon.
Two previously dead dining spots have gotten new leases on life. Corner franchise the Pita Pit has reopened under new owners, and the New Deli on Route 29, which closed early this summer, has been reopened under new owners and a new name: The New Deli & Grill.