published Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Fresh seafood, ambiance make Boathouse seem like a short vacation

  • photo
    The Boathouse's poblano pepper is an appetizer which is grilled and stuffed with rotisserie chicken, queso and feta cheese, and is topped with avocado and chips.
    Photo by Ellis Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.


• Where: The Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar, 1459 Riverside Drive.

• Phone: 622-0122.

• Website:

• Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.

• Price range: $2.50 (sides of black beans, Olive Oil Fried Potatoes, Island Slaw, potato salad or extra bread)-$22.95 (wood-grilled ribeye).

About half the customers at the Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar are in such a rush to reach the restaurant that their vehicles clip the lip of the driveway coming in. It’s the view that reels them in. That, and the promise of fresh seafood and a meal that feels like a short vacation.

The phrase “raw bar” in a landlocked state is normally a cause for concern rather than celebration, but that’s not the case here.


With a 180-degree view of the Tennessee River, the Boathouse is reminiscent of a fresh seafood restaurant perched on a Boston pier, where diners can watch fishermen approach the wharf with the evening’s meal. But since it’s Chattanooga, and most of us are landlubbers, there’s plenty of chicken, too.

The cuisine draws its influence from the Southeast United States and the Caribbean islands, serving meals inspired by everything from Mexico to voodoo, according to a giant map painted on an interior wall.

The map is just a part of the Boathouse’s ambiance. Ice trickles from the high ceiling into a tub at the bar. The setting sun lends an orange glow to the atmosphere, bathing the air in warmth as a fine mist keeps the temperature comfortable on the wraparound deck.

It costs a couple of extra bucks to enjoy this gorgeous location across the river from the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club, but it’s worth it if you pick the right entrees.


We started with raw Gulf of Mexico oysters, which were shockingly fresh. The oysters tasted and smelled like they were pulled from the ocean only minutes prior. Even better, they’re half-price (12 for $6.50) on Mondays.

The rich and filling clam chowder ($9.95) picked up the pace a bit. The chowder was stuffed with actual clams, not some dehydrated cafeteria mix, and was elegantly spiced without being overpowering.

Don’t be deceived by the name of the poblano pepper ($8.95). It’s so much more than just a pepper. The appetizer was grilled and stuffed with rotisserie chicken, queso and feta cheese, and was topped with avocado and chips.

Each element was juicy, fresh and cooked to perfection.

For entrees, we tried the New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp ($17.95), which were enormous and evocative of Cajun cuisine without being too derivative. Perfectly cooked, each massive shrimp burst with garlic and buttery goodness, with enough barbecue flavor to ring true.

We had less luck with the wood-grilled tilapia ($15.95), which arrived overcooked, dried-out and rendered bland. The black beans and rice seemed not to complement the fish well, and the entire package was a bit disappointing.

However, for those looking to spend a little less money, a spit-roasted barbecue pork sandwich ($8.95) was delicious and filling.


The food overall is fresh but filling and may require a cocktail or two to fully digest. Happy hour is actually eight hours long Sunday through Thursday, when it lasts from 2 to 10 p.m. On Friday and Saturday, inexpensive beer and mixed drinks are available from 2 to 6 p.m. as the sun sets over the water.

And at the end of the day, it’s that sublime interaction between water and sun, cool mist and warm air, spicy seafood and sweet chicken that sets the Boathouse apart.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
bigbearzzz said...

Yeah just dont try to take a kids meal in there from Mcdonalds or some other place like that. No love for children there. Definitly not a family friendly environment.

June 3, 2011 at 7:05 a.m.
jr6722 said...

The comment posted above is spot on. The owner of the Boathouse sent a scathing e-mail to a patron who had the gaul to write to him regarding an incident. Read from the bottom:

From: lawton Haygood [] Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009 1:34 PM To: Johnson, Craig J Subject: RE: Restaurant Experience Mr. Johnson,

You really should check with your Pediatrician, concerning a 3 year old having that much control over her nutritional program.

Lawton Haygood General Partner Boathouse

From: Johnson, Craig J [] Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009 1:08 PM To: Subject: Restaurant Experience

To whom it may concern. I wanted to inform you an incredibly unsatisfactorily experience I had with your restaurant. On Saturday June 20, I attempted to take my father to the Boathouse for a Father's Day dinner along with my wife, my 3 year old and my 1 month old daughter. My Father was in from out of state and I wanted to bring him to a dinner he would enjoy as he loves seafood. In order to make the experience enjoyable for everyone, we stopped at McDonalds prior to arriving at the restaurant in order to get my daughter some food that she would be willing to eat. My daughter can be a particularly picky eater at times and we wanted to make sure that she would be happy and there would be something she would be willing to eat.
When I arrived at the restaurant, it was noticeably not crowded yet I had to wait for almost 10 minutes while the multiple hostesses tried to determine where I could be seated. Keep in mind that it was probably close to 100 degrees out and that I have a one month old child. I finally was brought to my seat after this wait and was in the process of being seated, when a female employee whom I might assume was the manager came over to me and informed me that would could not bring me daughters food into the restaurant as it was against the "Health Code" for such to be done. I attempted to explain the situation to her and was basically put on deaf ears and repeatedly told that it was a health code issue and that my only choice was to leave and go elsewhere. I was never offered any sort of other alternative. So therefore despite the fact that I went out of my way to go to your restaurant, I had to then load 2 kids back into the car in the 100 degree heat and drive to another restaurant.
After this experience, I contacted the State of Tennessee to see if this was in fact a violation and received the following email back:

June 3, 2011 at 9:19 a.m.
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