Review: The Hollywood Brown Derby

Have you ever had a negative opinion of a restaurant you've never visited and subsequently stayed away, only to later experience it and wonder why you did so for so long? Perhaps you read some negative reviews or had a few friends tell you the place was lousy. Or maybe you thought poorly of a place for no apparent reason whatsoever, and this feeling just kind of stuck for years to come. Well this is exactly what happened to me, and thankfully on a recent trip to Disney I was able to change that baseless opinion with my first visit to The Hollywood Brown Derby.
Disney Hollywood Studios Brown Derby

I was skeptical about dining at The Brown Derby from the start, mostly because my wife and I were on the Disney Dining Plan for the first time, and we would have to use two meal credits per person, even for our lunch reservation. In a nutshell, The Brown Derby carries a premium over most other Disney restaurants, and I was treating our meal credits like gold. The idea of two credits for lunch at a restaurant inside Disney's third best park seemed absurd. Almost as absurd as my not liking the Derby having never been there before...
Hollywood Brown Derby Caricatures

We arrived a few minutes early for our noon reservation, which gave me time to look around the dining room. The first thing I noticed were the countless caricatures adorning the walls throughout the restaurant. While I didn't recognize many of the names, it was clear they were of prominent actors and actresses of Hollywood's Golden Era. I enjoyed this portion of the theme, as it was reminiscent of New York's renowned Palm Steakhouse. The dining room itself was enormous and set under a few retro looking chandeliers. As a lover of the show Mad Men, it reminded me of the restaurants Don Draper frequents with his clients, wife, and girlfriends.
Disney Hollywood Studios Brown Derby
With the hour just past noon, and in the nostalgic setting of the Derby, it seemed only appropriate that I start with an old-school beverage. I opted to try my first Manhattan, which has proven to be a mistake as it has become my new beverage of choice, and opened me up to a great degree of ridicule. Following my previous love for Arnold Palmer's, moving on to Manhattans has only solidified the opinion of my wife, friends and family, that I am without a doubt an old man.
Disney Hollywood Studios Brown Derby
I started the meal with the spicy tuna tartar, which was cleverly presented in a glass vase, with colored ice at the bottom. The tuna was topped with an avocado wasabi sauce, and complimented with lotus root crisps. The tuna was served ice cold, just the way I like it, and the lotus crisps were a nice touch, almost like a fancy potato chip.
Disney Hollywood Studios Brown Derby

My wife started with the cobb salad, and while it was on the menu as an appetizer, it was a meal unto itself. The portion was so large, that she shared nearly half of it with me, and still didn't quite finish. The lettuce was chopped very fine, and topped with the traditional ham, turkey, bacon, egg, etc. It was, in a word, awesome. Plus, I wasn't going to complain about getting an extra course for myself.
Disney Hollywood Studios Brown Derby
For my main, I was feeling a bit carnivorous, and opted for the filet mignon. Since I wasn't technically paying anything thanks to the Dining Plan, I figured few things could top "free" filet mignon. There is a choice between a 6oz and 8oz portion, although is there really much of a choice there? My 8oz cut arrived perfectly medium-rare, and was set atop white truffle mashed potatoes. With those pairings, this dish was destined for greatness, and it certainly didn't disappoint.
Disney Hollywood Studios Brown Derby
Finally came the all important dessert, where I opted for the Chocolate Three Ways. I am usually a fan of all things chocolate, and while the name certainly speaks to that affection, this one sort of fell flat. Perhaps my expectations for dessert are too high, but the dish didn't leave me wishing we were coming back for dinner. I wasn't concerned, however, as there were plenty of treats from the Boardwalk Bakery back in our hotel room fridge.

Overall, the food and service at The Brown Derby were exceptional. That said, I'm still not sure it was worth the two meal credits on the Dining Plan, especially for lunch. The restaurant is certainly a cut above most throughout Disney, but I'm not sure I'd lump it into a category with other two credit restaurants such as Narcoossee's, Citrico's or California Grill. My opinion is that it lies in limbo somewhere between the two.

The mystery of the source of my long time negative opinion of The Hollywood Brown Derby may never be solved. But regardless, I'm glad to have wiped the slate clean, and to have found another great option for dining at Disney. do I sneak in my own caricature?

Enjoy Your Stay

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