Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a park where I find a lot of table service restaurants that I really enjoy, but not so much quick service that hits the mark for me. Among the best of the table service is the Hollywood Brown Derby, the parks only signature dining experience. Here you will experience fine cuisine, excellent service, and the flavor of vintage Hollywood glamour. Here are 8 things you will love about the Brown Derby:
8. The Package Options
Hollywood Brown Derby is one of the Table Service locations at Hollywood Studios that allows you to turn your dining experience into a package with reserved VIP seating for some of the shows offered in the park. On a regular basis you can book at Fantastmic package with a reserved spot for the show, and when there are special offerings in the park like the Pixar Live concerts in Summer 2017 those become an option here as well. If you are on the dining plan it is a nice deal because you can book the package for the same amount of credits (2 for the signature dining) as just a regular meal. As a guest paying out of pocket it is a fixed price offering where you order your courses from the menu. Being able to pair your dining experience with the VIP viewing areas for shows is a nice plus for the Brown Derby.
7. Cocktails—Feel like a Starlet!
What is more quintessential classic Hollywood than a beautiful actress enjoying a cocktail? And Hollywood Brown Derby has some great themed cocktails to offer. There’s the Café Henry III with Brandy, Kahlua, Grand Marnier, and Galliano accented by a cinnamon-sugar rim; the Alberto Ddante’s Millionaire Cappuccino featuring Baileys Irish Cream, Grand Marnier, Kahlua and Frangelico; and the Grapefruit Cake martini that highlights the signature dessert (that we will talk about later): Deep Eddy ruby red grapefruit vodka, Stoli Vanil vodka, and a splash of cream with a vanilla wafer rim. These all sound like a lot of delicious fun!
6. Caricatures & Characters
Lining the walls of the Hollywood Brown Derby you will find celebrity charicatures just as there were at the original Brown Derby in Hollywood. Back when dining at the Brown Derby meant being among the Who’s Who of Hollywood. Take a look around—don’t be afraid to stroll around the restaurant a bit, just don’t intrude on someone else’s meal. In the lobby as you wait there is a book full of autographs of famous guests. And sometimes you’ll even meet a “Streetmosphere” character straight from vintage Hollywood, especially if you are dining in the lounge area.
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5. The Service
As one of Walt Disney World’s signature dining experiences, the Brown Derby has some of the most attentive and knowledgeable servers in the parks. Don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation for your entrée or appetizer, or for the perfect wine to pair with your dinner. All of my experiences at the Brown Derby have featured flawless service . . .just the right amount of attention without being overbearing. Ask your server about the signature dishes on the menu, they are normally very happy to tell you about the history of the dishes at the original restaurant in Hollywood.
4. The Grapefruit Cake
This signature dessert dates back to the Hollywood days of the Brown Derby and it is one of my favorite desserts across the parks and resorts. The Grapefruit Cake is perfect for the hot Florida weather with a citrus freshness and a light feeling while still being sweet to satisfy your sweet tooth. The texture is moist and rich . . . it is just perfect. I may have once made a reservation here just to have the Grapefruit Cake at the end of my meal. You can order the Grapefruit cake in mini size as part of the dessert sampler.
One of the best food & beverage additions to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in recent years (in my opinion) is the outside dining at the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge. No reservations are necessary you can come up and grab a table. The full menu is not available here, but what they do offer is excellent. As it is a lounge there are many additional drink offerings from martinis to margaritas, sangria, and even a specialty Derby Cocktail served with a Derby Hat glow cube. Food consists of small plates, but you can still experience the Cobb Salad (wait until #1), a fabulous cheese & charcuterie board, and sliders.
2. Dine With an Imagineer
As one of just a couple of restaurants that offer this opportunity, I think Dine With An Imagineer is something you are going to love about the Hollywood Brown Derby. Reservations must be made for this fixed price experience ahead of time as it is limited to an intimate grouping. You are seated in a private room in the Brown Derby and hosted by an active Imagineer (from all areas of Imagineering). During your multi-course lunch you can ask questions of the Imagineer and they will share stories relative to their particular area of work. When we did this experience our Imagineer was in design and had worked on many iconic attractions at Hollywood Studios and “the Kingdom.” It was an amazing experience for any Disney fan, and the food was out of this world too!
1. The Cobb Salad
While I may crave the Grapefruit Cake, I most definitely have made a reservation here at 180 days fully planning on ordering this iconic salad. The “Famous” Brown Derby Cobb Salad is made up of finely chopped greens, turkey breast, bacon, egg, tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese, avocado, chives and Cobb dressing. While many restaurants offer some version of a chopped Cobb salad, this one is based on the original recipe and it is so, so good. Legend has it that Bob Cobb (yes, Bob Cobb), owner of the Brown Derby in the 1930s, was starving in the middle of the night. Not sure what to prepare or what ingredients were available he raided the fridge (sound familiar to anyone?). What he threw together from the lettuce, avocado, eggs, tomato, etc. that he found would come to be known as the Cobb Salad. Sid Grauman (owner of the Chinese Theater) was with him that night and when he returned he wanted the same salad—so he ordered the Cobb Salad. Then it ended up on the menu & the legend lives on 80+ years later. If you eat at the Brown Derby I highly recommend you get the Cobb Salad . . .at least the appetizer portion so you can enjoy the other delectable entrees.
The original Brown Derby in Hollywood is such a legend of Hollywood History that there are books written about it like this one: https://www.amazon.com/Brown-Derby-Restaurant-Hollywood-Legend/dp/0847825175. Like the Hollywood Studios version, it was located on the corner of Hollywood & Sunset Boulevards and was the place to be in Hollywood’s peak. It is easy to walk in to the recreated version at Walt Disney World and envision yourself in that age of glamour . . . even if you are enjoying a meal at the end of a theme park day wearing a Mickey Mouse T-Shirt. What do you love about the Hollywood Brown Derby?