I had the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan on a recent visit, so I was hitting up all the 2-credits I could find!! And today, we’re heading back to that bastion of Old Hollywood Glamor, The Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Have you ever dined here? The Hollywood Brown Derby is notable for a few reasons. First, it’s the only signature dining experience that you can enjoy within Disney’s Hollywood Studios (although that’s likely to change with the opening of Galaxy’s Edge, the Star Wars-themed land coming to the park in 2019).
And fans of the restaurant’s signature dishes, like the original Hollywood Brown Derby Cobb Salad, are always quick to advocate for this spot.
My experiences here have been hit or miss, but I’ve enjoyed the addition of The Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge in recent years.
But since it had been a while since I’d been to the Derby, I decided to make it a priority on my most recent Disney World visit to make an advance dining reservation to see the latest. Here we go!
The Hollywood Brown Derby is located on Hollywood Boulevard, and anchors one end of the street that channels the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
The original Brown Derby was actually a chain of restaurants, but the one that you see here is a replica of the location at 1628 North Vine Street. This location was closest to the studios, and became a bit of a Hollywood icon itself.
The restaurant was legendary for lunches between the famous and the powerful. Want to see a little more? Then check out the episode of “I Love Lucy” where our favorite redhead lunches between Eve Arden on one side and William Holden on the other. (Hilarity and disaster, of course, ensue.)
Step through the doorway and you start to see more of the Spanish Mission style the building is known for. There’s a definite sense of antiquity here, stretching far beyond the restaurant’s actual age.
In addition to the famous caricatures that line the walls beginning in the lobby (the ones in the gold frames are originals), you’ll also find other photographs and memorabilia. This map of Hollywood Boulevard shows two of the Brown Derby locations, both the Wilshire Boulevard restaurant as well as the Vine Street locale.
Take a look at some of the photographs, and you’ll see just how faithfully this restaurant replicates the original.
Once you make it into the dining room, you’ll find a fairly small space, made up of a sunken central seating area with seating around the perimeter.
While all seating is comfortable, I especially love the semicircle booths that skirt the edge of the dining room. They give you a great view of all the action, so if, say, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard stop by, you’ll be able to see everything. 🙂
As you’re seated, take a look around to notice additional details. Some of my favorites are the brass derby-shaped sconces you’ll find throughout.
Be sure to take a look around at the portraits that line the walls — and I mean all the walls. There are both full color drawings and caricatures. You’re likely to find some of your favorite classic entertainers and movie stars among them.
The caricatures are a veritable treasure trove of Who’s Who in Hollywood.
If you have favorites, you should totally make time to go on a hunt for them…
But that’s enough looking around for now. Time to check out the menu.
It had been a while since my last visit to Hollywood Brown Derby, so I was interested to see what was the same. But I was also anxious to try a few new things.
After looking at both the dinner and drink menus, we found a lot to be excited about.
As we awaited our first course, our server brought fresh rolls, accompanied by butter that was sprinkled liberally with sea salt.
And let me take a moment to mention my server. She was absolutely wonderful, knowledgable, and tuned in to what I needed and when. I think she’s a long-time cast member — I’ve seen her there before — but the service was truly a highlight of the meal.
Soon, starters began to arrive — and they looked pretty sweet. 😀 We began with the Beef Carpaccio. The beef is very slightly seared, and then sliced thinly.
It’s served on a salad of baby greens, drizzled with a lemon mustard sauce, and is sprinkled with capers. There’s extra whole grain mustard and thinly sliced toast to complement the beef and salad.
I liked the textures here and the tangy mustard sauce was an excellent compliment to the flavorful beef. I could have done without the capers, though — not a fan.
There are few things in life that I like better than a creamy soup, especially if corn is involved. (I like to joke that Disney World has two seasons — corn soup season and butternut squash season.) So we also indulged in a bowl of Sweet Brentwood Corn Soup, garnished with jumbo lump crab, sweet and spicy Fresno chile relish, and Basque Espelette pepper oil.
I really, really enjoy the trend of the spicy oils on the corn soups these days. The sweet corn flavor of the soup is a pleasing enough backdrop, but with the addition of that pop of spice and powerful flavor the whole dish ramps up to eleven.
Next, it was time to turn our attention to our entrees. My friend opted for the Pan Seared Black Grouper on the recommendation of our server. The fish would have been impressive enough, but the dish also came with a half lobster tail, encrusted in herbs.
The lighter dish was accompanied by Peruvian and green lima beans, roasted heirloom tomatoes, purple cauliflower, and a poblano blanc.
THIS. WAS. AMAZING. Seriously, the grouper was seasoned perfectly — not too salty, just right — and had perfect flavor. But that herb-encrusted lobster tail?? It shared the spotlight to be sure. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. And I would absolutely order it again.
But heads’ up — you can order one of those herb-encrusted lobster tails to accompany any meal you choose, so…DO IT.
I couldn’t resist checking out the latest version of my (formerly) favorite dish here, the Charred Filet of Beef. The filet was perched atop a white truffle potato croquette, and was served with asparagus, tomato, and a watercress salad. It was finished with bacon and sweet onion jam as well as a Port wine reduction sauce.
A cross section of the potato coquette shows a creamy potato center and a lovely golden crust. The flavor on this was pretty great and I thought it was a fun addition to the dish. There’s only so much you can do with potatoes, you know, and the filet is always served with potato; so it’s fun to see what new version they come up with. This one’s a winner.
The filet was perfectly cooked to my medium rare specifications, so I was one happy girl. But I shoulda added a lobster tail to this one.
We both enjoyed our meal, but I knew we wanted to save room for something sweet…and not necessarily just a dessert.
If you like your cake in the form of, say, a grown up drink, then you may want to give the Grapefruit Cake Martini a try.
The cocktail combines red grapefruit vodka and vanilla vodka with cream to mimic the flavors of the restaurant’s iconic dessert classic, Grapefruit Cake. The glass is rimmed with crushed vanilla wafers to add a little flavor and texture. The drink is a great interpretation of the cake, and I can vouch for the fact that it’s exactly what you’d expect — very, VERY sweet.
But you didn’t think we’d skip the REAL dessert, right? Oh, hahahahahaha! Good one!
A while back, the Brown Derby changed up their dessert format and began offering a selection of three mini desserts that you could mix and match in a Dessert Trio. There were six options, so we decided to try two platters to hit all of them (oh the sacrifices we make).
Our first platter included, from left to right, the Banana-Toffee Cake, Warm Blueberry Cobbler, and Lemon Cheesecake.
Each two-bite dessert offers lots of fancy flavors and tastes. An up-close photo of the Banana Toffee Cake shows the detail of the French macaron base, cake, banana mousse, and Bananas Foster sauce. The topping of cocoa crunch and toffee bits added some nice texture. This one was fine, but forgettable.
I was unexpectedly impressed with the Warm Blueberry Cobbler, which basically consisted of blueberries with streusel topping. I mean — how good could this be? Well, surprisingly, very. The bluberries were warm and crazy flavorful. And I love me some streusel. The creme fraiche and honey toppings added a lot as well.
The Lemon Cheesecake was next, with its topping of blueberry compote and cute HBD chocolate decoration the best. This one, also, was fine, but pretty meh next to the blueberry cobbler (I KNOW — it doesn’t make sense to me, either — they did something to those blueberries, man).
Onto the next platter! Of course, we allllwwwways order the classic Grapefruit Cake — even if this version is teeny tiny — because we’re DFB and that’s what’s done. If this pic leaves you with a craving, you can always make it yourself at home with our handy recipe. (FYI — some people love the grapefruit cake, but it’s got a very bitter-y tart flavor and isn’t very sweet, so note that if you’re trying some.)
Next up was the Cappuccino Brulee. I was prepared to be underwhelmed with this one as well, since creme brulee usually doesn’t really do it for me, but…this was another one that I kind of loved against my expectations! It was super creamy, and the coffee flavor was smooth and not bitter. Great job, HBD.
The Dark Chocolate Cremeux, with flavors of apricot marmalade mixed in, will be the favorite of chocoholics in need of a fix. But it was pretty meh for me.
And that’s a wrap! Have your people call my people, and we’ll do dinner at the Derby again soon.
Nosh or Not?
Dining at the Hollywood Brown Derby is for you if:
- You like your Disney themeing on the subtle side.
- Channeling Old Hollywood Glamour is the stuff that dreams are made of for you.
- You enjoy checking in on classic dishes each time you visit Walt Disney World.
- You’re ready to try some favorite items presented in fresh ways.
You can skip this one if:
- You’re on a budget or you’re not using the Disney Dining Plan.
- You’re looking for a restaurant with a little more pizzazz or Disney flavor.
- You prefer simpler, more straightforward food.
- You’re in a hurry to get someplace and don’t want to squander Park time on a fancy meal.
So, for me, the Derby is a middle of the road signature restaurant. I’ve had decent experiences here, but there are definitely better 2-credit restaurants on the Disney Dining Plan. That said, if you’re interested in one of the classic dishes like Cobb Salad or Grapefruit Cake, nobody does it like the Brown Derby.
If you want to try it because you’ve never been, you’re looking for a spot to enjoy a better than average theme park meal, or you’re just anxious for a little taste of refinement in the middle of a Disney day, then I encourage you to give it a try.
If you’re wondering where we stand on other 2-credit and signature restaurants in Disney World, check out our youTube video where we rank all of the signature restaurants in Disney World!