Guest Author: Danielle Swanson
The Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney’s Hollywood Studios is stuck off the side of the main hub, the long red awning sticking out and announcing its presence to guest. In a park where everything is over the top, the beige stucco restaurant, a replica in both architecture and interior of the famous Hollywood Brown Derby located on Vine Street – the place where Clark Gable proposed to Carole Lombard and where an episode of I Love Lucy was set – looks modest, almost sublime, the exact opposite of its namesake’s presence in its time. The original location was the place for the silver screen crowd to see and be seen during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. It’s an American icon as the restaurant where the famous Cobb salad, now a diner staple, was invented.
The original restaurant may be gone, but Disney is doing an excellent job of recreating the atmosphere. From the black and white tiles to the opulent lighting fixtures, the décor made me feel as though I’d somehow stepped into a time machine and been transported back to a time of old Hollywood glamour. My fiancé and I requested one of the booths that surrounded the dining room floor and felt just as famous as the stars whose caricatures hang on the wall. We could recognize Bob Hope, FDR, Lucille Ball, and James Cagney; perhaps Jack Lane would be by to draw our picture in a moment. We sat side by side, watching all the people around, whispering our conversations to each other, and sipping on martinis, just waiting to see who might show up at the Hollywood hot spot. We’d heard rumors that on a rainy day you may catch a streetscape star or two, but alas it was sunny and none were to be spotted during our lunch hour.
I could not get enough of the soft bread rolls they bring out at the beginning of the meal. The bread is served with a creamy, salty butter that spreads easily over the hot rolls. It is the stuff dreams are made of – at least, if your dreams are of dairy products like mine are. Our appetizers were also amazing. The Cobb salad lived up to its reputation: it was finely chopped, blending the flavors of the ham, eggs, bacon, tomatoes, and lettuce together in every perfect bite. My fiancé was adventurous and ordered the Blue Lump Crab Spring Roll, a tasty Asian style dish that managed to be light and crispy despite being deep fried, for his appetizer and the Spit-roasted American Bison, which is only served medium-raw, for his entrée. Although my fiancé was concerned about the state of his meal, he ended up loving it. We both thought it might have a gamey flavor, but instead it was juicy and rich, tasting much like a high quality filet mignon.
I ordered the Sterling Silver Pork Chop, which looks amazing. However, in this case, looks were deceiving. The combination of Gouda cheese with the pork and cider jus were odd together, almost like someone stuck a slice of American cheese on a barbeque sandwich. I had only once sent a plate back because I did not like the food, but after only two tastes, I knew I could not eat another bite. I had to wait for quite some time as our waiter failed to check in with us for at least twenty minutes after our food was served. Even then it was another waitress who stopped at our table to get us refills and realized I was not touching my food. My fiancé had finished his meal, and we actually were served dessert before the steak – the same standard sirloin that is served at various Disney restaurants- I had ordered as a replacement came back.
As for dessert, we ordered the signature Grapefruit Cake and the Citrus Honey Nest to share. The Grapefruit Cake is light and airy, but it has a bitter taste that ruined it for me. The Citrus Honey Nest was a fresh cheesecake with a nice orange flavor and plump blueberries on the top, a sweet and delicious treat and an excellent way to finish the meal.
Despite the food being hit and miss and the slow service, our lunch at The Hollywood Brown Derby was romantic and glamorous, and I am glad we ate there at least once for the experience. However, I don’t find it on par with other Disney signature restaurants, such as Le Cellier, Narcoosee’s, and California Grill, which might be one of the reasons prices are slightly better at the restaurant; on dining plan, it’s not a value at its two point level. It could provide a nice escape for a hot day or a relaxing dinner after a busy day at the parks, but it’s not a restaurant I’ll be adding to my must do list when there are so many more appealing choices at the parks to revisit.
The Relocated Tourist is sponsored by “Magical Mouse Plan Travel”