Why Woodbine Racetrack is one of the GTA’s best-kept brunch secrets
You don’t have to be a hardcore gambler or fascinator devotee to enjoy Woodbine Racetrack on a weekend. Thanks to a revived brunch experience at the Woodbine Club Dining Room, the venue’s most upscale restaurant, the place has become even more appealing, whether you’re bringing the kids for a family excursion or using the day as an excuse to get dressed up with your spouse or besties. Races every half hour ensure there’s never a dull moment, and the mouth-watering brunch buffet sure beats overpaying for eggs at the latest trendy hotspot.
The Woodbine Club Dining Room has been around since the 1950s (it used to be reserved only for members, but recently opened up to the public), and is by far the swankiest spot in which to dine, place bets and take in the races. Cherry-wood panelling and photographs taken by Woodbine’s award-winning track photographer Michael Burns give the space an air of sophistication, while the new-and-improved menu is as fresh as it gets. Everything is made from scratch in-house, including their oh-so-flavourful sauces, and the menu changes based on whatever local ingredients are in season. When we visited, the buffet was serving hearty harvest salads, a selection of cured fish, goat cheese tortellini and grilled zucchini rolls. We loved the potato salad made with Ontario potatoes, fresh herbs and a scallion grain mustard aioli. There were also plenty of classic brunch staples like eggs benedict and fried chicken and waffles. For meat-lovers, the restaurant’s famous Canadian prime rib, which is made from locally raised Ontario beef and aged in-house for at least 28 days, is always on hand.
Though the dining experience at the Woodbine Club could stand alone as a delicious weekend outing, the fact that you can glance out the window and witness world-class horse races takes it to another level. Each table on the fourth-floor restaurant has stellar views of the track, as well as its own television screen, in case you want to see the action up-close. It’s also way quieter than other parts of the grandstand, meaning great conversations are a breeze. During brunch, we obviously recommend sipping the Royal Blush, the official Queen’s Plate cocktail that’s made with Absolut® Vodka, triple sec, strawberry mix, cranberry juice, prosecco and garnished with a maraschino cherry.
Anyone who’s brand-new to horseracing can still have a ball betting on the races. There’s always something exhilarating about watching your pick battle it out to take the win. The beauty about horseracing is that anything can happen.
In between races, there are plenty of other ways to stay entertained. Guests can peruse the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, which is packed with fascinating history on jockeys like John “Red” Pollard, who’s best known for riding the legendary horse Seabiscuit (the movie Seabiscuit was based on his experience). For more casual experiences, Favourites offers a great buffet, and the à la carte Champions Bar and Patio is the perfect place to savour a beer in the thick of the action. Visitors also have the option of enjoying the new casino space, which has slots and table games like Blackjack and Roulette.
Horse lovers will also love the many opportunities to get close to the animals. Before the races, the horses are saddled in the paddock, and paraded in the walking ring to warm up. After they’re done competing, guests can watch them get washed down, and take in a “back stretch tour”, where they can tour the stables and meet the horses. There are over 2,000 horses housed in the property’s barns, and one is even known to pose for selfies with her head on your shoulder.
You can make a reservation at the Woodbine Club Dining Room by clicking here, and discover a super-fun new way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
Woodbine Racetrack, 555 Rexdale Blvd., 416-675-7223, woodbineracetrack.com