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.