The Brown Derby Restaurant at Disney – A Review
I knew when travelling to the Disney Hollywood Studios that I wanted to dine here at the Brown Derby due to my habitual watching of I Love Lucy reruns. Those Lucy fans out there will remember the Emmy-award-winning performance starring William Holden and Eve Arden and the infamous pie-throwing scene… it all happened at the ‘Derby.
You can only imagine how excited a Lucy nerd would be to emulate this famous episode, feeling as if you were surrounded by A-list celebrities… So we made a reservation.
The Hollywood Brown Derby is a legendary restaurant that opened in Hollywood California in 1926. Celebrities flocked to this eatery and made it a piece of motion picture history. In fact, Clark Gable loved this restaurant so much that he proposed to Carole Lombard here where she accepted with open arms. Gossip columnists of the day like Hedda Hopper wrote many a newspaper post from one of their many tables while sipping a spritzer and Gregory Peck lunched here while using the at-the-table accessible telephones pioneered right here.
This restaurant was the quintessential eatery of the Golden Age. It depicted a poshness that even the most celebrated movie stars of the day considered dining here a luxury. It was the toast of the town for decades until it was forced to close in 1985 due to the earthquake that jostled the entire State of California. The owners simply could not afford the restoration efforts and drew the curtains to this iconic eatery.
But not all was lost.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios negotiated bringing the restaurant back to life within the park and the notion received a standing ovation.
One of the more upscale restaurants in the Disney parks, The Hollywood Brown Derby boasts an extensive menu of elegant cuisine, a wine list fit for the posh including the exclusive merlots made solely at Disney-supported wineries, and most impressively, the original caricature collection from the Derby’s Wall of Fame. As you sit in the restaurant gaze at the various stars upon the walls from Sammy Davis Jr., to Lucille Ball, to John Travolta, and more. It was such a thrill for us, that of all the caricatures to be above our booth, Lucille Ball was right there! (Lucy nerd snort.)
Disney embraced this iconic eatery and ensured its restaurant was an exact replica of the original. While staying at Disney be sure to include a meal here, especially if you are on the dining plan as it is included. Otherwise, you will find that it is one of the pricier restaurants in the entire Disney complex.
Now Here’s the Scoop on the Food
The original Hollywood Brown Derby boasted a beautiful menu of original dishes created specially for its customers- Most notably the Cobb Salad and Grapefruit cake. These iconic meals bolstered the Hollywood Derby to its famously high and posh social standing. A-listers flocked to the Derby for lunch, business meetings, and of course intimate dinners to savour these specially-created entrees perfect for any time of day. Disney in its infinite wisdom ensured every detail was covered when bringing this restaurant to the park. This meant the recipes for the famous salad and cake were learnt, bringing this legendary gastronomy to guests.
With every meal, the staff brings a bread bowl. I particularly loved this as the butter was homemade and had a delightful sea salt topping. It was a beautiful presentation and a perfect way to start our meal.
Instead of ordering one of their incredible looking appetizers, as I wasn’t famished, I decided to try the classic cobb salad, the original recipe made famous here. A salad of chicken, lettuce, cheese, bacon, onions, hard-boiled egg, avocado and topped with an Italian style dressing was the perfect sized meal while absorbing the Disney magic. After having this salad, I could understand its popularity. It combined several food groups and was healthy at the same time. Truly a dish that whets any appetite.
My husband chose the fried chicken with tortellini and onion strings. A choice that wasn’t as famous a recipe, but still one that was equally enjoyable. Sadly when it arrived, it was a little cold, but other than that he thoroughly enjoyed his meal. I could sense that he was slightly envious of my delicious cobb salad, but there is always a next time!
Now for dessert. The Brown Derby is known for its deliciously moist and original Grapefruit cake with cream cheese icing. A recipe created specially for this iconic eatery, the grapefruit cake has pleased patrons for decades. Disney proudly brought the recipe to the restaurant to keep the legendary dessert alive. Be sure to have a slice while here. If you are not a fan of grapefruit, there are several other sweet endings available to conclude your dining experience.
An additional plus for the Brown Derby besides offering delicious dishes and pure elegance while exploring the magic, is the dining packages. Make sure you check out the Brown Derby as your eating option in viewing Fantasmic, the evening entertainment at the Hollywood Studios.
In conclusion, I would highly recommend the Brown Derby as a lunch or dinner stop on your Disney Hollywood Studios itinerary. It is a more pricey option, but the atmosphere and quality dishes make it worth it. If you are looking especially for a taste of nostalgia you will love reminiscing the old days of Tinseltown when silver screen was the rage and Carey Grant was the leading man. I can confidently say that it was one of my favourite dining experiences while at Disney.
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