Golf courses aren’t known for having great food. Usually added to the clubhouse as an afterthought or secondary revenue stream, featuring mayonnaise-drenched club sandwiches, overcooked burgers and fried protein cylinders, these course-capping eateries rarely break culinary barriers. It’s as though golf course dining has been reduced to its most perfunctory convenience for those having finished a long round in the summer heat, seeking simply the most pedestrian sustenance from the one-two hit of exhaustion and delirium. Perhaps that’s a bit dramatic, but veteran golfers certainly know the feeling.
Enter TopGolf, the UK-bred golf course cum bowling alley cum sports bar entertainment venue that has opened locations across Texas and other golfing states across the nation. We had the opportunity to wander through the menu with some of the chefs and executives behind the food and entertainment at TopGolf Dallas—and what a menu! A quick glance immediately betrayed a thoughtful, creative approach to “hospitainment” (i.e. hospitality and entertainment rolled into one) dining with a clearly evident playful sensibility.
“A lot of love goes into this food.” Explains Seve Delgado, Corporate Executive Chef. Her enthusiasm for the product was immediately infectious as we chatted over soft drinks in the air-conditioned bar dotted with immaculate tabletops and punctuated by brightly cheerful, eager-to-please staff scurrying to fulfill orders to the glistening Dallasites beyond the plate glass, driving their microchipped TopGolf balls into a droopingly humid North Texas evening sky. Chef Delgado goes on to explain that 85% of the food coming out of the kitchen is scratch made, and a staff of around 60 works around the clock doing mostly prep work. Everything from yeast rolls to salsa, guacamole, dressings, chicken stock, pico de gallo, and even taco shells are made in-house. Impressive – already a departure from the norm.
In addition to the love that goes into the preparation, a lot of forethought goes into sourcing the best local products in each market, where menu items vary in accordance with regional tastes and availability of fresh ingredients. Chef Delgado and her team sampled 24 different types of bacon before settling on the pecanwood smoked variety that goes into the finished product. 32 breads from Empire Bakery were sampled prior to making that selection, which was a challah that goes into, yes, a club sandwich, that’s an unbeatable departure from the norm featuring Boar’s Head deli meats and a house-made herb cream cheese.
While the food is simply wonderful (the freshness is very apparent, and each item is carefully constructed, presentation goes far beyond the paper and plastic baskets of the bog standard golf course hash house. “We wanted to push the envelope of guest expectations by serving innovative up-scale bar food.” Explains Mark Boyton, Director of Food & Beverage. “We aim to make the food as good as the game. Presentation has evolved from the traditional paper-and-basket to English china and bespoke, eye-catching serving pieces.” Mark also notes that initial expenditure on small wares at some locations is in the low six figures. "We try to present food in a way that you don't need a knife and fork to sit down and eat." Mark goes on, noting that the most recent menu is in line with diners' requests for smaller, share-able plates.
The current of playful energy also courses through the beverage development at TopGolf – as evidenced by the Golf bag shaped “fishbowl” beverages for a group, and a wide range of standard bar beverages readily available and priced reasonably for the market. TopGolf is in fact the largest sports bar in many of its markets, and beverage sales often outpace local sports stadiums.
The culture of creativity isn’t limited to the company’s top chefs either. Chef Delgado notes that many of the new creations on each semiannual menu are the result of employee contests. In addition to culinary creativity, the entrants must also cost out their entrees – after all putting a lot of love into food also requires some homework. After each menu cycle is completed, retired provisions are donated to local charities and food banks – on average around 80 pounds for each location supporting the local community. Senior Communications Manager Adrienne Browne notes that North Texas Food Bank also benefitted from a TopGolf volunteer corps during the last year.
The Takeaway: Whether shooting a round, sitting out on the patio listening to live music, or simply going to enjoy the food, a day or night at TopGolf provides good value for the dining dollar, with well-crafted, playful, excellent quality food.
Check out our list for highlights from TopGolf’s current menu.
Mushi, or Mexican Sushi, is comprised of chicken that's marinated in spices for 24 hours then grilled and cubed, tossed with cheddar cheese and wrapped with drunken beans which are simmered for six hours in housemade chicken stock and cilantro fragranced sushi rice and served with sour cream, hot sauce, and avocado "wasabi". The spice is evident and lasting, and balances with the satisfying, simple heartiness of the rice.
These are those fried-in-house taco shells we've heard so much about - filled with marinated chicken, Shiner Bock Slaw, and the famous house made salsa (Top Golf goes through buckets of this stuff daily!)
Wings for Days
These wings were amazing. They're pressure fried so that the outside is crispy and the inside is moist and tender. They're tumbled in spices and drenched in wonderful hot sauce and set alongside some honestly awesome housemade ranch and bleu cheese.
Welcome to the Club Sandwich
Billed as the "Ultimate Club Sandwich" we'd be hard pressed to find an equal. If Challah Texas toast weren't enough of an innovation, the turkey, pecanwood smoked bacon, local red leaf lettuce and beefstake tomato with sliced Cheddar tosses aside the traditional mayo shmear for an even better crowning glory: housemade herb cream cheese. Decadent by design, this satisfies like only a club sandwich can.
Pepperoni & Sausage Flatbread
What it says on the tin, but enhanced with a blend of five cheeses and microgreens. Chewy and flavorful with expertly harmonized layers of texture.
Banh Mi Flatbread
There are few things better than the effervescent Vietnamese sandwich, and one of them might just be this inspired flatbread, which eighty-sixes the traditional pate for a tangy chili aioli. The pork shoulder is cooked down for 8 hours with ginger, star anise, peppercorns and hoisin - all the spice, crunch, and fresh flavor of the banh mi are well presented here.
Toys for Tots
Anybody can fry up some tots, and the kiddie comfort food is fast supplanting french fries. But who serves them in a mini fry basket? TopGolf does, further underlining the fun and whimsy that pops up again and again on their menus. And that Chipotle Aioli Sidekick? You guessed it - made in-house and divinely delicious.
There are sliders, and there are sliders. TopGolf has several variations, and this traditional cheeseburger slider is served on a house-baked sweet yeast roll that had us close to weeping. Don't speak to us of condiments - the roll was luscious enough by itself.
Most ground turkey is fatted with skin, but the Jennie-O turkey used by TopGolf does away with the extra fat and replaces it instead with a little extra flavor, courtesy of some peppery feta and spiced mayo. Presented here with a side of killer sweet potato fries.
Spinach & Goat Cheese Salad
The love in this salad is in the cheese, which is coated with a cinnamon chili rub, seared, and crumbled onto the salad. As if that spicy-sweet goodness weren't enough, the backup dancer is the pecans which are candied with simple syrup on site (just like any normal pecan is candied) and then deep fried for extra crunch.
Chick'n Waffle Sliders
Chicken & Waffles, you say? As sliders, you say? Sign us up. That Red Fresno Chili is a great little amuse bouche for pre- or post-nosh, and the chicken tenders are tossed in buffalo spices before being fried and tucked between two fresh belgian waffles. We're told there's a special way to assemble these; you'll see that on the next slide.
The "way" to eat the Chick'N Waffle Slider
Chef Delgado insisted on the following procedure (don't worry, it's simple). First, remove the top waffle and slather the jalapeno-enhanced gravy on that moist, waiting chicken tender. Cover it, and coat everything with the syrup. So you get the sweet waffle, the salt of the gravy, and the spice of the chicken tender, and a little more sweet waffle to finish. We could eat these all day.
This Won't Hurt A Bit Donut Holes
What's more fun that playing with your food. These cinnamon-sugar dusted donut holes practically beg for some light torture before being consumed. They can be injected with chocolate or raspberry filling. While it's easy to get into Filling Fights with one's fellow golfers, we can testify you won't want to waste a drop of either of these innovative injectables.
Filling in Progress
While there's no such thing as too much chocolate, a word to the wise: be careful while filling to donut holes - it's too easy to overdo it. Don't worry, there will be another donut hole along to take care of the rest in a moment.
Cookie Pops and Cotton Candy Cones
Here's some of that great TopGolf presentation. The cookies are baked, of course, in-house, and they're served warm and gooey with a prominent vanilla top note. The cotton candy is fresh spun and still warm, and both are excellent for sharing.