Have you ever wondered where Americans enjoyed dining at during the Golden Age of Hollywood? Many Los Angeles residents spent time at the Brown Derby Restaurant on Vine Street. It is the birthplace of the Cobb Salad, and an episode of “I Love Lucy” was filmed at this very location.   

Hollywood Brown Derby review
Untitled Image” by Theme Park Tourist licensed under CC BY 2.0

In this Hollywood Brown Derby review, we’re going to discuss what makes this restaurant so special at Hollywood Studios, what’s on the menu, and ultimately help answer the question of whether or not this restaurant is worth it in terms of your money and time.

Let’s first begin by going over the atmosphere of this restaurant.

Atmosphere

Trying to stay in the Disney spirit can be challenging. You can escape to another century as you enjoy a savory gourmet meal at Hollywood Brown Derby. The restaurant’s location is visible from the park entrance. 

You will see a maroon-colored derby hat-shaped sign with a matching covered entryway when you pass the Beverly Sunset Boutique.  Walt Disney’s cartoon, “Mickey and the Beanstalk” pops in my head every time I see the sign.  In the closing scene, Willie the Giant notices that the Brown Derby restaurant looks like a hat and stomps off with it on while he is looking for Mickey. Although the building does not have the form of a derby hat, the exterior is still appealing to the eye.  

Disney presents the authenticity of Brown Derby well throughout the restaurant. Both adults and kids can adore the restaurant’s classic decor. Celebrity caricatures and paintings cover the stucco cream-colored walls.  Guests can also look at cool memorabilia from the restaurant while they are waiting. The photographs in gold frames are original Vine Street photos. For example, there is a map of Hollywood Boulevard featuring both Wilshire Boulevard and Vine Street locations. 

It is always interesting to see the layout of cities during the roaring twenties. If you look at the map close enough, you will see the name of Griffith Park in the right-hand corner. Griffith Park is where Walt Disney got the idea for Disneyland and Disney World.

As he watched his daughters enjoy the Merry-Go-Round, he thought to himself, “There ought to be a place where parents and kids can have fun together.” Admiring and learning the history of the restaurant can set you in the right mood for its atmosphere. 

By observing photos of the original Brown Derby, it is easy to see how well the details of the dining room are uncanny to the original Spanish Revival Mission style. The dining room is a small space with deep browns of the dark woods. The wooden ceiling beams complement the large dark art deco-esque chandeliers.

There are maroon colored booths along around the perimeter of the room. The central seating area is full of beautiful wooden tables and chairs. If you are wheelchair bound, make sure you ask for a regular table. The booths aren’t as wide as the regular tables. 

You will notice the cast’s attire fits the atmosphere too. Hostesses in crisp white dress shirts with a black bow will get you settled at your table. The waiters and waitresses wear white dress shirts too, but they paired the shirt with a maroon vest and a dark blue bowtie. Their trousers are also dark blue. 

Even though the restaurant is “high end,” guests do not have to wear fancy attire. Resort Casual is the most appropriate for Disney’s signature restaurants.  Items such as tank tops, swimsuits, hats, and cut-offs are not acceptable. Offensive language or graphics cannot be on any item of clothing. Think about what you would wear if you might get seen by Hollywood paparazzi. 

 Even though Hollywood Brown Derby is a part of Disney World, the restaurant might not be appealing to kids. You can always make the experience fun by making use of the interesting details in the restaurant’s decor, such as the brass derby-shaped scones and the celebrity drawings. 

If your children enjoy counting, let them figure out the number of hat-shaped lamp shades or let them guess how many drawings are in the dining room. You can do some trivia by googling celebrities you see on the walls if your child is interested in history. If your child loves art, let him or her draw her favorite Disney celebrity. It’s impossible to not have any fun when you are eating at a Disney restaurant. 

Service Quality and Affordability

Is Hollywood Brown Derby worth spending two credits from the Disney Dinner Plan? Well, it just depends on your taste buds and your schedule. You can expect to get a meal that a classic Hollywood glamour star would order for dinner. 

Simpler, straightforward items won’t be on the menu. Hollywood Brown Derby is the place for individuals who inquire the taste for filling meals like Char-grilled Filet of Beef and Seafood Cioppino. 

If you are on a budget or you are not using the Disney Dining Plan, a midday visit might be the right choice for you. The lunch menu is not extensive. Lunch entrees start at $16—17.00. Lunch guests who dinner between 12:00 pm and 3:00 pm can choose from the Lunch Menu or the Dinner Menu. You can save some money by getting an inexpensive lunch item or you can splurge a little more on a dinner item.

I don’t recommend eating at Hollywood Brown Derby if you are in a hurry to get somewhere like White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. Lunch at the restaurant takes about forty-five minutes to an hour. Dinner takes even longer.  Neither the chefs nor servers have the magic to speed up the craft of gourmet food.

They can only make your experience more enjoyable. if you just want to get a drink and appetizer, you are welcome to sit in the outside lounge area.  If you want to luxuriate in the dining experience of the restaurant, set some time aside for one night. 

Hollywood Brown Derby is not the place for individuals who dislike noisy, busy environments.  It stays crowded most of the time. The waiting time is not horrible. Servers of the restaurant can be a hit and miss. Some are courteous while others are irresponsible. 

For instance, our reservations were at 6:30 p.m. and we were in the dining room promptly around 6:45 p.m. The hostess told us that our server would be right with us. We waited about fifteen minutes before our server Eric arrived to take our drink order. When he finally came to our table, he had a trainee named Anna with him. Eric seemed overly busy and stressed. 

His speech seemed frantic. However, he was still professional. He was very knowledgeable about the menu.  Once he got our food order, he let Anna take over. It was not the best idea because Ann kept forgetting which drinks need refilling. Other than that, our experience was pleasant. 

 Food and Drink Quality

The total on the check might surprise you but you won’t leave any regrets. Chefs put in love and devotion in every dish. There is a wide variety of healthy and devouring meals. Vegetarians and vegans won’t have trouble finding something. Your server will make sure the chiefs know of any dietary needs. The cocktail and wine selection are exquisite. The children’s menu caters to picky eaters. Guest have many delicious desserts to choose from. 

Your family deserves a hearty meal after a couple of days of Disney excitement. Hollywood Brown Derby has excellent kid-friendly fare. There are wonderful entrees kids can pick from. The children’s menu includes standard meals such as hot dogs, grilled cheese, penne pasta, grilled fish, grilled beef, and grilled chicken. There is also a Vegetarian Pho for veggie lovers. Each entrée comes with two nutritious sides. 

The side options are seasonal vegetables, mashed potatoes, sliced apples, baked potato chips, strawberry yogurt parfait, fruit cup, roasted sweet potatoes.  If you are doing the Disney Dining Plan, kids can also get an appetizer and dessert. Chopped salad, chicken noodle soup, and celery/carrot dip are the choices for their appetizer. If your child is not into appetizers, the server can omit the appetizer and put in the entrée order early. 

 If your child is a stubborn eater, you can encourage him or her to complete a “pirate or fairy request.” There is a dessert called Hidden Treasure. It is a fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookie with vanilla ice cream topped with Oreo cookie crumbs and gummy worms.  I have a brother that is eighteen years younger than me. He refuses to eat nutritious food after he gets spoiled with park themed treats. 

My parents always have to get creative. My brother could receive the treasure if he completed his request. His first task is to name three to five things in Neverland. His second task is to eat as good as a hungry alligator.  He ended up enjoying the request and the meal. It only takes a little imagination to make reality like a dream.

You have dealt with the dread of waiting in long lines and hearing many tantrums. Treat yourself to a cocktail or two. The bartenders at Hollywood Brown Derby craft drinks to fit old Hollywood celebrities. You can class it up with a nice glass of Merlot or Chardonnay. Wine selections served by the glass range from $14 to $50. If you enjoy margaritas or martinis, I recommend getting one of the specialty flights for the table.  

You will get three different flavored drinks that are placed in a dark metal drink carousel.  Each flight cost about fifteen dollars. The flavors for the Citizens Take Flight Margaritas are pomegranate, blood orange, and classic lime. The blood orange is my favorite because of the sweet tanginess. Classic gin, classic vodka, and pomegranate are the flavors of the Stars of Hollywood Martini Flight. This deal is perfect for couples and friend groups who love test tasting.

 If you are not interested in tangy tasting drinks, you should try out that Grapefruit Martini. It has the right amount of sweetness. The cocktail is a mixture of Deep Eddy ruby red grapefruit vodka and Stoli vanilla vodka with cream. 

The glass is rimmed with crushed vanilla wafers to add a little flavor and texture. It is a great interpretation of the iconic Grapefruit Cake. There are also tasty mocktails teens and pregnant women can enjoy, such as Pink Palace and Sunset Boulevard. Pink Palace consists of Sprite and watermelon juice. Sunset Boulevard has tangerine juice and Sprite. Each mocktail comes with a souvenir glow cube. 

Fresh rolls with sea salt butter will be served as you settle in and look over the menu. I love when restaurants serve fresh bread and butter. The restaurant’s classic water bread is not my favorite. The bread is not soft enough for me to enjoy. It is too crunchy and flaky. I have to dust the flakes off my napkin every time. 

However, the butter is delightfully favorable. If you want to get a complete feel of Brown Derby, try out the original Cobb Salad. You can get it as an appetizer or an entrée. The creation was actually an act of kindness.  Hollywood Brown Derby owner Bob Cobb chopped up his leftovers for showman Sid Grauman who couldn’t chew because of dental work. The ingredients remain true to the original recipe. 

The salad is made of iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, watercress, crumbled blue cheese, turkey breast, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, avocado, chicory, and chives. The dressing is an old-fashioned French dressing. You don’t have to let the presence of an undesirable ingredient prevent you from enjoying this Brown Derby tradition. If you don’t like a certain ingredient, your server can easily omit it.

Hollywood Brown Derby is the right place to go for gourmet meat or seafood. The Char-Grilled Filet of Beef and Charred Pork Chop are both juicy cuts of meat with different instinct taste. The filet has a bacon and sweet onion jam as well as a port wine reduction sauce. A white truffle potato croquette is placed on the filet. 

When you take a bite of the potato croquette, you will get a burst of creamy potato cooked in a lovely golden crust. The filet was is also served with sun-dried tomatoes, asparagus, and watercress greens.  The beef might be too tough for some individuals to swallow so be careful if you have bad reflects.

If you rather sweet marinated meat than try out the Charred Pork Chop. Sweet tropical flavors star in the dish. Mango and chorizo are stuffed in the pork chop with a sweet-and-sour sauce drizzled on top. The entrée is finished with colorful Cuban sweet potato hash browns, cipollini onions, and tri-color cauliflower.

The pork chop can satisfy one large appetite, or it can be shared by two. Make you are specific with how you like the meat when you order. My stepdad wanted his pork chop to be prepared medium well. It ended up being overcooked. Dry meat is as unappetizing as it sounds.  

Even though I think the meat is mouth water delicious, I usually enjoy the restaurant’s seafood dishes. I love the texture and flavor of Blue Lump Crab Crispy Wonton appetizer. The lump crab is tender. The saltiness of ponzu vinaigrette and piquillo pepper sauce balances out the spiciness of the wasabi. The Faroe island Salmon at the Hollywood Brown Derby is not as good as I expected. It tasted too bland and fishy. 

However, their version of Shrimp and Grits is fantastic. I’m from Louisiana and I love trying out different interpretations of shrimp and grits. The grits were so cheesy and creamy. The rich sweetness of the shrimp was nicely paired the savoriness of the grits. The ando oil gave the Andouille sauce an extra kick. The bitter greens provided another nice contrasting flavor. It’s one of the best Shrimp and Grits dishes I ever had. 

I am always excited to get the Dessert Trio. Guests can mix and match three desserts. The options are Grapefruit Cake, Banana-Toffee Cake, Cappuccino Brulee, Warm Blueberry Cobbler, and Lemon Cheesecake. I like getting the Lemon Cheesecake, the Grapefruit Cake, and the Dark Chocolate Cremeux.

The combination of blueberry and lemon in the cheesecake is heavenly and there is a cute chocolate derby hat on top. I love grapefruit-flavored cream cheese frosting on the Grapefruit Cake.  The apricot tones down the richness of the Dark Chocolate Cremeux perfectly.  

Entertainment

There are two entertainment packages available through the restaurant. Fantasmic! Dining Package is perfect for small families or friend groups. The meal includes one entrée, dessert, and a nonalcoholic beverage. Not only will you get to enjoy a great gourmet meal, you will also be able to get one voucher for guaranteed seating at the nighttime show Fantasmic! in a reserved area.

The cost for adults is $63. The cost for children is $22. This excludes tax and gratuity. This package sells out quickly, so try your best 180 days in advance. If you plan to squander park time for a fancy meal, you may as well get a good deal.   

Fantasmic! Dining Package is one of my favorite packages to do with my family. Guests who get this package get a good viewing spot for the show. Wheelchair bound individuals can sit in the handicap section in the back. 

Fantasmic! is one of the best nighttime shows at Disney World.  The show sparks up your imagination with amazing features. The features are fireworks, water effects, pyrotechnics, music, audio-animatronics, and misty screen projections. The show is about a dream Mickey Mouse has. There are scenes from several popular Disney films. The show leads up to a climactic battle between Mickey and the evil Maleficent as a fire-breathing dragon. It all ends well though with a boatload of Disney characters at the end. Your kids will love it!

If you are interested in dining at the restaurant with a large group, you should look at the Dine with An Imagineer Lunch package. As you enjoy a delicious meal, you get the chance to dine with a real live Walt Disney Imagineer. 

Guests aged ten years old and older can take part in this experience. Cost per person is $60 (excluding tax and gratuity).  Like other dinner packages, you have 180 days to reserve the event in advance. The guest limit for this event is ten. If your group is less than ten people, try out to reach out to other park-goers. You may form new friendships.

The lunch is served in the Bamboo Room. From the bamboo light fixtures to the bamboo ceilings, you will get mid-twentieth century tropical vibes. The meal is four courses: soup, salad, entrée, and dessert. Every guest will get a customized name tag and must introduce himself or herself to the table. Once the meal starts, your Imagineer will tell you about the work that he or she does. He or she will also answer questions you might have about Disney Imagineering. 

It is best to not assume you will have lunch with the person is designing the next big Disney thrill ride, such as Joe Rohde. Disney Imagineering includes many jobs, from accountants to lawyers to ride designers. Who knows, though? You might be in the group that has lunch with a ride designer.  

I haven’t gotten the chance to this yet. However, I honestly think this meal package is worth booking.  It is not every day that you get the chance to meet a Disney Imagineer in person. Plus, your older children might get inspired to achieve their goals by having a close-up of a professional Disney career. So, don’t skip out on this awesome opportunity!

 Hollywood Brown Derby has many great qualities.  Large families will get a lot of enjoyment out of the dinner packages. The atmosphere is intriguing. The food quality is surprisingly satisfying.

However, most guests don’t have the time or money to enjoy a fancy meal. The prices should be affordable for all guests. The service needs to improve in time management. Therefore, I give this restaurant three of five stars.

If you enjoyed this article, please “like” our brand new Countdown to Magic Facebook page!

This article was written by Countdown to Magic contributor Brooke Smith.

You Also Might Like: