Across the way from Hollywood Studios’ replica of the Mann Chinese Theater proudly stands Hollywood Brown Derby, one of the last remnants of the original spirit of the park and the only Brown Derby restaurant still serving guests today. With its rust red awnings, neon sign, and overall traditionally Californian architecture, this eatery evokes nostalgia for the Golden Age of Hollywood.
The doors open, and suddenly guests find themselves not in the present age but in old Hollywood. Black and white caricatures of bygone celebrities smile from the wall and vintage carpeting blankets the floor of the main dining hall, creating an atmosphere that perfectly personifies the epitome of 1940s class.
The meal commences with a basket of warm, delicious rolls accompanied by butter graced with Himalayan Sea salt. Even by itself, the bread is outstanding. The crust gives a slight, crackling crunch and the inside is luxuriously fluffy. The butter provides a pleasantly salty flavor. I would argue these are the best rolls at Disney World.
The entrée undoubtedly marks the meal’s summit. On my most recent visit, I decided to try the Free-Range Chicken a la King, which consists of grilled chicken on a bed of verdant herb spätzle, a German potato dumpling comparable to small gnocchi, adorned with colorful vegetables and basking on top of a creamy champagne sauce. This dish appeals to the eye, boasting a lovely presentation with greens and cheery reds. I must admit, I was not expecting much from the chicken a la king. While I do enjoy chicken, I do not tend to search it out on a menu, often opting for plant-based options, which I find more interesting than the typically dull poultry platter. My expectations were blown away. I needed only a fork to cut through the chicken; it was cooked to tender perfection. The meat was impeccably seasoned, and the amazing champagne sauce accented it well. The herb spätzle did not pack a powerful punch in terms of flavor, but it was tasty, especially when paired with the creamy sauce. The sugar snap peas and peppers were fresh and contrasted nicely with the heavier aspects of the dish. This dish is somewhat rich, but it is not a hindrance to enjoying a park day. I loved the chicken a la king, and it ranks among the best entrees I’ve tried in the parks.
The Brown Derby is known not only for its Old Hollywood feel but for its creation of the Cobb salad; a medley of eggs, avocados, chicken, bacon, tomatoes, onions, bleu cheese, and herbs, making for a colorful entrée. My mom orders this classic dish each time we enjoy a meal at this restaurant. She adores this unique salad for its fabulous, fresh flavors that complement each other perfectly but also stand proud as individual ingredients. Something to note, the Cobb salad may be served tossed or un-tossed, allowing guests to savor the dish according to their personal preference.
The menu also accommodates pickier palates with dishes like the Brown Derby Signature Burger, my dad’s entrée of choice. This burger is crowned with bacon jam, cheddar cheese, a fried egg, and Russian dressing, but of course it may be ordered plain. My dad loves this sandwich and even claims it rivals the famous Steakhouse 71 cheeseburger.
Brown Derby is without question the best table service restaurant at Hollywood Studios and among the best signature eateries at Disney World. Between the lovely atmosphere and delicious food, this restaurant is certainly worthy of a visit.