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    The Hollywood Brown Derby

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Disney's Hollywood Studios in Hollywood Boulevard


Cobb salad, grapefruit cake, grilled Wagyu-beef burger, fettuccine Alfredo, beef Wellington, lamb chop or pulled.


The Brown Derby is one of the top theme park restaurants at Disney World, and it has thrived during the pandemic. It’s expensive, yes, but also a wonderful way to relax and regenerate. This reader from Montgomery, Alabama, recommends staying away from the entrées to save money:

I love The Hollywood Brown Derby. It’s so nice to escape the parks, heat, and people in the refined, cool, quiet, and it doesn’t have to cost much more than many other meals. I get the Cobb Salad, the lovely margarita flight, and the dessert trio.

If you don’t have reservations, the patio lounge opens at 11 a.m. and is first come, first served, with a menu of small plates and cocktails, and it’s a good place to have a drink and wait until your table is ready.

This reader from Hudson, New York, found the patio lounge a good venue for watching the Studios’ live entertainment:

Our two favorite spots were the Nomad Lounge [see page 352] and the Brown Derby patio lounge! We sat just outside the door to the regular Brown Derby restaurant, so the air-conditioning from inside kept us cool midday in July. We also had a great view of the Star Wars show from our spot!

Drink choices are far more extensive than Disney’s online menu might indicate and include various flights—martinis, margaritas, Champagnes, white and red wines, Scotches, and Grand Marnier vintages—along with wines by the bottle and by the glass, beer, and classic cocktails.

Setting and Atmosphere

An oasis of civility in the middle of a theme park, this is a replica of the original Brown Derby on Vine Street in Hollywood (the Wilshire Boulevard Brown Derby was the one shaped like a hat). The sunken dining room has a certain elegance, with tuxedoed waiters, curved booths, and white linen. Tall palm trees in huge pots stand in the center of the room and reach for the high ceiling. Ask for a seat on the second-level gallery; it’s much quieter and affords good people-watching in the hectic main space.

The original Hollywood Brown Derby was so frequented by the big movie stars of the day that fans would send mail to the Brown Derby addressed to the stars. The Hollywood Brown Derby is also famous for being the birthplace of a very famous dish when, in 1934, the second president of the Derby, Robert Cobb, invented a salad in the wee hours of the morning. He liked it so much he named it after himself and added The Cobb Salad to the menu.

In a strange twist of Disney-related history, the original Hollywood Brown Derby was depicted in the Mickey and the Beanstalk portion of the 1947 Disney animated short film Fun and Fancy Free. It also was the final time Walt Disney voiced Mickey in an animated feature, before handing duties over to Jimmy MacDonald.

At one point, a poor young artist requested permission to sketch caricatures of the celebrities in attendance in return for food. The drawings became such a hit that they eventually covered many of the walls of the restaurant. These caricatures define the Brown Derby and became its most recognizable aspect. The stars loved them so much that most are signed by the celebrities themselves. Copies of these drawings adorn the walls of the Disney’s Hollywood Studios version of the restaurant and there are even a few gold framed originals on the premises.

In addition to the drawings, there are many details and design elements that recall the Spanish mission style of the building it was modeled after. The likenesses start with the tile floor and exposed beams in the lobby and continue through the dining room’s barrel vaulted ceiling. The classy lamps and the light fixtures in the shape of a derby add authenticity and whimsy to the dining area. The curved booths harken back to a day when you would expect to see Clark Gable proposing to Carole Lombard (rumored to have happened in the original).

House Specialties

Cobb salad (named for Bob Cobb, owner of the original restaurant); the famous grapefruit cake made from the original Brown Derby recipe. Kids’ menu includes beef filet, a fish special, and grilled chicken breast.

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