To be completely forthcoming, we are not fans of the dining offerings in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Having dined at all the sit-down, a la carte restaurants the park currently has to offer, we think that only one merits repeat visits: the Hollywood Brown Derby. Additionally, we’ve found ourselves spending less and less time in the Studios on recent trips. Although the park has one of the richest atmospheres, it’s very much lacking in attractions. As such, we rarely ever spend more than a few hours there and never seem to want to stick around for a meal. However, we’ve been looking for a reason to go back to the Brown Derby ever since they started offering the Citizens of Hollywood martini flight in 2011. We decided we would schedule ourselves for a light lunch last November so that we could enjoy the martinis and some of the Brown Derby’s other signature offerings.
We arrived the recommended 15 minutes ahead of our reservation time, and were seated right about on-time. The restaurant’s lobby was incredibly busy, so I was glad the wait wasn’t longer. Despite the crowding, we did enjoy the opportunity to examine the restaurant’s famous caricatures, and a few early Christmas decorations.
Our hostess noticed our “just engaged” buttons and excitedly congratulated us and thanked us for celebrating the occasion with the Brown Derby. She then escorted us to a quiet, cozy booth near the back of the restaurant.
Our server was a rather brusque woman named Cheryl. She wasn’t the friendliest server we’ve ever had, but she was incredibly professional and knew when to stop by our table and when to leave us to enjoy each others’ company. To me, that is way more valuable than a bubbly personality.
Before we go any further, I should apologize in advance for these photos. About halfway through our trip, my camera decided to have a software glitch that meant it no longer recognized when I was pressing the flash button. Luckily, it was turned off at the time and I wasn’t stuck with a camera that I couldn’t use on dark rides. However, it made taking indoor food photos a challenge. The following were instead shot with my iPhone.
We started with our reason for the visit: the Citizens of Hollywood martini flight.
The flight consists of the Honey Darling (Bombay Sapphire gin and dry vermouth), the Shelby Mayer (Grey Goose vodka and dry vermouth) and the Dorma Nesmond (Ketel One Citroen, pomegranate liqueur and cranberry juice).
As I am a lover of anything pomegranate, it was pretty much a given that the Dorma Nesmond was mine. Danny had a small taste and then allowed me to enjoy the rest. The Dorma Nesmond was a little on the sweet side, but the combination of cranberry and pomegranate is one of my favorites, so I didn’t mind. It probably would benefit from a lime wedge instead of the maraschino cherry (or just better pomegranate liqueur, or to omit the cranberry juice completely), but I understand why the sweetness of this drink is needed to balance out the two real martinis on the menu.
The two more traditional martinis were both excellent. Danny preferred the Honey Darling, while I was pleasantly surprised by the Shelby Mayer. We have strong opinions on how to make a martini (read: always gin, never vodka, and as little dry vermouth as you can get away with). However, if anybody makes a good vodka martini, the Hollywood Brown Derby does.
We didn’t want a very heavy lunch and knew we’d probably both want dessert, so we both opted for appetizer salads as our main dish. Danny had the Famous Cobb Salad, while I selected the Bibb Lettuce Salad.
Danny of course loved his salad. I don’t think you could put anything with bacon and bleu cheese in front of him that he wouldn’t enjoy. I, on the other hand, feel that my bibb lettuce salad was the winner. The sweet onion and peppercorn dressing along the Parmesan seed frico were such a great balance of sweet, spice and savory. It must be hard to be the unsung salad hero, sharing a menu with the Famous Cobb.
We ordered dessert and a second round of drinks. Danny selected another Brown Derby specialty: the grapefruit cake. What a quintessentially Brown Derby meal he had! Any Studios fan will tell you that the cobb salad and the grapefruit cake are the Derby’s two must-have items. The grapefruit cake is light and moist. The citrusy bite takes the edge off the sweetness. In fact, it’s about as close to “refreshing” as cake can be.
With his cake, he had a bottle of Tucher Kristall Weizen, a crystal wheat beer with a surprising banana taste! It went well with dessert.
I opted for the vanilla bean crème brûlée. As I do more restaurant reviews here, you’ll soon learn that I miss very few opportunities to try crème brûlée. I’d had this particular one before and knew I loved it. The vanilla’s presence is strong and adds an additional layer of decadence to an already rich dessert.
My second drink was another sweet one: The Derby Cosmo. This cosmopolitan gets a unique twist with Absolut Pears vodka. It was delicious, and decidedly desserty.
All in all, we had a great meal at the Brown Derby, and at this point, it’s one of our favorite reasons to visit Hollywood Studios. In fact, it’s the only restaurant within the park’s gates that we can wholeheartedly say we enjoy.
You can click the thumbnails below to see shots of the menu from our visit. Even though we dined there six months ago, the menu is still largely the same. You can definitely still enjoy all the items mentioned in this post, as they’re mostly signature items for the restaurant.
What do you think of the Hollywood Brown Derby? Are there any “signature” menu items that you enjoy at Disney World restaurants?