Restaurant Review: The Hollywood Brown Derby

by Gray Cargill on July 18, 2009

The Hollywood Brown Derby, located in the Hollywood Studios park at Walt Disney World, is one of Disney’s signature restaurants.  It is a replica of the real Hollywood’s legendary Brown Derby restaurant, where celebrities would “see and be seen”.  I imagine the dress code at the original was quite strict and it probably attracted a higher class of clientele than sweaty tourists wearing tank tops and shorts who have just had the bejesus scared out of them on the Tower of Terror.  Luckily for Hollywood Studios visitors like me, the management at this Brown Derby isn’t as discriminating.

Jack Lane art on wall

Jack Lane art on wall

As far as theming goes, they’ve done a very nice job of replicating an old-style, classy restaurant that might be in the real Hollywood, rather than Disney’s Hollywood.  Signed caricatures of celebrities line the walls in the lobby. This kept me entertained for the short period of time I had to wait to be shown into the restaurant.  I tried to identify the celebrities before looking at their signatures.  My lunch ADR was for 11:40, which is pretty early, so the restaurant was practically empty.  I was seated at a two-top table on the upper level, where I could look out over the rest of the restaurant.

Hollywood Brown Derby

Hollywood Brown Derby

My server, Jeremy (the second Jeremy who waited on me this trip!), was excellent.  Early on, he saw my camera sitting on the table and offered to take my picture with it as a souvenir of my lunch at the Brown Derby.  (Unfortunately, I had the flash off and it came out blurry.)  I realized, as I sat there observing the other tables in the restaurant, that he was not the only server taking pictures of diners.  It appears they’ve been instructed to offer to do this for guests–and what a great idea!  All restaurants in tourist areas should do this.

This picture really doesn't do the salad justice

This picture really doesn't do the salad justice

I glanced over the menu, but I already knew what I wanted, so ordering was easy.  I had the famous Brown Derby cobb salad.  I’m not normally a fan of cobb salads, but I’d seen pictures of this one on the Internet, and absolutely had to try it.  I have never had a cobb salad like this before.  It had the typical cobb salad ingredients–egg, bacon, blue cheese, avocado, turkey, tomatoes, and chives–but they were all chopped very fine and layered in rows in the bowl, on top of the finely shredded lettuce (which had already been tossed in what tasted like Italian dressing).  Jeremy offered to toss the salad for me tableside, but I declined.  I wanted to eat it just the way it was. It was a terrific salad.  It was also (as is so typical of restaurants) twice as much food as I could eat, and I really made a valiant effort.

Sadly, I didn’t have room for dessert, or I would have tried the restaurant’s equally famous grapefruit cake.  Next time.  The cobb salad and an iced coffee came to $18.42 before tip.  Yes, that’s quite pricey for a salad, even a big one, but this is a signature restaurant on Disney property, so that’s to be expected. Price notwithstanding, this was another positive solo dining experience at Disney World.  I can absolutely recommend the Brown Derby for the food, the atmosphere, and the solo-friendliness.

But you don’t have to dine here alone even if you are visiting Disney solo.  My friend Brad over at StitchKingdom has posted a great review of his lunch with a Disney Imagineer.  It sounds like a perfect way to enjoy the Brown Derby, socialize with other visitors, and get the scoop from a Disney insider.  You can read about it here.

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