If truth be told, as much of a Disney fan I am and for as many trips I have made to the Walt Disney World Resort, I had never been to Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa. Never heard much about it. Didn’t even have an inkling of what it looked like. All I had been acquainted with was the actual Saratoga in upstate New York, a picturesque town built around a famed horse-racing track and European-style spas made popular by the wealth of mineral springs/waters in the area. And in true Disney style and with utmost Disney know-how, Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa looks like a Victorian themed postcard with an emphasis on early horse-racing amid a pampered air of indulgence. The spa is nestled near man-made lakes and the lushness of finely manicured golf greens. There is a feeling of affluence and luxury about the resort and its setting.
The Turf Club Bar & Grill inside the resort is billed a casual dining restaurant although it feels a little more formal than that. The horse racing theme abounds: framed saddles and colorful jockey silks, dark wood tables with stirrup borders, carpets draped with images of thoroughbreds heading to the finish line all adhere perfectly to the name and theme. The leather bound wine list, muted lighting and strains of Vivaldi playing softly in the background all make it seem a little finer than casual.
Our server, Ron, was very personable and amiable. Although it seemed he was still a bit unfamiliar with the menu (he probably had recently begun working at the Turf Club) he was eager and quick to ask a manager or fellow server if we had a question he could not answer. We appreciated his extra effort. And whenever he had to set a table or walk past his guests, he was always ready to make pleasant conversation
Right out of the starting gate, we placed an order for what sounded like a unique appetizer called Buffalo Chicken Dip. And when it was served, we paused for a slight moment, wondering if we had perhaps been brought the wrong item. Upon some digging and prodding, not only did we discover it indeed was the dip we had ordered but that it was worthy of making it into the winner’s circle. The dip is three-layered: the top layer (although it looks like chopped watercress) is crunchy celery, the second is plentiful, creamy chunks of bleu cheese and the third is mildly spicy pulled Buffalo chicken. Served with crisp homemade potato chips, the dip was a delightfully different starter we thoroughly enjoyed. We would have liked to consume a bit more but after a mere few minutes, a basket of warm sourdough rolls with sweet honey butter and our huge entrees were brought out. It seemed a shame that the main courses followed the chicken dip so quickly as we felt somewhat rushed. Despite our subtle, casual comments of “gee, that was fast” upon seeing our entrees being placed on the table, the runner simply said “it doesn’t take long to cook” or something of the sort and left, not really wanting to address the fact it may have been served before we were given a chance to enjoy our appetizer. I felt like I was racing through the meal.
Despite the fact my eyes had been wandering to the Surf and Turf burger when I first viewed the menu, I chose the Prime Rib for my main course, and my partner selected the Shrimp Scampi Pasta. The shrimp scampi pasta was light with a creamy, buttery sauce with a hint of wine and topped with a lovely array of plump and plentiful shrimp. The one drawback of what could have been a 5-star entree was the fact the pasta was a bit undercooked and served more al dente than it should have been. In other words, the pasta was rather hard.
The prime rib was a very generous slice of beef atop a mountain of tender asparagus tips and creamy garlic laced mashed potatoes and drizzled with an impeccable, red wine demi-glace. The potatoes were exquisite, the sauce only adding to their delightful flavor while the fresh asparagus was grilled nicely, again bathed in he same wonderful bearnaise. Disappointed at first that the prime rib was void of a horseradish accompaniment, I was only too happy to forfeit the horseradish in favor of the demi-glace. And while the meat was good and made a hearty meal, it could have been slightly more tender.
Diners began pouring into the restaurant at a steady pace once the clock struck seven, and every table was filled. The noise level seemed a little intense for the size of the room. If I had been celebrating a special occasion, I would have been somewhat disappointed in the unexpected and sudden boisterous atmosphere.
Despite the newly heightened volume of the dining room, we opted to stay and order dessert. Our selection: the seasonal fruit crisp. This night the fruit served was apple. Another winning selection. Warm apples baked into a streusel laced crust and dusted with a sprinkling of cinnamon, the crisp was like a deep dish cobbler. Very delicious and quite satisfying. And although the meals had been rushed, we were able to savor our dessert, happily getting our dining experience back on track.
The Turf Club Bar & Grill is a nice escape to a Disney resort which seems overlooked but deserves the chance to prove it’s a winner. You can bet on it!!
FOOD: Some creative fare worth exploring. It seemed that the unique items were a little superior to more standard offerings.
ATMOSPHERE: Classy and charming. I loved the horse racing theme but found the dining room a bit boisterous as the evening progressed.
SERVICE: While pleasant and friendly, the pace of the meal was a little too hurried. And no one seemed too concerned or offered to take our meals back when we subtly expressed some displeasure that we were served our appetizer, rolls and entrees almost simultaneously. Maybe a little TOO efficient???
TIPS: There is a lovely outside dining area with panoramic views of the golf course and lake. A lovely setting if the weather cooperates. And it may be a bit quieter and relaxed. Take time to explore the lobby and lounge area. Great vintage painting and photos of the real Saratoga Springs. And children of all ages will delight in the framed photos of famous Disney horses from some of our favorite animated films. Adorable. In addition, there is a fabulous bronze statue of a jockey and horse in the winner’s circle right outside the lobby.
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