Cheers from The Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge!
The Brown Derby Lounge sits just outside The Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Its reputation stems from that of the original Brown Derby Restaurant in the City of Lights — a hot spot of the 1930s and 40s where stars of the Golden Age of film came to “see and be seen.” The outdoor lounge (which was added to the Disney World location in 2013) offers a spot for walk-ups without Advance Dining Reservations to enjoy a taste along with a bit of the ambience of the signature restaurant.
The Lounge serves food along with cocktails and bar service. And with some new items added to the menu this summer, we thought it was a good time to travel back to Hollywood’s heyday with a visit to the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge.
For a newer location, The Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge blends so seamlessly within its surroundings that its hard to remember that it hasn’t been here all along. And, to be fair, the patio and tables HAVE been here all along, but they weren’t functioning as a lounge at the time.
Below is a shot from its opening day in October 2013.
Not much has changed in the past almost-two years, except for
some table switch-outs with some lower seating (and, of course, the bar moves around). But it still serves as a simple and natural extension to the restaurant inside. The Spanish Mission-style building is the backdrop for lots of tables and chairs, and the crimson umbrellas provide pops of color along with lots of welcome shade.
While you won’t spy any of the signature caricatures of movie stars that line the indoor walls (it’s worth stepping inside the main doors to see them in the check-in area for indoor dining), you can still get a feel for the more refined atmosphere of the Derby while taking in the theme park action happening outside.
It’s can be a bit of a tight squeeze with the tables here. And depending on the time of day there can be a wait for a seat, so if it’s a busy day at the park it’s best to try to visit during off-peak meal times. (Typically, the lounge opens around noon and closes a half hour before park close).
If, perchance, you happen upon a crowded time and don’t care to wait for a seat, the full-service bar also prepares drinks that you can take with you on your park stroll, and it’s often a good spot to find specialty event beverages like the Star Wars Weekends glow drinks or the current Frozen Summer Fun specialties.
For the food, though, you definitely need a table. So let’s grab one and get ready to drink and dine at the Derby!
It’s tapas, wine, and cocktails here at the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge…
One of the great things about the outdoor Lounge is that you can enjoy some of the famous Brown Derby dishes — such as the appetizer-sized portion of The Famous Hollywood Brown Derby Cobb Salad — without stepping inside to have a full meal.
Beverage favorites such as the Citizens Take Flight Maragarita Flight are still available out here, too.
But on our most recent visit we were checking out the new additions to the menu!
Let’s start with a bit of liquid refreshment… the new Champagne Cocktail features Fairy Tale by Iron Horse Sparkling Wine (exclusive to Disney parks and resorts!), St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and Angostura Bitters.
The Fairy Horse is definitely on the dry side with a sharp flavor, and the concoction itself is strong. If you prefer sweeter tastes then this isn’t the bubbly beverage for you, but I think it’s a solid choice to match the elegant Hollywood atmosphere.
The Summer Sangria is white wine, gin, peach schnapps, white cranberry juice and apple juice topped off with fresh fruit.
I’m accustomed to the White Sangria from the standard Disney Bar and Lounge menu, which I really enjoy but find to be fairly subtle. I think the surprising strength of the Derby’s Summer Sangria must come from the gin. It is a mix of bitter and sweet flavors and a refreshing choice for the summer.
Now, if you’ve ever visited the Brown Derby, you may already be familiar with its star dessert, Grapefruit Cake (which, along with the Cobb Salad, is an original 40s Brown Derby dish).
Well, now you can enjoy it in a sippable fashion thanks to the new Grapefruit Cake Martini! This mix of ruby red grapefruit vodka and vanilla vodka come together with a bit of cream to mimic the tart-and-sweet combo of the dessert. It’s all finished with a vanilla wafer rim as part of the “cake.”
Is it a drink? Is it dessert? YOU get to decide! It’s definitely a fun twist, and if you’re a fan of the flavors of the dessert you should give it a go.
Bloody Marys have made quite a splash at the Animal Kingdom’s Dawa Bar, and the Derby Lounge now has a Bloody Mary of its own to share. The Absolut Peppar Vodka (spelled with an “a” in the second syllable, in case you care to find it at home) delivers the heat, complementing the pepper in the Bloody Mary mix, and we found this one to be nice and thick and not too watery.
I’m not really a Bloody Mary drinker, but my friend especially enjoyed the garnish of green olives, onion, pickled green beans, celery, and juicy homemade pickles.
Clearly, it’s nice to balance out the beverages with a few eats ;), and again we went exclusively with new menu items. First up was the Corn Bisque with corn and lobster fritters. The finishing touch is a chili oil to add a little kick.
Here’s the weird thing with this one: both components of this dish are enjoyable… individually. The bisque is creamy and decadent, and the flavors of the corn and lobster fritters were good, too (seeing as you really can’t argue with deep fried lobster). But I think I would enjoy each of these better separately instead of together.
I love a crispy fritter, which wasn’t so much the case here — what with being tucked inside a soup, and all ;). It’s still a fun take on a seafood offering, but I was more impressed with the other tapas we tried.
The Crispy Bites offer an assortment of dippable fried goodness complete with sauces.
The pairings of bites with specific sauces are suggested on the menu: the Parmesan-Goat Cheese Risotto Sticks go with the peach-habanero chili sauce, while the Brie Cheese Sticks pair with the Sweet Onion and Orange Jam. Finally, the Blue-Mushroom Arancini (rice balls) are given a Fig and Balsamic dip.
Frankly, I enjoyed mixing and matching them all (although the suggested pairings did taste the best). The parmesan, goat cheese and risotto sticks are certainly the “cheesiest” item in the bunch while the brie sticks are very light and are more of a brie-flavored stick rather than filled with a heavy cheese (to avoid a meltdown, I assume). The mushroom rice balls have a very bold and full flavor thanks to the bleu cheese dressing inside.
Overall, the flavors are pretty great, but I would’ve been happier with a larger portion for the $14.00. It’s a nice and easy one to share around the table, though! And note that at least one of the sauces is changed out on the menu regularly, so your mileage may vary.
Finally, the new Shrimp and Chorizo Bruschetta came highly recommend by our server. This take on bruschetta consists of grilled shrimp marinated in Bloody Mary, chorizo (mildly spicy pork and beef sausage), tomatoes, pickled onions, and garlic butter on ciabatta bread. The yellow tomatoes really bring out the Bloody Mary flavoring on the shrimp.
The mix of strong flavors actually complement one another quite well! The ciabatta bread has a crunchy crust and softer center, which held up the ingredients well without getting soggy.
Definitely some unique twists on your standard pub grub, wouldn’t you say?
I really enjoy the Hollywood Brown Derby Restaurant as a signature dining experience. I think the setting is top-notch (especially as a fan of the classic film era), and it can be a great choice for a special occasion. But — let’s face it — it’s a signature restaurant, so it’s a pretty penny to dine there (and requires two Table Service credits on the Disney Dining Plan). I think the Lounge is a fantastic option to sample some of the cuisine and unique atmosphere if you are on the fence about a full meal at the Brown Derby.
True; the Lounge is still a splurge as far as bar eats go, but the items are quality, and the prices of the beverages are comparable to cocktails anywhere at Disney World. So if you fancy a more upscale bar experience within a park setting, the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge might be just the ticket for your visit.
Have you dined at the Brown Derby Lounge? What new menu item would you like to try? Let us know in the comments below!