Hollywood Brown Derby Review


Hollywood Brown Derby is an upscale signature dining restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World that serves American cuisine. The Hollywood Brown Derby is themed to the Golden Age of Hollywood, and is an authentic replica of the famous Brown Derby, the longstanding Hollywood landmark and iconic restaurant that served Tinseltown’s celebrities during the Golden Age. The Hollywood Brown Derby is one of the absolute best restaurants located in a Disney theme park, and the ambiance cannot be beat. The Hollywood Brown Derby participates in the Disney Dining Plan. It also accepts the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. We typically pay out of pocket when dining here, as the Brown Derby is not a good value on the Disney Dining Plan because it requires two credits.

Much like the original Brown Derby, the Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ recreation features restaurant walls adorned with black and white caricatures of famous faces. The ambiance at the Brown Derby is truly unlike any other restaurant in Walt Disney World, as it’s what I’d describe as beautifully themed elegance. Most Disney restaurants do theming OR elegance well, but few excel at both. The Hollywood Brown Derby excels at both.

 

Disney’s version of The Hollywood Brown Derby features recreations of not just the building and atmosphere of the original Hollywood Brown Derby, but also of the menu. The famous Brown Derby Cobb salad follows the “recipe” created by Bob Cobb, owner of the original Brown Derby, when he was raiding the fridge late one night to prepare a dish for a celebrity. Another Brown Derby original is the light grapefruit cake with cream cheese icing. Both of these items are must-tries when you’re visiting The Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

If you’ve never dined at the Brown Derby, definitely start your meal with the Cobb Salad. I’m not normally a fan of salad, but this one blew me away the first time we dined at the Brown Derby. It is a veritable “kitchen sink” of salads, with plenty of meat. The salad tastes exactly as it looks: spectacular. For those unfamiliar, the Cobb Salad contains finely chopped greens, turkey breast, egg, bacon, tomatoes, crumbled bleu cheese, avocado, chives and Cobb dressing and is priced at $15. $15 may seem like a lot for a side-salad, but this is no ordinary side salad. This was the most amazing salad any of us have ever consumed, and was basically a meal-in-itself. Sarah couldn’t even finish hers.

The finely chopped greens, as opposed to iceberg lettuce or even mixed greens, made a substantial difference in taste. On top of that, the kitchen-sink of ingredients, including a healthy dose of turkey, bacon, eggs, and avocado really put it over the top. If you want to dine at the Brown Derby to enjoy the ambiance and aren’t that hungry, consider ordering just this salad and a grapefruit cake. As an appetizer, this salad is too much for one person. As an entree, it’s about the perfect size for one person.

For a main entree, you really can’t go wrong with anything (at least that we’ve tried) on the Brown Derby’s menu. Some items change seasonally. My current favorite is the Duck Two Ways. It is tender and flavorful with a hint of maple and a perfect confit wrap that really adds to the taste. I actually preferred this to the Filet of Beef that Sarah ordered, which was also exceptional, tender, and well flavored, by just a bit. It’s rare for me to prefer duck to a filet, so I consider this to be high praise.

The one thing that the filet offers that I cannot resist is the White Truffle Forest Mushroom Whipped Potatoes. I love mashed potatoes, mushrooms, and anything “truffle.” These were probably the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever tasted, and when Sarah let me taste hers, I attempted to eat them all (mission: failed). Next time, I’ll likely order a side of these potatoes to accompany whatever I order. They were really that excellent.

Another excellent choice for an entree is the Spit-roasted Leg of Lamb with Lyonnaise Potatoes, Garlic Haricot Verts, and a Red Zinfandel Sauce. Again, incredibly tender with a really complex and exquisite flavor thanks to the sauce. The potatoes here are also good. Although we have yet to try every item on the menu, we have salivated when other entrees have passed our tables on their way elsewhere. I’d be surprised if there is a bad entree at the Brown Derby. This is one in park restaurant that truly lives up to its “signature” status.

We’ve tried several desserts at the Brown Derby, and surprisingly, the signature Grapefruit Cake was actually my least favorite. It is the most unique, and I encourage everyone to give it a try to see if it appeals to them more than it appealed to me, but I don’t think it was anything overly impressive.

My favorite desserts have been the Banana-White Chocolate Toffee Tower on Cocoa-Almond Cookie and Bananas “Foster” and Chocolate Three Ways—Dark Almond-Buttermilk Cake layered with Milk Chocolate Truffle Crème and White Chocolate Chambord (both pictured here). Sarah liked the Citrus Honey Nest filled with Candied Ginger Blueberries over a Lemon Cheesecake, but I found that the blueberry and lemon flavors did not compliment one another well.

The Hollywood Brown Derby also offers an extensive wine list with wines by bottle or wines by the glass. The standard (subpar) selection of beer is also available here, and classic cocktails are poured tableside. We have yet to sample the wine or cocktails at the Brown Derby, but the cocktails look excellent. Also available at the Brown Derby is the Fantasmic! Dining Package, which offers guests designated seating during the Fantasmic! nighttime show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In addition to that, guests may participate in the “Dine with an Imagineer” experience, which offers a 4-course meal, with a Disney Imagineer. We’ve never done either of these things, but wanted to let you know they’re out there.

Overall, The Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a restaurant that is not to be missed–for adults. It’s easily the best dining option in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The ambiance is amazing and the food even better. It is a little pricey compared to other in-park restaurants (but cheaper than other signature restaurants), but the food is well worth the prices. Interestingly, until 2011, we found Disney’s Hollywood Studios to be devoid of quality dining options. We found a number of restaurants we liked there recently, including Brown Derby, Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre, ABC Commissary, and the Studios Catering Company. We’re planning on giving ’50s Prime Time Cafe another shot soon, too, and if it lives up to the hype, Disney’s Hollywood Studios could very well rival Epcot for our favorite park for dining!

Your Thoughts…

Do you agree that Hollywood Brown Derby is the best in-park Signature Restaurant? What are your favorite dishes there? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Read our other Walt Disney World restaurant reviews and Walt Disney World Trip Planning resources

Overall Score: 9.5/10

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19 Responses to “Hollywood Brown Derby Review”

  1. Jeff says:

    Great review, Tom, and tremendous photos. I’ve never had the lamb there… since I can’t resist the Cobb Salad as an entree. I’ll be sure to branch out the next time I’m there. The duck looks exquisite!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      The duck is my favorite entree. The Cobb Salad is SO good, too. I can’t get that and an entree when we go. It’s one or the other (or splitting the salad).

      • Leigh McHenry says:

        I could have the Cobb salad seven days a week and never tire of it! Lunch or dinner at Brown Derby is a nice way to take a break from the heat, get off your feet and soak up the ambiance of old Hollywood! We have a Tables in Wonderland card which does help keep down the cost slightly.

  2. Mary says:

    I agree with disneyfoodblog.com’s review of the “Dine with an Imagineer” experience. I ate with a different Imagineer, but it was a fantastic time. The Imagineer took the time to talk to every single person at the table, even the quieter kids and shared his story of how he came to work at Disney. He could not share much about the new Fantasyland but was able to explain a little of how models of the rides are created. The whole meal lasted about 2 and a half hours, so it was a bit long, but the time flew by and of course the food was very good. Would definitely recommend trying this.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I agree with their review, too. I was a bit shocked when I saw the price of Dine with an Imagineer. I figured it would be MUCH more expensive.

  3. Excellent review (and pictures too!). The Brown Derby is one of my favorite restaurants in all of Walt Disney World. You mentioned the wine list, so I thought I’d add an interesting little nugget. They carry a couple of selections from Silverado Vineyards, which is owned by Ron and Diane Miller. Diane is Walt Disney’s daughter and her husband Ron was President and CEO of The Walt Disney Company many years ago. Despite the Disney connection, only a few restaurants in Walt Disney World and Disneyland offer their wines. If you ask me, they’re an excellent compliment to a meal at the Brown Derby. Great….now I’m starving for a Cobb salad!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I had heard of their vineyard, but I was unaware their wine was sold anywhere on Disney property. I’ve heard that the Lasseter Family Vineyard wines are carried at Napa Rose (and maybe Steakhouse 55?), but I was unaware of any other wines sold on Disney property with a Disney-connection! Thanks for the info!

  4. Glenn says:

    The Cobb salad gets a lot of attention for good reason. It’s the best salad I’ve ever had anywhere. Although we don’t eat there often (we usually use the dining plan and the Brown Derby charges 2 table service credits), we have always enjoyed it. We’ve eaten at most of the WDW restaurants, and the Brown Derby is in our top 3 (along with Flying Fish Cafe and Narcoossees.) And the service is 2nd to none. Once we had a budding Hollywood starlet come and sit at our table (one of the cast members who you can find on Sunset Blvd.) She told us her story and how she was hoping a director would discover her. It just added to the Hollywood feel of the restaurant.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Love your blog- its fantastic! Saw that you love anything truffle- you must try the Truffle Mac and Cheese at Yachtsman Steakhouse- it is to DIE for. Keep up the good work!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Truffled mac & cheese is generally awesome, and Yachtsman Steakhouse is awesome, so I can only imagine how awesome THEIR truffled mac & cheese is! :) Thanks for the tip!

  6. Emily says:

    I have to agree with you on every point on this one….except the grapefruit cake but that’s simply a matter of choice. We love this place so much, we actually take an empty tupperware container inside the park and order two additional slices of grapefruit cake to take back to the hotel with us to enjoy later that evening. Over the years I’ve had a fish dish, a pork dish, a duck dish and a steak dish and I have to say that I have truly enjoyed each and every one of them. It is the ONLY sit down restaurant that we do each and every time we go.

  7. Caitlin says:

    We ate here last week, partially due to the strength of this review. You were not exaggerating in any regard- every part of our meal was amazing! We both had the filet with those incredible whipped potatoes. It may have been the best filet I’ve ever had. The cobb salad was also wonderful, and although I, much like you, wasn’t the biggest fan of the grapefruit cake, I’m glad I tried it! Thanks for the wonderful recommendation.

  8. Robin says:

    Dining with an Imagineer for lunch was one of my most favorite things I have ever done. I did this on my solo vacation in Sept 2011. It was perfect for a solo traveler. I adore my signed souvenir plate. Someday I’ll own a house to display it in. The Cobb Salad app was absolutely amazing. It’s the one reason I really want to schedule a lunch here on my vacation next year. Like you, I’m not really a salad person, but I tend to find myself day dreaming about this one. The Grapefruit Cake was good, but I’m excited to try something else.

  9. April says:

    The new Brown Derby Lounge was excellent! We got a margarita flight and a honey darling (classic martini), duck confit tacos, sliders, and chocolate 3 ways. All were excellent, and pricing was decent.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Interesting to hear! We haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, but look forward to doing so in the near future.

  10. Sharon R says:

    My young son and I swung by Hollywood Brown Derby during Star Wars Weekends last May. We ate on the patio, before they turned it into the Lounge. We were able to watch Hyperspace Hoopla through the trees from our patio table, minus the crush of the crowd. My goal was to take a breather, have a nice glass of wine, and try a few menu items that had high recommendations.

    Of course we tried the Cobb Salad and the Grapefruit Cake. Not super impressed with the cake, but glad I gave it a try. The Cobb Salad was amazing, so delicious. It was so beautiful when the waiter brought it out, but then he chopped it up further, which I was not expecting. It mixed everything all together, and I think I would have preferred the nice piles left intact. You are right, the finely chopped greens underneath were different from a typical Cobb Salad, and also unexpected.

    The main thing on my list to try based on Len Testa’s description of it in a WDW Today podcast a while back, and the reason I am commenting, was the “Crispy Phyllo Napoleon – Of Bleu Affinee, Wild Mushroom Duxelles , Grilled Portobello, Golden Chanterelles and a Fig Reduction” appetizer. Oh wow, it did NOT disappoint! I remember thinking to myself, that it was one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life. I am not exaggerating when I say that I truly did not even want to take a drink, so as to not wash away the taste from my mouth. Who ever says that?!

    On our upcoming trip this Spring, I am hoping to take a detour over here just for that amazing appetizer. We are not a table service family, so I am hoping we will be able to swing by the new lounge section for a quick bite. I hope they let you order off the main menu in the lounge, because I don’t think this item is on the lounge menu.

  11. Mar says:

    We swung by the Brown Derby a few days ago on our recent trip and were surprised to see that they changed the menu! Some of it is still the same, but the Duck Two Ways was replaced with a different duck dish. For what it’s worth, the new duck dish was INCREDIBLE, and came with yucca balls stuffed with duck confit, which was definitely a highlight. Desserts are now served in trios of minis, though you can still get the grapefruit cake full-sized (though you can also get it as a mini, which was perfect in our opinion).

  12. Liz Faulkner says:

    Oh the memories of this great restaurant! We go every trip we take and sometimes for 2 meals. Have never had a bad meal and the Cobb salad is to die for, also not a fan of the grapefruit cake, but every other dessert is fabulous!

    But the best part is the memories, the first time we dined here my oldest son was just a little boy. We had toured the park from rope drop, it was a very hot Florida day, with bright sun. We needed some air conditioning. I so wanted to try the restaurant but husband was not so sure with the little one. We got a walk up seating at 1:30 for lunch, so I thought the gods were with us, little did I know it was going to be a great meal. Once seated in the large booth, my son grab a roll asked for his sippy cup and blanket and promptly laid down and went to sleep. We took one look at each other and knew we were going to have the best meal of the trip! He stayed asleep through our entire meal (we went all out soup to nuts, and even had a glass of wine). Two hours later he woke up finished eating his roll that he still had clasped in his little hand, and told me time to go we have more park to see mommy! So while the food is amazing I am sure we make this a regular stop on our vacation trips for it always brings back great memories of a time so long ago when a little boy gave us the best couple meal we could have ever asked for. Now that little boy is all grown up and he definitely eats more than a roll!

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