At bar-slash-arcades and the like, food and drink is usually tangential to the experience: The cheap vodka tonics in a bowling alley, for instance, or the Korean-style sticky ribs at Dave & Buster’s. Neither are primary draws, but both still carry their own thrill.
Is there anything like that at Topgolf, I wondered? For those not familiar, Topgolf is a nationwide chain where you pay to hit golf balls into a vast driving range. The first Long Island location opened this summer. In each of the 108 golfing bays — spread over three floors, which make Topgolf striking from the LIE service road — you can get plenty of beer, cocktails, flatbreads, wings and burgers delivered to your table. Inside, away from the main action, is an echoey dining room and bar that are low on ambience but where people can hang regardless of whether they're there to play.
I’d read about Topgolf’s blood-orange bourbon mules, wok-charred edamame and deviled egg samplers (at least in Las Vegas and California) and injectable doughnut holes (in just about all of their 60-plus locations). In 2018, USA Today gushed about crispy sea bass sliders and a charcuterie-style giant pretzel board with soppressata, porchetta and cheese and fruit. For real.
That was pre-COVID, and these unprecedented times have meant that most chains have stripped away anything vaguely "chef-driven." At Topgolf, the focus is on basic American bar food and sweet, pre-batched cocktails, including a mai tai so saccharine it made sense why people down the bar were sticking to Heineken. Committed drinkers can opt for giant, $18 cocktails-for-two called Golf Bags; one is a pineapple rum punch, the other combines vodka, gin, blackberries and Chambord. Ouch.
You can sort of tell what you're in for, food-wise, before you walk into the building, so grand yet antiseptic is the facade, like an attempt at suburban futurism. There is little predictability to what works and what doesn’t: Wings, which should be a staple, arrived lukewarm and chewy. Improbably, it’s cheesy macaroni bites — sort of like arancini but filled with goey mac-and-cheese — hit some joy trigger deep in the amygdala.
Gluten-free eaters are graced by the cauliflower-crust pizza, called a "farmhouse flatbread," loaded with veggies; it is overly glopped with ricotta cheese (adding to the 1,170 calorie count) but otherwise probably one of the finest and bougie-est things to eat here.
Where Topgolf does not disappoint is the burger. If you don’t specify, it will be cooked medium, and yet this blend of brisket and chuck, on a toasted brioche bun and draped with melted white American cheese, has that addictive, transcendent beefiness that compels you to finish the darned thing off, and quickly. Fries are filler, probably not worth the calories. Injectable doughnut holes, on the contrary…rolled in cinnamon sugar and delivered in a bucket with "syringes" of chocolate sauce, et al — it’s for you to decide.
Topgolf opens daily at 10 a.m. at 5231 Express Dr. North in Holtsville, 631-977-7645, topgolf.com/us/holtsville.