An Easy & Excellent Last-Minute ADR

If you scour the My Disney Experience app or the Walt Disney World website for Advance Dining Reservations, there’s probably one table service restaurant name you’ve seen a lot. Even same-day, it’s reliably available. Despite that, this is also probably somewhere most of you have never dined.

I’ll go a step further and say that this is probably the highest ‘name recognition’ restaurant at Walt Disney World that most of you haven’t done. Meaning that it’s the intersection of known-but-unpopular restaurant picks at Walt Disney World. Truly a hidden…? (Gem?) Maybe, but you likely have never found out.

Think for a second…is there one restaurant name you see constantly when making ADRs, but never book? There are two that instantly come to mind for me–and it’s not Olivia’s. Any guesses? (I’m going to feel like a total dolt if Walt Disney World’s ‘featured’ restaurants are tailored recommendations, and no one is seeing this but me!)

I’m talking about the Turf Club Bar & Grill at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. (Hopefully some/most/all of you were able to guess that?)

Despite being located at one of the largest resorts at Walt Disney World, Turf Club doesn’t get much attention from the fan community. That makes sense, as it’s not within walking distance of a park, on the monorail loop or Skyliner, and isn’t in a “destination” resort.

Granted, it is within walking distance of Disney Springs, but given the wealth of dining options in that veritable culinary playground, how many of you are going to make the hike over to Saratoga Springs to eat?!

That would be like leaving Magic Kingdom because you want to ride a boat. (Which is actually a tremendous idea that we strongly endorse, so perhaps not the best analogy!)

Unless you’re a Disney Vacation Club member, there’s a good chance you’ve never been to Saratoga Springs Resort (SSR).

It’s not a place where many first-timers or regular guests stay. Along with Old Key West, this is essentially a dedicated DVC resort. (You can book SSR as a Deluxe Villa, it’s just a small percentage of the room inventory and uncommon.) Saratoga Springs also has a reputation, arguably undeserved, of being a bland and less ‘thematically engaging’ resort.

Speaking of which, let’s start this restaurant review by tackling the theme of Turf Club…

Like the rest of Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, the Turf Club is equestrian-themed. Walt Disney World describes it as having a rustic racehorse theme.

Walt Disney World’s website also calls it a “hidden gem” complete with its own cocktail lounge and an “intimate venue [that] recalls a romantic and bygone era.” The Turf Club Bar & Grill transports patrons to “turn-of-the-century Upstate New York as you browse vintage equestrian memorabilia: photos of jockeys and their horses, antique riding gear and racing articles of yesteryear.” All of that is accurate, I’d say.

I’d also say it’s a bit of spin.

Personally, I would describe Turf Club as an equestrian-themed restaurant that transports guests to a mid-1980s country club in…I dunno where. I’ve seen strikingly similar country clubs in the Midwest, so maybe there? Maybe New York? Doesn’t much matter.

The Turf Club Bar & Grill has rich woods with an abundance of accents and wall panels. The carpet is a green and blue plaid with gold swirls. This is complemented nicely by green ceiling lighting panels that imbue the interior with the feeling of a forest.

The tables and chairs are simple and clean, and also feature woods. Ornate carvings on the walls give things character, as do stained glass panels, and shadow boxes hanging on the walls that display racing gear.

I love the look of the Turf Club Bar & Grill much in the same way that I love the Pizza Hut or Taco Bell styles of my youth. I mean that with the utmost sincerity and without even a tinge of sarcasm. There is something intimate and cozy and calming about the aesthetic. It’s not the pinnacle of themed design, but it’s inviting and comfortable–that can count for a lot.

As the description and photos suggest, Turf Club is also undeniably dated. (My first thought was that it predates Saratoga Springs and is a holdover from the Disney Institute days of this building, but it is not. All circa 2004!)

If the Turf Club Bar & Grill were at another resort, it would’ve been redone years ago. Given other resort restaurant reimaginings and the racehorse theme of Saratoga Springs, I can only assume it would be given a Monsters University or Moana makeover. (Now that is sarcasm.)

Turf Club’s under-the-radar spot tucked away at Saratoga Springs is likely its saving grace. In any case, let’s move along to cuisine…

Dinner at the Turf Club Bar and Grill starts with bread service. Unlike some other restaurants at Walt Disney World, this is complimentary.

This consists of parmesan-topped herbed rolls with oregano and basil, served with sea salt topped butter. Ours were soft, cheesy, herby, and had just the right amount of doughy deliciousness. We devoured these so quickly that our server brought a second round, which proved to be our downfall.

The bread service was a slightly cheesy, herby roll that was served with herbed butter. Soft and quite delicious.

For our appetizer, we ordered the Grilled Artichokes (over my objection, as I wanted to go with the tried-and-true Fritto Misto).

This consists of Grilled Artichoke Hearts, Crispy Baby Artichokes, Roasted Garlic Tahini Sauce, Pickled Golden Raisins, Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette and is Plant-based.

Sarah raved about this. She loves artichokes, makes them all the time at home, and has high standards for their quality and preparation. She thought the sauce and artichoke complemented one another, with a great acidity and flavor.

I was less impressed, but then again, I don’t love artichokes and yet eat them all the time at home. At least this one wasn’t the “peel and eat” variety that I disdain. My motto (one of them, at least) is that even mediocre calamari beats most other awesome appetizers, and I’m pretty positive I’d hold that opinion at Turf Club.

Prime Rib: 10-oz cut Slow-roasted Prime Rib, Crispy Potatoes, Roasted Baby Carrots, Broccolini, and Red Wine Jus.

Let’s start our entree reviews with the prime rib, because that’s what Walt would’ve wanted. (I still don’t get why no Walt Disney World restaurant serves prime rib with canned chili–the only two confirmed foods that Walt loved.)

The prime rib at Turf Club is a strong option. It’s a good cut that’s juicy and flavorful, expertly prepared. It also isn’t overly fatty, tastes great on its own, and is surprisingly tender. For a bit of added richness, it can soak up the red wine jus.

What you see is what you get with the vegetables. All in all, they round out the plate, making this a solid “meat and potatoes” option that pretty much guarantee you’ll leave full. Or, at least you certainly will if you also devoured 2-5 bread rolls!

Crispy Boneless Chicken: Crispy Chicken Thighs, Roasted Mushrooms, Sautéed Swiss Chard, Fingerling Potatoes, and Sherry Jus.

Sarah and I had two very different opinions of this exact same crispy boneless chicken dish.

She was mostly just “whelmed” by it, finding the dish too heavy and the vegetables unimpressive. She thought the chicken was fine, but not great.

Sarah takes a more, let’s call it “vegetable-forward” approach when assessing dishes. By contrast, there has never been a single occasion where I ever ordered an entree on account of its accompaniments sourced below-ground. From my perspective, the chicken was addictively good, with the perfect mix of crispiness and mouth-watering meatiness. I’ll agree with her that the vegetables were largely just “present,” but the chicken, mushrooms, and sherry jus alone made this a winner.

Grilled Pork Chop: Fennel Pollen-dusted Pork Chop, Sweet Potato Purée, Cannellini Beans, Baby Kale, ‘Nduja Vinaigrette.

This dish came highly recommended by friends who rave about Turf Club, but I was nevertheless skeptical. While pork chops can be fantastic, I’ve had too many that are overly dry, one-note hunks of meat.

Thankfully, this was not one of them.

To be sure, it was a huge hunk of meat. But it was also juicy, tender, and with just enough exterior char to give most bites a bit of texture. The vinaigrette made it more succulent, but could’ve been more ambitious. Same goes for the cannellini beans and sweet potato puree, which were kind of just…there.

Granted, I don’t purport to be the world’s biggest bean or potato puree fan, but I thought these were just a mushy base layer meant to add range and size to the dish. We’d highly recommend this for the pork chop itself, but as an all-encompassing dish, our recommendation is less enthusiastic.

Braised Lamb Tagliatelle: Braised Lamb Shank, House-made Tagliatelle Pasta, Peas, Crispy Potato Straws, Whipped Goat Cheese, and Sherry Gastrique

This wasn’t quite what I was expecting when seeing “braised lamb shank” on the menu, but the dish defied expectations.

The lamb was tender, moist, and rich. It tasted fantastic and there was probably as much meat in this huge dish as there would’ve been if this were presented as a proper lamb shank.

More than that, though, it was a well-rounded dish. There was a plethora of properly-prepared pasta, which was mostly flavored by the creamy whipped goat cheese and the sherry gastrique sauce. The straws added texture and crunch, while the peas brought a bit of earthiness to what’s otherwise a heavy dish. Although served year-round, this struck me as a nice dish for a cold night at Walt Disney World. (In other words, perfect for approximately 11 nights per year.) Joking aside, we’d highly recommend this.

Ultimately, the Turf Club Bar and Grill rates somewhere between simple & satisfying (to superb) and easy & enjoyable (to excellent) on our highly-technical scale of alliterative last-minute Advance Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World.

What holds Turf Club back more than anything else is its location and alternatives. If you’re a first-timer to Walt Disney World, there are almost no circumstances under which we’d recommend dining at the Turf Club Bar and Grill. It’s out of the way at SSR, and there are plenty of more interesting options at Disney Springs that often have easy ADRs. The food at those may not be as good, but the complete package is probably more compelling.

As for Walt Disney World regulars, whether the Turf Club Bar and Grill gets our endorsement is a closer call and more circumstantial.

This meal reminded me a lot of dinner at Steakhouse 71, right down to two of the better dishes (pork chop and prime rib) and price points. Steakhouse 71 will win out for most owing solely to its location within walking distance of Magic Kingdom. I also think that experience is a bit more “fun” and there’s an appetizers I adore (pork belly) plus a couple of strong dessert options.

However, Steakhouse 71 can be a tougher ADR and its bread service costs money (and is inferior to the free one at Turf Club, if you ask me). I found the food slightly better and the atmosphere more cozy at Turf Club, but both probably come down to personal preference. A close call, all things considered.

For my part, I really enjoy Turf Club as a relaxed change of pace dinner serving up a menu of ‘mega meats’ and comfort cuisine. It embodies everything that a laid-back, no-nonsense ADR should, right down to the affordable menu and approachable dishes. There are no surprises at Turf Club, which is a good or bad thing depending upon your perspective.

The Turf Club Bar and Grill is old school country club cuisine, competently prepared and unchallenging. The menu highlights are undeniably meat-forward, which almost alone makes Turf Club a winner for me. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re looking for the “anti-Citricos” (or Victoria & Albert’s) and don’t mind the trek out to Saratoga Springs Resort, then Turf Club is for you!

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Have you done dinner at the Turf Club Bar and Grill? Have a favorite meat served at dinner, or do you prefer ordering plant-based options? Thoughts on the menu, retro country club decor, how it compares to other mid-tier comfort cuisine establishments at Walt Disney World, or anything else addressed in this review? Will you be attempting to book this Advance Dining Reservation? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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