Hollywood Brown Derby
Disney-MGM Studios

Debra Martin Koma
ALL EARS® Senior Editor
January 2004

It's widely believed that most restaurants in the Walt Disney World theme parks are not the best choices for fine dining or a relaxed meal. The Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney-MGM Studios proves that to be a misconception, particularly when dining there at lunchtime during the off-season.

Stopping in to the Brown Derby around 1 p.m. recently, without Priority Seating arrangements, we were assured by the cheery host that we'd be seated right away, since he "knows the guy at the front desk." True to his word, we were being shown to our seats within five minutes.

Having not been in the Brown Derby for quite a while, it was nice to be able to look around without crowds. The restaurant still has an understated elegance and the feel of a bygone era, with white linen table cloths on the booth tables, rich teak and mahogany wood trim, brass lamps, and tall palm fronds accenting the corners. Literally hundreds
of celebrity caricatures paper the walls. Our server Greg promptly took our drink order (just soft drinks -- it was before 5 o'clock!), but didn't press us further, so we had a chance to relax. Soon, crusty hot bread was brought to the table.

When we did finally order, I chose the house specialty, which I'd never tried here before: The Cobb Salad ($12.99). Rows of chopped greens, turkey, egg, bacon, tomatoes, blue cheese and avocado were neatly lined up on a huge white plate, which my server then gracefully mixed together for me with the special Cobb Dressing. No wonder this is such a well-known, well-loved entree! The crisp, fresh greens blended with the meats and sharp cheese perfectly -- even the bacon did not overpower the flavors, as it has in other Cobb Salads I've tried.

My lunch-mate opted for the 10 oz. New York Strip Steak ($17.99). Marinated in ale, the tender slab of meat was grilled "well" as requested, and came with a Mexican-inspired, cumin-flavored green chimichurri sauce and Boniato mashed potatoes. I've never seen 10 ounces of steak disappear so quickly!

With lots of park-going still on our horizon, neither of us tried a dessert, so our lunch ended about an hour after we had entered the restaurant. In spite of that, we felt that we'd had a peaceful, unhurried break in an otherwise hectic day. Lunch for two totaled a rather pricey $35, but, then again, neither of us would need to eat a big dinner after such a filling midday meal.

Hollywood Brown Derby still receives my endorsement for a wonderful theme
park dining experience.