On Episode 136 of the ZADD Crew Podcast you heard Producer Greg suggest that Hollywood Brown Derby face the chopping block in a game of Keep, Cancel, Replace against the 50’s Prime Time Cafe and the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. He claimed its theme is reminiscent of an older Hollywood Studios – and I agree, but I don’t think that’s any reason for it to go. Let me try to convince you…
I’ve enjoyed a number of dinners at Hollywood Brown Derby and each experience has been an absolute treat. This delightful restaurant is themed for the golden age of Hollywood and offers wall-to-wall caricatures of famous faces – including a number of pooches! As a note, this is a signature dining experience, so it would cost two dining credits for anybody on a dining plan.
Even though Hollywood Brown Derby is in a sizable building right in
the middle of Hollywood Studios, it’s surprisingly easy to miss. I couldn’t tell you how many times
I’d walked past this restaurant without even realizing it. I guess that’s a reminder to always look up (and see the enormous bowler-hat sign on the roof). Also, as a side note, the elevator up to Club 33 is in the HBD building! (If anybody wants to bring me up there, I wouldn’t say no. Just saying…)
Reservations are highly recommended for dinner at HBD because I’ve seen walk-ins turned away due to lack of availability. Booking at the 180-day-out mark, though, I never had trouble getting the day and time I wanted.
HBD offers a full bar, so they’ve got beer, wine, cocktails, and signature drinks (as well as plenty of non-alcoholic options — including fun mixes and one that comes with a glow cube!). When in Disney, I like to try things I can’t get at home, so I’ll usually go for some fun concoction that would generally be deemed “froofy.” I don’t mind the designation. I love a cocktail with a tiny umbrella in it.
During my last visit, I got the Peach Tree Punch, a tall glass of pretty blended heaven made of Ketel One Vodka, Peach Schnapps, grenadine, OJ, and sprite. Highly recommend it, but let me warn you — it dangerously tastes like juice. Becky, Ben’s sister, enjoyed the Margarita Flight
(including a traditional “Derby” Margarita, a Blood Orange Margarita, and a Pomegranate Margarita). Ben likes his classics, so he got an Old Fashioned with Maker’s Mark and can attest that HBD makes a great one.
Even when it’s a sweltering day in the middle of August, I’ll still order myself a cup of HBD’s roasted corn soup, that reminded me of a hearty corn chowder, because it is the best soul-warming kind of comfort food around. The restaurant is kept cool, and the soup is divine. Unfortunately, this one is a seasonal offering, so it’s not on the menu year-round.
Another appetizer that we’ve enjoyed on one of our trips is the Blue Lump Crab Crispy Wonton. This small salad-like treat comes with a healthy portion of real crab meat and is a tart, light, refreshing appetizer. Living in Boston, I have pretty high standards for crab, but I can say HBD holds its own.
The Famous Cobb Salad
Any second-rate Google search of HBD will quickly show that they’re known for their Cobb Salad. You may be thinking a Cobb salad is something really unusual to be “famous” for since it’s such an ordinary dish. Well, you’d be wrong. Somehow, HBD makes this simple salad magical (I think it’s the dressing). HBD tosses shredded greens with turkey, bacon, blue cheese, chives, avocado, egg, and tomato with that incredible dressing table-side. Each salad is made from scratch, so no worries if you’d prefer one or more of these ingredients be left off your plate. You also have the option to choose between an appetizer portion or an entree portion — and yes, the entree version of this salad is plenty filling for dinner, even if you’ve walked 20 miles across the parks.
I have not had a trip to HBD without enjoying the Cobb salad in one of its two offered sizes. It would be a disservice to my taste buds to do so. I’m a salad person, but I don’t think that bias makes a difference here. HBD’s Cobb salad is incredible. 10/10 would recommend.
My experience with the HBD entrees is actually embarrassingly limited
— because I’ve only ever not gotten the salad once. That one time, I chose the Charred Filet of Beef as my main dish. This piece of meat is glazed with port wine and served with sweet potato silk, wild mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, and sweetie drop peppers (but I got mine sans mushrooms — the ONLY food I don’t eat). The cut of meat was perfect and the dish was as heavenly as it sounds. I enjoyed this as part of an early dinner, so I will say that it made me kind of groggy for the rest of the day. Instant food coma. Maybe a better choice for something to end an evening.
HBD, in my opinion, has one of the best dessert set-ups for a non-local. When I face a dessert menu, I often want to try everything that’s available. Rarely am I actually able to do that. When a restaurant is so far away, and I know I won’t be able to grab a meal every time I visit the area, it’s especially heartbreaking to choose between something chocolate or something fruity. HBD has the solution with their mini-trio option for dessert! HBD allows guests to choose 3 of their 6 mini desserts to get a sampling of the treats they offer! They offer the Brown Derby Original Mini Grapefruit Cake, Warm Blueberry Cobbler, Banana-Toffee Cake, Cappuccino Brûlée, Lemon Cheesecake, and Dark Chocolate Cremeux. There really isn’t a wrong choice here.
Also, HBD offers a special Joffrey’s Coffee blend, crafted just for the restaurant. If you’re a coffee-drinker, I highly recommend a pot of their French press brew. Even if you’re not much of a coffee drinker, it’s really delicious. I know my face says otherwise, but I swear I included this photo because it’s funny, not because it’s accurate. I was very pleasantly surprised by how gentle this coffee was!!
Fantasmic! Dining Package
HBD is one of three restaurants in Hollywood Studios (the others are Hollywood & Vine
and Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano) that offer a special dining package at a fixed fee that comes with specialty seating for the Fantasmic! show at night!
Currently, the package includes one entree, one desert, and non-alcoholic beverage(s) per person, along with that voucher for guaranteed seating at Fantasmic! in a reserved, center-stage section. At HBD, the price is currently $63 for adults, and $22 for children for lunch or dinner (though some dining plans are accepted).
Ben and I chose to partake in the Fantasmic! Dining Package during our visit to the parks in December (which is why our dinner was so early. The relevant showing of Fantasmic! that day started at 7pm. At the time, the dining package was priced differently and also included an appetizer per-person.
While there are a lot of factors to consider (including what you would have chosen to eat without the package, how busy the parks are (and therefore how difficult it may be to get a seat for Fantasmic!), and how much Fantasmic! matters to you, I wouldn’t recommend this dining package. The main reason for this is that I’d recommend the Cobb Salad for an entree, and coming in at $18, you’d be letting the parks rob you if you paid $63 for the dinner package. When Ben and I enjoyed the dinner package, I got the Filet of Beef described above (at $49, it made much more sense). If you’re enticed by a pricier entree, maybe it’s the right choice for you. I will say, our seats were Fantasmic (get it?) for a completely packed show.
Dining with an Imagineer
This one, I sadly can’t talk about with any first-hand experience. Still, I wanted to mention that HBD is one of the locations on Disney property that offers an incredible opportunity to have dinner with an Imagineer (Citricos at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa also has this offering). The Disney website boasts of an intimate 4-course lunch where guests can learn about the Disney parks from somebody who helped to create them. Dining plan credits cannot be used for this experience.
Lunch with an Imagineer is not offered every day, so make sure to check for available times on the Disney website or ask your Disney Vacation Planner for help securing one of these spots (CJ can help with this – shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Have you been by HBD? Have you dined with an Imagineer? I’d love to hear about your experiences! Leave a comment below or reach out on Instagram (@home_at_disney)!