When it comes to satisfying table service fare in Walt Disney World’s third Park — Disney’s Hollywood Studios — the pickings are pretty slim.
But consistently rising to the top of that small pool is the Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant. This sophisticated spot takes its inspiration from the real-life Hollywood Brown Derby, and perhaps that mimicry is the reason it tends to serve up likable plates of food (and some tasty drinks). It doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel, style-wise, and the menu includes some tried-and-true favorites from the original location.
As a Signature restaurant, Hollywood Brown Derby tends not to be as impressive as, say, California Grill, Jiko — The Cooking Place, or dinner at Morimoto Asia. Its surroundings perhaps let Brown Derby shine even brighter than it would if it were in a different location and competing with other Signature restaurants.
But Brown Derby is comfortable. The menu contains some truly good dishes. And in a park where Hollywood is queen, Brown Derby is still a terrific overall experience.
The atmosphere at Brown Derby is tame by Disney standards. The color palette is subdued, consisting of dark wood, creamy white, and some interesting architectural details.
Large circular lights descend from a curved ceiling. Arched doorways provide passage throughout the dining room spaces.
Tables and booths are smart in leather (or faux leather), and tables are draped in real tablecloths.
A carry-over from the real Hollywood location, a beloved and dramatic addition to the restaurant is a collection of black and white caricatures. If the restaurant isn’t too busy, take a few minutes to scan through the images and see if you can spot your favorite celebrity!
Like these simple portraits of the stars of yesteryear, the menu at Disney’s Brown Derby includes several throwbacks as well.
We’re starting with drinks, of which there are many options. We love a good flight at Brown Derby (or at her no-ADR-required Brown Derby Lounge!), so a Martini Flight or Margarita Flight is pretty much always a good plan here.
On this visit, we went in a different direction. The Hollywood Lights is a cheerful and fun drink consisting of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, Pineapple, and a splash of Cranberry juice. The fruity drink is refreshing and strong — not a bad combination when you’re enjoying a leisurely lunch in Hollywood.
If you want to drink your dessert, before or after your meal, the Grapefruit Cake Martini will do the trick — assuming you’re a grapefruit fan. This drink is modeled on the restaurant’s signature dessert: Grapefruit Cake, of course! (Want to make this famous confection at home? Recipe here!)
We’ve sipped on the Grapefruit Cake Martini before (see the review here), and it hasn’t changed over the years. The crushed vanilla wafer half-rim is fun and tasty, and it complements the creamy, citrusy martini. You’ve definitely gotta have an appreciation for grapefruit, though!
The lunch menu at Brown Derby is comprised of classics from a variety of cuisines. You’ll find a Grilled Wagyu Beef Burger as well as a Ginger-Lemon Grass Pho (plant-based). Cioppino offers a variety of seafood.
On this visit, we, of course, HAD to get the restaurant’s Famous Cobb Salad. It’s practically a rule to dine here that you must try it at least once. 😉 It’s one of the prettiest salads around! It arrives somewhat deconstructed and is mixed tableside. It consists of Finely Chopped Greens, Turkey Breast, Bacon, Egg, Tomatoes, Crumbled Blue Cheese, Avocado, Chives, and Cobb Dressing. Here’s how this beaut is typically presented (pre-toss, that is!)…
This trip, we opted to add chicken to ours! For those looking to fill up on salad, this is a satisfying option. With or without the addition of grilled chicken, there’s a lot to love here. It’s good fuel for an afternoon or evening of park touring.
But the more interesting of the dishes we tried on this visit is the Andouille-Crusted Chicken Breast. We’ve had Andouille-Crusted Shrimp at Brown Derby Lounge, and they are phenomenal. Like, mind-blowingly good. In fact, let’s take a moment to admire them…
We’re picking our chins up off the floor now. 🙂 The Andouille-Crusted Shrimp was seriously the best thing we ate the week we had them, and that is saying something, so we had HIGH hopes for the Andouille-Crusted Chicken Breast. It’s served on an Onion Kaiser Roll and topped with Maple-Glazed Nueske’s Bacon, White Cheddar, and House-Made Pickles. A pile of Arugula adds some fresh pepperiness.
The sandwich is delicious; every component has its place, and the combination of flavors is thoughtful. It didn’t wow us quite like the shrimp; the chicken’s crust wasn’t as well cooked or flavorful. But overall, it was a satisfying sandwich. The Vegetable Slaw and the French Fries were straightforward accompaniments.
The chicken is good…but give us a couple orders of that shrimp any day of the week. 😛 Note the yummy Shrimp are usually only on the Brown Derby Lounge menu, but don’t be shy about asking if you can get them in the dining room of the restaurant proper!
Nosh or Not?
Walk the red carpet to Hollywood Brown Derby if:
- You’re looking to enjoy Signature dining at Hollywood Studios, and this is it.
- You love the Old Hollywood vibe.
- The consistently good menu sounds good to you.
Dine elsewhere if:
- You don’t want to spend time (or money) on table service dining in the Parks.
- You want to have a Signature meal, but you want it to be truly special in all ways.
- The menu doesn’t appeal to you; you want something a little more creative.
Hollywood Brown Derby is a consistent restaurant, and at Walt Disney World, that’s really an appealing trait. If you’re looking for a good meal in an elegant and simple atmosphere, Brown Derby sounds like your cup of tea. But for us, it’s not the first choice for a signature meal. There are restaurants whose spaces impress us more, whose menu items are more innovative and feel fresher. So while we’re happy with Hollywood Brown Derby, it’s not necessarily a place we need to return to on every trip. And that’s really okay! It’s nice to revisit whenever we do. If you love that old Hollywood vibe and classic drinks and fare, this could be a hit for you though!
Are you a Hollywood Brown Derby fan? Share your experiences in the comments below!