Review: Dinner at The Turf Club Bar and Grill at Saratoga Springs Resort

We’re off to the races!

And by “races,” I mean sitting and enjoying dinner ;). Today we’re heading to The Turf Club Bar and Grill at Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa. The theme of this Disney Vacation Club resort reflects upstate New York and celebrates its history of horse racing.

Naturally, this theme extends to its solo Table Service Restaurant – The Turf Club (a common name for dining establishments offering great club views of the races at many horse racing destinations across the country).

Oh, and if you’re curious about where you can find THIS chocolate dessert at Disney World, you’ll want to stay tuned!

Sign leading you to the Turf Club

Sign leading you to the Turf Club

Heading towards the Turf Club Bar and Grill

Heading towards the Turf Club Bar and Grill

And so with that, I say… “Riders up!” Let’s dig in!

Atmosphere

Upon arriving for our Advance Dining Reservation at 5:00 pm (the earliest seating at this dinner-only spot), I noticed that just behind the check-in stand was a beautiful wooden piece resembling an old-fashioned horse stable.

"Horse stable"

“Horse stable”

Okay, that’s not entirely true… I didn’t pick up on the fact that it was supposed to be a stable until exiting the restaurant, which is why this picture was taken from the back :). Once I realized it, I thought it was pretty clever. All that to say… themeing here is quite subtle. Dark woods and deep greens are predominant, and the overall effect is appealing.

Indoor Seating at the Turf Club

Indoor Seating at the Turf Club

Of course, you will find a few nods to the equestrian theme throughout the restaurant.

Framed horse racing gear

Framed horse racing gear

Carpet decoration

Carpet decoration

Covered, outdoor seating is available, offering views of the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course.

Outdoor seating

Outdoor seating

Outdoor seating

Outdoor seating

And our host checked with us if we would like to be seated outdoors, but since they day was still very warm, we chose indoor seating.

Indoor Seating

Indoor Seating

Table for two

Table for two

Overall, think less whimsical, and more refined. The general feeling is calm — especially coupled with the fact that this is a resort restaurant that isn’t near a park (Saratoga Springs is in the Downtown Disney area), and it can definitely be considered a spot for a more relaxed meal.

Eats

While we perused the menu, a batch of warm, fresh dinner rolls was delivered to our table, along with a simple salted butter.

Dinner rolls

Dinner rolls

Butter dusted with salt

Butter dusted with salt

While I didn’t order any on this trip, I get a kick out of checking out the specialty drink menu here, since the beverage names pay tribute to various race tracks and horse racing terms. Naturally, they serve Mint Juleps — a Kentucky Derby tradition.

Specialty drink menu

Specialty drink menu

Ultimately, we held back on eating too much bread since we were curious about one of the appetizers that our server recommended: the Buffalo Chicken Dip.

Appetizer menu

Appetizer menu

It’s pulled chicken, buffalo sauce, and blue cheese, topped with shredded celery and served with Saratoga Chips.

Buffalo Chicken Dip and Saratoga Chips

Buffalo Chicken Dip and Saratoga Chips

The first thing we noticed even before digging in was the substantial portion. This one is made for sharing, and because it’s so rich I’d even recommend it for a group of three or four if you’re ordering full entrees after.

That richness stems from the hearty serving of chicken – this is one of those “the more you eat, the more shows up in the bowl somehow” things :). I liked that I could work around the small topping of melted Blue Cheese quite easily ;), and my husband and I agreed the buffalo sauce had just the right amount of kick.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip

“Saratoga Chips,” for those curious, are pretty much the housemade chips you’ll find at various resort counter service locations all around property – and that’s not a bad thing. The salty kick and crunchy texture worked better with the dip than I anticipated. Overall, it’s a fun play on buffalo wings — themselves an upstate New York tradition, though a little farther west than Saratoga.

Next up? Entrees!

Entree menu

Entree menu

My entrée of choice was the Grilled New York Strip Steak, which is served with asparagus, mashed potatoes, and Lobster Fondue. (?!???!?! Lobster Fondue??)

Grilled New York Strip Steak

Grilled New York Strip

I knew I was in the mood for beef, but what tipped the scales towards the New York Strip over the Prime Rib was that mention of Lobster Fondue. Before we dive into that, I want to share that my steak was good on its own. I’d ordered it medium rare, and what I received was probably closer to medium; but it tasted fine — subtly charred and lightly seasoned. There is nothing unique to note about the mashed potatoes.

Side of mashed potatoes

Side of mashed potatoes

Steak cross-section

Steak cross-section

But this teeny little bowl is what elevated this entrée from “fine” to something I would come back to enjoy again. Here it is before digging in, and at first glance, it seems simple enough.

Lobster Fondue

Lobster Fondue

But then you dip in your steak, and the cheese, butter, cream, and chunks of lobster come together with the steak to make its own mini version of surf and turf! Our server (really friendly and attentive, by the way) shared that many guests like to take the fondue and drizzle it over their entire meal — which is a good call, too! But I stuck to dipping.

Steak dipped in Lobster Fondue

Steak dipped in Lobster Fondue

While it’s a little messy for a photo, you can check out the lobster chunks in this picture.

Lobster chunks in fondue

Lobster chunks in fondue

Be warned: this makes the meal even more filling rather quickly, but it’s worth it!

My husband chose the Root Beer Brined Pork Chop served with Sweet Potato Hash and Sautéed Greens.

Root Beer Brined Pork Chop

Root Beer Brined Pork Chop

Root Beer Brined Pork Chop

Root Beer Brined Pork Chop

While he didn’t pick up on a distinct root beer flavor, he said it had more of a general sweetness to it. He found it to be well-seasoned, along with being a very generous portion.

Root Beer Brined Pork Chop cross section

Root Beer Brined Pork Chop cross section

He was excited to see the Sweet Potato Hash as an option, and when he saw the way they were diced he said he was reminded of one of his favorite sides at Disney World: Potatoes with Afritude from Boma.

Sweet Potato Hash

Sweet Potato Hash

Unfortunately, the reminder ended there, because he found these to have an unexpected bitter taste and wished he had substituted for a side of mashed potatoes.

Finally, we’re on to dessert, and our first choice was the Chocolate Espresso Torte.

Dessert Menu

Dessert Menu

This little dish has caused quite a stir over the past few months. You see, its image was featured on the official Disney World website; however, it was unlabeled and unnamed, inspiring a lot of readers to ask: “Where can I find THAT chocolate dessert at Walt Disney World?!

You can find it here at The Turf Club! Here is the image from Disney.

Chocolate Espresso Torte © Disney

Chocolate Espresso Torte © Disney

And this is what we received.

Chocolate Espresso Torte

Chocolate Espresso Torte

You can see that, in “person,” the chocolate was more generously poured over the torte, as opposed to drizzled. (Hooray!) The dark chocolate flavor was definitely dominant, with just a hint of espresso here and there, along with bursts of raspberry from the syrup the dessert is served upon (which isn’t reflected in the official image).

The torte is very rich and every bit as decadent as it appears.

Texture of the Torte

Texture of the Torte

Texture of the Torte

Texture of the Torte

It’s served with a Vanilla-Port Wine Ice Cream, and while my husband didn’t care for its distinct flavor at all, I really liked it – though not so much on its own. I wouldn’t sit and eat a bowl of it, but it really served its purpose of drawing out even more of the chocolate flavor when sampled right after a bite of the torte.

Chocolate Espresso Torte with Vanilla Port ice cream

Chocolate Espresso Torte with Vanilla Port ice cream

Though the Torte is the talk of the town, I also loved our other choice of dessert: Lemon Curd with Berries. Now, you do absolutely have to adore lemon curd to enjoy this, because that’s basically all this is: a glassful of lemon curd!

Lemon Curd with Berries

Lemon Curd with Berries

And since I had been questioning my choice of not getting a Mint Julep earlier in the evening, the fresh mint garnish made up for that a bit. Of course, there is more whipped cream in here than you can see from the outside of the glass, as well as a few more blueberries.

Digging into the layers

Digging into the layers

This adds just a touch of variety to the texture, as well as a bit of creamy sweetness to balance the tart lemon curd, along with a couple of fruity bursts from the berry. Simple, but delicious.

Overall

The Turf Club isn’t what anyone might call a destination restaurant or “must-do dining,” due to its non-park-centric location and low-frills atmosphere. But I can say I walked away having truly enjoyed my meal here. Plus, the perks of not making the “must-do” list are that the general atmosphere is typically calm, and it can be relatively easy to snag an Advance Dining Reservation or possibly a walk-up.

Should you find yourself in this corner of the “World” (and access to Saratoga Springs Resort is a bit easier these days thanks to the recent addition of a more direct walkway from Downtown Disney’s Marketplace), The Turf Club offers a few pleasant surprises a little bit off the beaten path.

Have you dined at The Turf Club? Please let us know what you thought with a comment!

Comments

  1. says

    I don’t know if I was even aware that this place existed, but the menu looks delicious, as do the items you chose and photographed. I might be putting this on the top of my list of places to try.

    One thing I’d like to know, although I may be alone in this so maybe others can pipe in; I have a strong opinion on preferring real whipped CREAM as opposed to the oil based products (think Cool Whip® brand topping). I don’t know if others feel as I do, but this is a big difference between my full enjoyment and “there’s something slightly off” from a dessert. If I’m alone in this, then ignore my comment, but if others feel the same, maybe it’s something worth mentioning in the reviews? Just throwing it out there. No criticism here, just a friendly suggestion if the masses agree. As you know, I’m a big follower of your blog, and I’m here at least once a day.

    Thanks again for another great review, and for introducing me to yet another place to add to my list.

  2. says

    I just sent the above comment and decided to check who actually wrote the article (something I usually do first). Go figure, it wasn’t AJ. My comment goes out to both of you though as you two seem to have a great partnership and Wendy contributes plenty to this site.

  3. Bryan Irrera says

    The reason they are called “Saratoga Chips” and not just “potato chips” or “house made kettle chips”: Potato chips were first INVENTED in Saratoga Springs, NY.

  4. Barbara A says

    You just gave away one of our best kept secrets. We’ve been going to the Turf Club for years. The quiet atmosphere is a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of theme park and hotel restaurants.

    Had the strip steak on the last visit and told the server about ten times (no exaggeration) how tender and delicious it was. Also had onion soup and Brie with raspberries (Yum). Couldn’t fit dessert. But now that you’ve identified the mysterious chocolate torte pictured on the Disney site, I feel I must eliminate an appetizer and order this decadent chocolate concoction instead. Thanks for that. And thank you for providing such detailed information on one of my favorite subjects, Disney food. Love the pictures.

  5. Jan says

    We had dinner at the Turf Club just last week. I also got the root beer brined pork chop and thought it was very good, as were the greens (spinach) and sweet potato hash, which I did not find at all bitter – maybe your husband just got an off-tasting potato? I chose this dish because I preferred the accompanying side dishes to the ones offered with either of the beef dishes. However, next time I might ask for the prime rib with the pork chop’s side dishes. (Next time will only happen if we stay at Saratoga Springs again; I would not go out of my way to eat at the Turf Club.)

  6. Carolyn says

    I love this place. When I’m in disney I go at least once if not twice. There is 1 waiter who went out of his way the first time my boyfriend and I went there. (Can’t think of his name right now). But we have gone back and if he is working and even if he is not our waiter he will come over say hi, ask how we are, how the kids are ect. ( I think his name is Max). And that is 1 of the many reasons we return again and again. The food is good too. Love the root beer brined pork chops and lamb. Will be in disney soon and we will be going again.

  7. Kat says

    Well this has peaked my palate curiosity. I am thinking what a nice date night dinner this would make at the World. Stay at our favorite French Quarter, take a relaxing boat ride over to Saratoga, have what is probably a quiet, non-crowded meal outside, boat to Riverside, carriage ride back to French Quarter. Yep – I have a plan. Thanks!

  8. AnnMarie says

    New favorite Disney restaurant! We ate there twice in July during our week stay at Saratoga. Very relaxing, delicious food, excellent service, and reasonably priced! My daughter who is extremely picky said the Caesar salad was divine and asked to go back again!

  9. Stephen Orr says

    Hey guys, i just came home from my stay at saratoga springs. You had the exact same meal as me, the medium rare new york strip, and the chocolate torte and port infused vannila ice cream. Apart from our trully decadent meal at fultons crab house this was my favourite place to eat. Over the course of our 2 week stay we ate there 3 times, and given that we only ‘discovered’ it at the start of our second week speaks volumes. We had had distinctly underwhelming meals at other resort table service joints, which may have dontributed to our reluctance to try the turf club, but when we did, we were delighted. Our server, Amy, was really friendly and attentive.

    I highly reccomend.

  10. Essie says

    I’ve never been to this resort, but I think this will change. It will be fun to see the resort and try what sounds like a wonderful new restaurant. I always visit DTD and it will be very easy to take a walkway over to the SSR. Thanks for a good review and photos.

  11. Lisa says

    Just ate here in April, also had the steak and lobster fondue and it was probably one of my favorite meals that trip. Going back in January, already had an ADR, hope it is still as great!

  12. D says

    We ate here first last February while staying at the resort. After seeing the menu online I was optimistic about the experience, but as I never read about this location online I was not sure why to expect. We were BLOWN AWAY by what we had. In fact we have already returned for dinner while staying off property. A real hidden gem for sure. I look forward to returning again.

  13. Marie says

    The torte looks delicious! Is the torte itself dark chocolate or just the “drizzle”?

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