Though it conjures up images of a more Martini-soaked era, dinner at the club just isn’t the crusty, plaid-jacketed affair of old. Gone (for the most part) are the rubbery chicken and mashed potato dinners or simple hot dog stands, replaced by legitimate kitchens and casual dining rooms open to the general public.
With spectacular views of the greens and outdoor patios, its a cool summertime retreat that offers up everything from simple burgers to haute Michelin-dining experiences — whether or not you actually play golf or not. Here are a few of our favorite club noshes…
Spectacular view at a great price: Charlie’s at the Windsor Golf Club
Way beyond hot dogs and beers, this club restaurant has a wildly ambitious menu ranging from seared tuna won tons, gorgonzola truffle fries, Chinese chicken salad, pizza and pasta to wild boar, hangar steaks and chicken Paillard. There’s clearly an eager kitchen at work here. And sometimes the mashup of ingredients can get a bit overeager (pulled wild boar with Crescenza cheese, sour cream, guacamole, coleslaw and tomatoes). Truth is even Gordon Ramsay would have a hard time pulling off this many disparate dishes and ingredients. But with limited dining options in the immediate vicinity, appealing to a large group of hungry golfers (and nearby Medtronic, winery and airport staff) is rarely a bad thing. Good bets include the tuna won tons, crab cake salad, steaks and burgers. Delightful views overlook the pond and greens, making for a relaxing afternoon respite. Great deal: The restaurant offers an Early Bird special Monday through Thursday. Choose an appetizer, soup or salad and entree for $18 per person from 5 to 6:30pm. 1340 19th Hole Dr., Windsor, (707) 838-7888.
Oakmont Golf Club Bar and Grille: At this chummy apre-golf hangout, fuel-up breakfasts and burgers get top votes along with weekday “afternoon delight” $2.95 appetizer specials from 2:30 to 5pm. Breakfast daily and lunch daily from 7am to 5pm; Sunday breakfast buffet from 10am to 1pm, $11.95. 7025 Oakmont Drive, Santa Rosa, (707) 539-0415.
Legends at Bennett Valley Golf Course: One of the area’s favorite courses (and most affordable) was recently overhauled to include a new clubhouse sports bar and grill. The menu is straight-up dude food, heavily weighted toward half-pound burgers, fries, quesadillas and pizza, along with all manners game-watchin’, post-play libations. The outdoor patio is the spot to be on Thursday nights from Memorial to Labor day, when the bbq gets fired up, along with live music. 3328 Yulupa Ave, Santa Rosa, 523.4111.
Links at Bodega Harbor, Bluewater Bistro: At the Sonoma Coast, you get the double breath-taker of a view, both of the greens and the ocean. Recently renovated, the Bluewater Bistro at the Links at Bodega Harbor has front row seats to some of the best views around from their dining room. Open for lunch daily and dinner Thursday through Saturday, fare is simple and straightforward — sandwiches and burgers for lunch; fish & chips, steak, pasta and pizzas for dinner. 21301 Heron Dr. Bodega Bay, 1-866-90-LINKS.
Haute Golf Club Cuisine: If you’re on the company dime, or just feeling like a splurge, these country club/resort restaurants are destinations of their own with top-ranked chefs…
Meadowood Napa Valley: The darling of critics (and two Michelin stars), Chef Christopher Kostow is giving Thomas Keller a run for his money. The pricey tasting menu (upwards of $200 per person), is a once-in-a lifetime experience through the mind of one of the most promising young chefs in the US. 900 Meadowood Lane, St Helena, 963-3646.
Also of note in Napa is the Silverado Country Club and Resort, which has recently undergone major renovations. Favorite local chef, Peter Pahk oversees both The Royal Oak, a seafood and steakhouse, and The Grill at Silverado, a more casual California-cuisine dining experience. 1600 Atlas Peak Road, Napa, 257-0200.