Guest author Rebecca Dolan returns today with a restaurant review from Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Let’s join her at The Hollywood Brown Derby!
Recalling the golden days of Tinseltown, The Hollywood Brown Derby sits just beyond where Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards converge.
A replica of the once iconic California restaurant, where famous faces of the day met to see and be seen, it exudes ‘30s/’40s style. “Meet me at the Derby” and let your inner star or starlet shine.
The restaurant is located in a Mission-style building complete with tile roof and crawling bougainvillea. The building is fairly understated, but a neon Derby sign on the roof gives it away. A long awning-covered walkway leads the way into the small check in area. It’s in here that guests get their first glimpse of the Derby’s iconic caricatures. Everyone who was anyone was represented on the walls – see how many stars you can spot.
Beyond the hostess desk, guests emerge from the unassuming lobby into the cavernous dining room, which feels like entering into a glamorous Hollywood club. The main floor is flanked on two sides by double rows of booths, the outer two being raised above the rest of the room.
Large art deco-esque chandeliers light the room and rich wood accents the walls. Entrants step first onto one of the overlooks, allowing a full view of their dining companions – famous or otherwise.
The constellation of stars’ caricatures continues onto these walls, from which bronze derby lamps hang over tables.
If you can, try to take a seat in one of the rounded booths – perfect for canoodling with your Hollywood heartthrob or generally enjoying a touch of seclusion.
The Brown Derby’s contemporary American menu isn’t lengthy, but provides a nice amount of variety. Don’t be put off by the level of detail when it comes to its descriptions; the food’s not too hoity toity. (Note: This is a two-credit restaurant on the Disney Dining Plan.)
As this is the birthplace of the Cobb salad, it felt like a must to order the appetizer size as one of our starters. It won’t look like a typical salad, however, since the lettuce and the toppings are all chopped so finely you could, no kidding, eat this salad with a spoon. The kitchen is generous with said toppings; so two people could eat this comfortably.
The lobster bisque was a bit on the salty side, and nothing too exciting. I’ll give it points for being the thickest lobster bisque I’ve ever had. Don’t expect true ravioli to be floating on top, the “ravioli” were more like little dumplings.
The clear winner in the appetizer category was the andouille-crusted prawn, which sat on a bed of greens and grits. This dish stole this Southern gal’s heart, and I would like to lobby the restaurant for an entrée version.
The large shrimp was perfectly cooked, the greens tender, and the grits creamy. There’s only enough here for one, so don’t plan on sharing!
For the next course: the sterling silver pork chop, herb-roasted rack of lamb, and cioppino. The cioppino was the lightest of the three options, featuring flaky white grouper with just a hint of fennel flavor, plump mussels, and shrimp.
A bed of orzo pasta gave the dish some heft, and the whole lot is bathed in a rich (though slightly salty) tomato broth.
Both the pork chop and lamb could have easily been shared by two, or satisfied one large appetite. And, it was the meat that made up the bulk of the plates, rather than the sides – not that those were skimpy.
The hash under the chop was frankly unexciting, but the blue cheese corn pudding beneath the lamb was stellar. As someone who doesn’t care for blue cheese, I didn’t find it to be overpowering. Instead it lent a nice tang to the rich, creamy pudding. Those who tend to shy away from more gamey imported lamb will particularly like the mellow American lamb used in this dish.
Of course we had to try the Brown Derby’s signature grapefruit cake for dessert. Having citrus flavor in a traditional layer cake was unexpected, but it worked. The grapefruit flavor wasn’t too strong, but its slight bitterness was a nice counterpoint to the cake’s sweetness.
I can’t say I was as pleased with the strawberry champagne cheesecake. The cheesecake layer, which sat on a layer of strawberry mousse, was much less dense than traditional cheesecake, and more like a cheesecake mousse. But, the real disappointment was that it oddly had no flavor.
Both were nice light notes to end the meal, though.
I had never been impressed with my visits to the Brown Derby in the past, but this visit changed my mind. There’s a lot to be said about food that’s gourmet and well-presented but not fussy, and these dishes earned high marks for both preparation and flavor.
Plus, you’d probably be hard pressed to find a restaurant with a similar ambiance. The Brown Derby is an ideal dining spot for those who aren’t quite comfortable in Disney’s fancier restaurants, but want to have an experience that’s a step up from typical table service.
What are your favorite dishes at The Hollywood Brown Derby? Do you recommend this restaurant to your friends? Let us know in the comments below!