Review: The Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge

Cheers from The Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge!

The Brown Derby Lounge sits just outside The Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Its reputation stems from that of the original Brown Derby Restaurant in the City of Lights — a hot spot of the 1930s and 40s where stars of the Golden Age of film came to “see and be seen.” The outdoor lounge (which was added to the Disney World location in 2013) offers a spot for walk-ups without Advance Dining Reservations to enjoy a taste along with a bit of the ambience of the signature restaurant.

The Lounge serves food along with cocktails and bar service. And with some new items added to the menu this summer, we thought it was a good time to travel back to Hollywood’s heyday with a visit to the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge.

Atmosphere

For a newer location, The Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge blends so seamlessly within its surroundings that its hard to remember that it hasn’t been here all along. And, to be fair, the patio and tables HAVE been here all along, but they weren’t functioning as a lounge at the time.

Below is a shot from its opening day in October 2013.

Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge

Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge

Not much has changed in the past almost-two years, except for

some table switch-outs with some lower seating (and, of course, the bar moves around). But it still serves as a simple and natural extension to the restaurant inside. The Spanish Mission-style building is the backdrop for lots of tables and chairs, and the crimson umbrellas provide pops of color along with lots of welcome shade.

While you won’t spy any of the signature caricatures of movie stars that line the indoor walls (it’s worth stepping inside the main doors to see them in the check-in area for indoor dining), you can still get a feel for the more refined atmosphere of the Derby while taking in the theme park action happening outside.

Passersby

Passersby

It’s can be a bit of a tight squeeze with the tables here. And depending on the time of day there can be a wait for a seat, so if it’s a busy day at the park it’s best to try to visit during off-peak meal times. (Typically, the lounge opens around noon and closes a half hour before park close).

If, perchance, you happen upon a crowded time and don’t care to wait for a seat, the full-service bar also prepares drinks that you can take with you on your park stroll, and it’s often a good spot to find specialty event beverages like the Star Wars Weekends glow drinks or the current Frozen Summer Fun specialties.

Bar

Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge Bar

Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge Bar

Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge Bar

For the food, though, you definitely need a table. So let’s grab one and get ready to drink and dine at the Derby!

Eats

It’s tapas, wine, and cocktails here at the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge…

Brown Derby Lounge sign

Brown Derby Lounge sign

One of the great things about the outdoor Lounge is that you can enjoy some of the famous Brown Derby dishes — such as the appetizer-sized portion of The Famous Hollywood Brown Derby Cobb Salad — without stepping inside to have a full meal.

The Famous Hollywood Brown Derby Cobb Salad

The Famous Hollywood Brown Derby Cobb Salad

Beverage favorites such as the Citizens Take Flight Maragarita Flight are still available out here, too.

Brown Derby Citizens Take Flight Margarita Flight

Brown Derby Citizens Take Flight Margarita Flight

But on our most recent visit we were checking out the new additions to the menu!

Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge menu

Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge menu

Let’s start with a bit of liquid refreshment… the new Champagne Cocktail features Fairy Tale by Iron Horse Sparkling Wine (exclusive to Disney parks and resorts!), St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and Angostura Bitters.

Champagne Cocktail

Champagne Cocktail

The Fairy Horse is definitely on the dry side with a sharp flavor, and the concoction itself is strong. If you prefer sweeter tastes then this isn’t the bubbly beverage for you, but I think it’s a solid choice to match the elegant Hollywood atmosphere.

The Summer Sangria is white wine, gin, peach schnapps, white cranberry juice and apple juice topped off with fresh fruit.

Summer Sangria

Summer Sangria

I’m accustomed to the White Sangria from the standard Disney Bar and Lounge menu, which I really enjoy but find to be fairly subtle. I think the surprising strength of the Derby’s Summer Sangria must come from the gin. It is a mix of bitter and sweet flavors and a refreshing choice for the summer.

Now, if you’ve ever visited the Brown Derby, you may already be familiar with its star dessert, Grapefruit Cake (which, along with the Cobb Salad, is an original 40s Brown Derby dish).

Grapefruit Cake at Hollywood Brown Derby

Grapefruit Cake at Hollywood Brown Derby

Well, now you can enjoy it in a sippable fashion thanks to the new Grapefruit Cake Martini! This mix of ruby red grapefruit vodka and vanilla vodka come together with a bit of cream to mimic the tart-and-sweet combo of the dessert. It’s all finished with a vanilla wafer rim as part of the “cake.”

Grapefruit Cake Martini

Grapefruit Cake Martini

Is it a drink? Is it dessert? YOU get to decide! It’s definitely a fun twist, and if you’re a fan of the flavors of the dessert you should give it a go.

Bloody Marys have made quite a splash at the Animal Kingdom’s Dawa Bar, and the Derby Lounge now has a Bloody Mary of its own to share. The Absolut Peppar Vodka (spelled with an “a” in the second syllable, in case you care to find it at home) delivers the heat, complementing the pepper in the Bloody Mary mix, and we found this one to be nice and thick and not too watery.

Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary

I’m not really a Bloody Mary drinker, but my friend especially enjoyed the garnish of green olives, onion, pickled green beans, celery, and juicy homemade pickles.

Garnish

Garnish

Clearly, it’s nice to balance out the beverages with a few eats ;), and again we went exclusively with new menu items. First up was the Corn Bisque with corn and lobster fritters. The finishing touch is a chili oil to add a little kick.

Corn Bisque

Corn Bisque

Here’s the weird thing with this one: both components of this dish are enjoyable… individually. The bisque is creamy and decadent, and the flavors of the corn and lobster fritters were good, too (seeing as you really can’t argue with deep fried lobster). But I think I would enjoy each of these better separately instead of together.

Fritter Close Up!

Fritter Close Up!

I love a crispy fritter, which wasn’t so much the case here — what with being tucked inside a soup, and all ;). It’s still a fun take on a seafood offering, but I was more impressed with the other tapas we tried.

The Crispy Bites offer an assortment of dippable fried goodness complete with sauces.

Crispy Bites and accompanying sauces

Crispy Bites and accompanying sauces

The pairings of bites with specific sauces are suggested on the menu: the Parmesan-Goat Cheese Risotto Sticks go with the peach-habanero chili sauce, while the Brie Cheese Sticks pair with the Sweet Onion and Orange Jam. Finally, the Blue-Mushroom Arancini (rice balls) are given a Fig and Balsamic dip.

Crispy Bites and accompanying sauces

Crispy Bites and accompanying sauces

Frankly, I enjoyed mixing and matching them all (although the suggested pairings did taste the best). The parmesan, goat cheese and risotto sticks are certainly the “cheesiest” item in the bunch while the brie sticks are very light and are more of a brie-flavored stick rather than filled with a heavy cheese (to avoid a meltdown, I assume). The mushroom rice balls have a very bold and full flavor thanks to the bleu cheese dressing inside.

Crispy Bites ready for dipping

Crispy Bites ready for dipping

Overall, the flavors are pretty great, but I would’ve been happier with a larger portion for the $14.00. It’s a nice and easy one to share around the table, though! And note that at least one of the sauces is changed out on the menu regularly, so your mileage may vary.

Finally, the new Shrimp and Chorizo Bruschetta came highly recommend by our server. This take on bruschetta consists of grilled shrimp marinated in Bloody Mary, chorizo (mildly spicy pork and beef sausage), tomatoes, pickled onions, and garlic butter on ciabatta bread. The yellow tomatoes really bring out the Bloody Mary flavoring on the shrimp.

Shrimp and Chorizo Bruschetta

Shrimp and Chorizo Bruschetta

The mix of strong flavors actually complement one another quite well! The ciabatta bread has a crunchy crust and softer center, which held up the ingredients well without getting soggy.

Shrimp and Chorizo Bruschetta

Shrimp and Chorizo Bruschetta

Definitely some unique twists on your standard pub grub, wouldn’t you say?

Overall

I really enjoy the Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant as a signature dining experience. I think the setting is top-notch (especially as a fan of the classic film era), and it can be a great choice for a special occasion. But — let’s face it — it’s a signature restaurant, so it’s a pretty penny to dine there (and requires two Table Service credits on the Disney Dining Plan). I think the Lounge is a fantastic option to sample some of the cuisine and unique atmosphere if you are on the fence about a full meal at the Brown Derby.

True; the Lounge is still a splurge as far as bar eats go, but the items are quality, and the prices of the beverages are comparable to cocktails anywhere at Disney World. So if you fancy a more upscale bar experience within a park setting, the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge might be just the ticket for your visit.

Have you dined at the Brown Derby Lounge? What new menu item would you like to try? Let us know in the comments below!

Comments

  1. says

    We’ve loved the Brown Derby lounge since it opened in 2013. It’s so nice to have the option to get a Cobb salad without needing an ADR, and we love the outdoor atmosphere and people watching.
    We had the shrimp and chorizo bruschetta a few weeks ago and, while yummy, we didn’t think it justified the price ($14?16?). A bit too steep for us.
    The Bloody Mary was yummy though. I too loved the garnishes. Still prefer the Dawa Bar versions, but this is a good option to have in DHS.

  2. V No Privacy says

    The bruschetta looks great but difficult to eat as a whole. Was it more of a fork and knife situation?

  3. Tricia says

    This may seem like a dumb question because I understand this is a lounge, but some of that food looks so good, I might want to go here for lunch one day, but I don’t drink. Do they have any non-alcoholic options?

  4. Karen says

    We ate in the resturant last summer during the Frozen Celebration. We were seated near an open door right by the lounge. The music was so loud that you could feel it beat against your chest. It ruined the meal for us. We complained to the manager and just got lip service. Be prepared for a very loud meal. Not my idea of calm and relaxing.

  5. mirandamidas says

    @Tricia both the lounge and the restaurant offer some lovely non-alcoholic cocktails. I have visited on several occasions when I wasn’t drinking alcohol and had at least three different cocktails from the non-alcoholic offerings that I very much enjoyed. I would say the Brown Derby Lounge has a better than average range of alcohol free offerings. That said, they weren’t cheap, but as this article said, it is a premium restaurant. We have really enjoyed all our visits here an will definitely be returning. Am sure that my Grapefruit Cake-loving husband will want to try that martini!

  6. Mamaleficent says

    We ate at the Lounge when we found ourselves hungry and ADR-less on a visit to HS this Spring. I think this review is absolutely spot-on. It’s a fun place for better-than-average drinks and bar food, but slightly overpriced for the portion sizes. In fact, this could be said about many of the newer eating spots at WDW. A trend?

    Two other notes:
    * When we were there, not every table had an umbrella, which I found shocking for April in FL. Definitely don’t agree to one without!

    * We found service rather slow. It was a busy time, so it was understandable, but I was concerned that we would miss our TS FastPass window. I’m glad I mentioned it because they came to the rescue, supplying a special pass we could use whenever we were ready to ride. Kudos for that!

  7. Frank says

    Last time there, the Lounge opened 30 minutes AFTER the restaurant???
    I didn’t understand that one. Has it changed.
    Frank

  8. Tricia says

    Has anyone tried just ordering the lobster fritters without the soup? I’d love to try them but I will already be having corn soup at La Hacienda for dinner the day I will be able to visit here.

  9. Danielle says

    Does the Lounge have a kids menu? I’d love to stop for lunch, by my kids wouldn’t eat anything from the small plates.

  10. DFB Sarah says

    Danielle, that’s a great question! We expect kids can order from the restaurant’s Kids’ Menu.

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