I’ll admit, I wasn’t exactly salivating at the thought of dining at a restaurant catering to that oft-forgotten demographic of aging golfers and their silver-coiffed spouses. The Tap Room at Dubsdread, after all, is on the grounds of Orlando’s oldest public golf course; more than a few of its patrons are as well-worn as the ancient golf shoes encased in the display behind the hostess stand. The whole joint is made out of wood, including the ceiling, and the rustic touches and Shaker-style furnishings play up the historic angle. But the restaurant exudes a relaxed swagger – casual, yet unrelenting in its quest for perfection.
In comparison to 19th holes at other public golf courses in Central Florida, the Tap Room is on a whole different playing field. Offering a mix of bar-and-grill bites and gourmet fare, the kitchen unquestionably takes pride in its efforts, plating simple, impeccably prepared dishes. To wit: creamy chicken vegetable soup ($4.95), a chowder-like potage with corn and potatoes that made it a struggle to pass up a second bowl. The soup was a special of the night, but should they offer it on your visit, do yourself a favor and order two.
I was looking forward to sampling the jumbo lump crab cake, but they had evidently run out of crab, so I opted for the tenderloin steak flatbread ($11.95) instead. Cubes of medium-rare beef weighed down a long rectangular sleeve of crisp flatbread flavored with caramelized onions, wild mushrooms and a layer of mozzarella. Not a bad choice at all. I missed the berry compote more than I thought I would while enjoying baked brie ($12.95), though slices of pineapple, cantaloupe, melon and red apple, along with a small cluster of seedless red grapes, offered a properly fruity complement. The buttery-soft baguette was worth half the price of the dish alone.
I thoroughly enjoyed the simply grilled onaga ($24.95), a ruby-red snapper from Hawaii noted for its soft, slightly fatty flesh. The generous puck of liquefying lime-dill butter atop the ample fillet proved to be the sole fault of this special, but it’s a nitpicky charge. Fluffy yellow rice and perfectly grilled asparagus accompanied the dish. If you’re a meat-and-potatoes man, the pot roast ($15.75) won’t disappoint. The slow-roasted slab of beef is enveloped by a wonderfully thick moat of peppery gravy, with potatoes, carrots and celery added to the comforting mix.
Desserts are all made in-house and supply toothsome coups de grace. Shaved rinds add a touch of class to simply divine key lime pie ($4.95), while even the most ardent of chocoholics will be hard-pressed not to feel buzzed from the thick, rich chocolate cake ($5.95).
Service could use a bit of polishing: I can see how the bucolic view lends to a leisurely pace, but letting 10 minutes pass before taking a drink order is just plain shoddy. That, coupled with a front of house I found to be somewhat harried, can dampen the mood and may keep the Tap Room from being a destination for the city’s fooderati. Yeah, the short game may be a little off, but the kitchen, thankfully, has its act together. That’s more than enough to keep the Tap Room in the game.