In bar-slash arcades and the like, food and drink are usually the focus of the experience: the cheap vodka tonics in a bowling alley, for example, or the Korean sticky ribs at Dave & Buster’s. Neither are the main attractions, but both still have their own thrills.
Is there such a thing at Topgolf, I asked myself? For those who don’t know, Topgolf is a nationwide chain where you pay to hit golf balls in a huge driving range. The first location on Long Island opened this summer. In each of the 108 golf bays – spread over three floors, which Topgolf attracts attention from on the residential street LIE – you get a lot of beer, cocktails, flatbread, wings and burgers delivered to your table. Inside, away from the main action, is a reverberant dining room and bar that have little ambience but where people can hang out whether they’re there to play.
I had read about Topgolf’s blood-orange bourbon mules, wok-charred edamame and deviled egg samplers (in Las Vegas and California at least), and injectable donut holes (in almost all of their 60+ locations). In 2018, USA Today raved about crispy sea bass slides and a giant charcuterie-style pretzel board with soppressata, porchetta, and cheese and fruit. For real.
That was before COVID, and those unprecedented times have resulted in most chains removing everything that is vaguely “cook-driven”. At Topgolf, the emphasis is on American bar food and sweet, pre-cooked cocktails, including a Mai Tai, which is so sugary sweet that people in the bar stayed at Heineken. Avid drinkers can opt for huge $ 18 cocktails for two called golf bags; one is a pineapple rum punch, the other combines vodka, gin, blackberries and chambord. Ouch.
As soon as you enter the building you can tell what you are getting into when it comes to food, the facade is so large and yet antiseptic, like an attempt at suburban futurism. It’s hard to predict what works and what doesn’t: wings, which were supposed to be a staple, arrived lukewarm and tough. It is unlikely that cheesy macaroni bites – similar to arancini but filled with sticky mac-and-cheese – will trigger a delight deep in the amygdala.
Gluten-free eaters are adorned with the cauliflower crust pizza called “farmhouse flatbread” laden with vegetables; It’s overly doused with ricotta cheese (in addition to the 1,170 calories) but otherwise probably one of the finest and bougie-esque things to eat here.
Where Topgolf doesn’t disappoint is the burger. If you don’t specify, it’s medium cooked, yet that mix of brisket and chucks on a toasted brioche bun and draped with melted white American cheese has that addictive, transcendent meatiness that forces you to end the damn thing, and fast. French fries are filler, probably not worth the calories. Injectable donut holes, on the other hand … rolled in cinnamon sugar and delivered in a bucket with “splash” chocolate sauce, etc. – you decide.
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Topgolf opens daily at 10 a.m. at 5231 Express Dr. North in Holtsville, 631-977-7645, topgolf.com/us/holtsville.
Corin Hirsch is from Long Island and reports on food, drinks and restaurants for Newsday, which she joined in March 2017.