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!
And so with that, I say… “Riders up!” Let’s dig in!
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.
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.
Of course, you will find a few nods to the equestrian theme throughout the restaurant.
Covered, outdoor seating is available, offering views of the Lake Buena Vista Golf Course.
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.
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.
While we perused the menu, a batch of warm, fresh dinner rolls was delivered to our table, along with a simple salted butter.
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.
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.
It’s pulled chicken, buffalo sauce, and blue cheese, topped with shredded celery and served with 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.
“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!
My entrée of choice was the Grilled New York Strip Steak, which is served with asparagus, mashed potatoes, and Lobster Fondue. (?!???!?! Lobster Fondue??)
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.
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.
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.
While it’s a little messy for a photo, you can check out the lobster chunks in this picture.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And this is what we received.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!