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Disney’s Hollywood Brown Derby

Note: See answers to last week’s photo quiz at the bottom of this post!

One of my new favorite restaurants on Walt Disney World property is one I’d never set foot in during all my trips to Disney World: the Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

I’d always looked at the menu and figured, “Too expensive. Too hoity-toity,” and never gave it a second thought. But since starting the Food Blog — and embarking on an adventure of eating in every Disney restaurant I could — I was excited to finally have a reason to try this place out. After all, I’ve always heard glowing reviews. And, let me tell you, they’re deserved.

Atmosphere
Disney’s Hollywood Brown Derby is a replica of the famous Vine Street Brown Derby, originally built in 1928 and home to dozens of famous Hollywood rumors and stories, including Clark Gable’s proposal to Carole Lombard in booth #5 and Lucille Ball’s dinner roll food fight. Disney World’s Brown Derby is an officially licensed Brown Derby Restaurant, and is the fifth Brown Derby Restaurant to be built.

Brown Derby History -- Click Image for Larger View

The likeness to the original restaurant is uncanny — the covered entryway, signage, dining room, and even decor are identical to the namesake. And those well-known caricatures grace the walls here just as they do there. (The black and white images are copies, but the gold-framed ones are original!) Even down to the tiny brown derby lampshades, the imagineers have outfitted this place with an eye to detail. (Be sure to click the images to see larger versions!)

Photo of Original Brown Derby

Brown Derby Entryway

Brown Derby Lamp and Caricatures

Authentic Caricatures

Original Brown Derby Lampshade

Head out to the lobby to see incredible images from the original restaurant…and on your way to the restroom, don’t miss the sign on the big double doors leading to the theater. You really are in Hollywood!

Brown Derby Lobby

Image of Original Brown Derby Restaurant

On our visit, we were seated in one of the cozy corner booths, which are upholstered in deep maroon leather and lit by small stained-glass-and-iron-shaded lamps. We could see the whole restaurant from where we were sitting, and though I’ve always loved how intricate Disney can get in its detail, the history of this place — and the knowledge that it was licensed to be a true Brown Derby restaurant — made it a pretty special “first visit” for me.

Brown Derby Table

Brown Derby Dining Room

Eats
But of course, while I was completely absorbed in the decor and the history of this place, we had to decide what to order! Luckily, we had some bread to much on prior to the big decision…

Brown Derby Bread

You know I’m a soup-lover, so I had to order the soup of the day — Asparagus Soup with a Lump Blue Crab crostini and a drizzle of sherry Gastrique — and we also ordered the famous Cremini Mushroom Chevre Tortelloni with tomato-fennel sauce and shaved parmigiano-reggiano.

I ordered the soup sans the crostini and the flavor suffered a bit. The creaminess and rich taste of the soup was good, but it did need some extra flavors — I learned my lesson.

Asapragus Soup sans Crostini and Crab

But the Tortelloni was phenomenal! We practically licked the plate when we’d finished and easily could have dined on that alone for our meal. The mushroom and chevre flavors blended perfectly with the tomato sauce, and the added curls of cheese gave the perfect sharp, salty flavor to balance the sweet tomato.

Mushroom and Chevre Tortelloni

Inside of Tortelloni

Our next course was Sterling Silver Pork Tenderloin with Black Diamond Cheddar herb spaetzel, swiss chard, sweet onion marmalade, and cider jus; along with the Char-grilled Filet of Beef with herb-roasted fingerling potatoes, Cremini mushrooms, Cippolini onions, and Cabernet wine syrup.

The pork was, as I usually find in fine Disney restaurants, outstanding. I could have eaten that dish for days at a time and never gotten tired of it. The meat was cooked perfectly (I ordered it medium rare), and the taste as coupled with the Black Diamond Chedder herb spaetzel (!!!!!!!) was out of this world. I’ve noticed that the menu has changed to exclude the Cheddar herb spaetzel at this time (now serving a bacon and potato hash), which is quite unfortunate, indeed.

Pork Tenderloin Entree

The Filet of Beef was our second favorite during this particular meal, but it was still delicious. The wine syrup was a bit overwhelming in this dish.

Filet of Beef Entree

Finally, it was time for dessert (though I was very sad to see my pork dish dwindle down to nothingness…). We, of course, had to sample the famous Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake, and for our second dessert, we chose the Banana White Chocolate Toffee Tower on cocoa-almond cookie and bananas “foster.”

Surprisingly, we weren’t thrilled with either dessert, but our favorite of the two was probably the Grapefruit Cake. It took some “getting used to,” but the cream cheese frosting eventually won us over!

Grapefruit Cake

Banana Toffee Tower

Overall
The restaurant is gorgeous, the service was outstanding, and the food was to die for. I’m ashamed that it took me so long to finally venture into this restaurant, but take a lesson from me — book your table ASAP. ;-)

This is probably one of my favorite Disney Theme Park restaurants (even compared to Epcot!), hands down. The Brown Derby won itself another convert, and I’m equal parts thrilled and terrified that I’ve found yet another Disney signature dining restaurant where I can gladly empty my pockets and fill my stomach.

What do you think? Have you dined at the Hollywood Brown Derby? Where does it stand in your “top Disney restaurants” list? Let me know in the comments below…

____________________________________________________________________
Answers to last week’s Food Photo Quiz:

Hollywood Scoops, Disney's Hollywood Studios

El Pirata y El Perico, Magic Kingdom

Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge

50's Prime Time Cafe, Disney's Hollywood Studios

Liberty Tree Tavern, Magic Kingdom

Le Cellier Steak House, Epcot

Tusker House, Animal Kingdom

Crystal Palace, Magic Kingdom

Nine Dragons, Epcot

Whispering Canyon Cafe, Wilderness Lodge

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

23 Comments

  1. Holly says:

    We, like you, had never set foot in the Brown Derby on any of our many prior visits to the World. We finaly decided to try in during our trip last fall, and we loved it! It is one of the few restaurants in the parks where you can truly relax, take a break and forget you are in the chaos of an amusement park for a little while. My favorite was the grapefruit cake! You are right – it is definitely a unique taste, but refreshing and delicious!

  2. Anna says:

    Wow, Todd and I were just debating as to whether or not we should make our last Disney restaurant reservation (we’re going in June) at Brown Derby. I’ve been to Disney a million times and have never booked a dinner at Disney Studios. Not sure why that is, but based on you review it sounds like Brown Derby is exactly where we should go. I’m going to try to make a reservation today.

  3. The Brown Derby is so lavishly decorated and given the fact that the wait staff wear tuxedos, I always feel a bit out of place being there in shorts and tshirts. LOL Brown Derby is a great restaurant to have a meal at and it’s also a great option for last minute ADRs at DHS.

  4. Nancy says:

    Yes we have eaten here…once….and it was a memorable and delicious experience! I would definitely agree with you that it is one of our favorites. The only thing that is keeping us from eating here more often is the 2 Table Service credits, and the fact that we don’t often go to Hollywood Studios in the evening.

    So glad you talked about the decor because that was one of the things that completely intrigued me about this restaurant, was the design details and “history”. It is a gem and worth taking the time…and money…to visit at least once!

  5. Michele says:

    AJ –

    This post is so timely! I booked an ADR here for my trip in October. I could not fit in Dining with an Imagineer :(, so I decided to do Fantasmic package here.

    I know I will not be disappointed! Thank you.

  6. AJ says:

    Holly — Thanks for your review! We really did enjoy this restaurant — it was a nice little “vacation from our vacation!”

    Anna — You’ll love it! I can’t wait to hear all about your visit.

    Matt — Agreed! I just had to remind myself that I was in a theme park! Plus, I was there for lunch, so I felt like I was at least a little bit justified in my shorts and tshirt!

    Nancy — You should head over for lunch! The menu’s the same, and you might find the timing more to your liking!

    Michele — We just fell in love with this place. I’m so sad it took me so long to visit!

  7. Gray says:

    I have to agree with you–BD is one of the best theme park restaurants out there and well worth the price. Those are great food photos, btw.

  8. April says:

    We went on our last vaction, Dec 2008. We were talking to a hostess at Tusker House who asked where else we were eating & suggest Brown Derby for the next day @ HS. She called & got us a reservation for lunch. It was amazing! I had the filet of beef & they broght me a little chocolate desert as I was celebrating my birthday! It is definatly a retrurn to resturaunt.

  9. My MIL and FIL and Husband and I ate here two Disney trips ago – what a great spot! I love the atmosphere and the food is obviously amazing. I’ve had the salad and something else that I’m not remembering now. Husband had the beef and it was to DIE for. It’s become a quick favorite of ours.

  10. Susan says:

    We love the Derby too! Here’s a tip. If you are lucky enough to be in the Studios on a rainy day, head over to the Derby around lunchtime. Chances are you will have a great meal and also be entertained by the Citizens of Hollywood. During our last meal, we were joined by Tootsie DuJour and Validmir Pooey. It was a meal my kids will never forget.

  11. Christina says:

    I’ve been meaning to try this and their signature Cobb Salad! I’m hoping we can make a trip possible in Jan. for my b-day and this would be on my must-do list.

  12. I agree that HBD is one of the best theme park restaurants, along with my other favorites from each park: Liberty Tree, Le Cellier and Yak & Yeti.

    Last year I had the salmon and it was awesome. I also had the banana torte thingie and wasn’t too impressed. This year I think I will opt for the rack of lamb or the grouper, and the creme brulee or the caramel parfait, if those are all still on the menu.

  13. Alicia says:

    I’ve only dined at the Brown Derby once, years ago, and unfortunately I had a very bad experience. For whatever reason, the service was awful. Our waiter made a major mistake with almost every course – bringing out only a few drinks and forgetting others, for example. We used the Disney dining plan, which seemed to confuse him even more. By the time the meal had ended, we were just dying to get out of there. I don’t even remember much of the food!

    My father is one for holding a grudge, and we haven’t been back. This August, though, it sounds like we’re going to give it another try. I’ve read nothing but wonderful reviews, and I believe my experience must have been a fluke. I’m actually really looking forward to that grapefruit cake. =)

  14. AJ says:

    Gray — Thanks for the kudos on the photos. So hard to get good ones in that dark restaurant.

    April — What a lucky suggestion (I also love Tusker House — did you like it?)

    Christina — It would be a great birthday restaurant! We’ve heard great things about the Cobb Salad, of course…

    SWG — Ooh, would love to try the rack of lamb! And we’ll definitely hit different desserts next time — or just go next door for a cupcake ;-)

    Alicia — I’d LOVE to hear how your experience turns out in August. One bad experience can ruin a Disney restaurant for me, so I’m glad to hear you guys are trying it again.

  15. AJ says:

    Susan — That’s a fantastic tip!! I never knew that!

    Jessica — Thanks for your review! Agreed that the food is just delicious!

  16. Shayne says:

    Like you, we had visited Disney World many times without eating at Brown Derby. We made ADRs on a couple of recent trips, but always ended up having to cancel for one reason or another.

    This past January, we finally made it there. I had a fish dish that made me want to lick my plate after I inhaled the delicious meal. I guess I had reasonably low expectations because I hadn’t heard much about this restaurant and DHS is not usually my first choice of parks to dine in (sorry, Matt!), but we were totally blown away by the quality of our meal at Brown Derby. We’ll definitely be back!

  17. chris says:

    You’ve sold me on this place. I’m going to book a fantasmic dinner package in December and I figured I’d just make an ADR for something cheap at DHS since I don’t know much about the food there, but now I have to go to the BD. Don’t know about that grapefruit cake, though.

    Can’t wait!

  18. Elisabeth says:

    We loved the Brown Derby when we went last year. My dining partner had the Filet as well, but asked for the sauce on the side and it went completely untouched. I remember getting the potato-crusted crab cake and though it was amazing. I got the grouper with citrus sauce too and I swear that was the very best thing I ate my entrie trip. So many people say it isn’t worth the price, but the food is so good, it is worth the extra money. We will be going back…not this next trip, but the one after that when it is nothing but food.

    The atmosphere was so unbelievably cozy and warm and you didn’t even realize you were in the middle of a theme park. I kept commenting during dinner that I wished the original was still around so I could go see it and just feel the history of the building and who must have been there…amazing amazing place. I can’t say enough good things about it really.

  19. Pat says:

    We ate there about a year ago on one of our trips. We tried the famous cobb salad and had a couple of other very good entrees. We would go there again.

  20. Keith C (TheFugitiveGuy) says:

    I went to the Brown Derby for the first time on my last trip. My friend highly recommended the Cobb Salad, which is what I ended up getting as the main course (for lunch). I’ve had Cobb Salads before at other places, but nothing quite like this. I’m familiar with the idea that it should contain lots of ingredients, but the texture of the lettuce took some getting used to. It was basically minced lettuce, which meant that it didn’t have much texture left at all (it crossed my mind that this is what pre-chewed lettuce would feel like). In the end, I enjoyed the flavor of it, but it was pretty unusual texture.

    For desert, I had the grapefruit cake, which I liked quite a bit. It wasn’t overwhelming, more of a subtle dessert, but it was quietly refreshing on that warm day.

    I agree about the decor, the theming and level of detail were amazing. Even though it was pretty empty, and we were there for an early lunch, I did feel a bit under-dressed in shorts. Luckily, everyone else in the restaurant was dressed the same way :)

  21. So excited to eat here – just booked my reservation…the funny thing is I’ll be flying in from Hollywood!

  22. We went last night! As someone who lives in Hollywood, I’ve definitely had better food for cheaper, but it was still fun:

    http://theactorsdiet.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/the-brown-derby-2/

  23. Gene says:

    We only dined at the Brown Derby once in Dec.2012 and unfortunately we had a bad experience. For whatever reason, the service was poor. Our waitress spent more time talking and kidding around with other employees. The food was warm, not hot. She forgot some items we had ordered.

    The Flying Fish Cafe at the Boardwalk was much better and the service for great there.

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