A civilized escape – Hollywood Brown Derby, 5 Mice

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OK, so it’s not exactly like stepping back in time.  But from the moment we walk through the double doors, and on to the cool, black and white tile floors at the Brown Derby in Disney Hollywood Studios, the heat, humidity, crowds, and chaos seem to disappear. 

Now, I know that plenty of people never experience the Brown Derby.  They’re deterred by the higher-than-average prices, or the double charge on the Deluxe dining plan.  But rest assured, it is possible to have a lovely, relaxing, delicious experience at the Brown Derby, without breaking the bank.  Or, you can take advantage of the spectacular Fantasmic! Meal Package, which includes either lunch or dinner and preferred seating to what is possibly the best show in the parks, and call it a splurge.

My favorite way to start my mini vacation-within-a-vacation, is with a Brown Derby signature cocktail.  Specifically, the Jack Diamond Manhattan – Maker’s Mark, Sweet Vermouth, and Bitters, on the rocks.

On this particular day, my super-fun drinking dining companion chose a well-made Cape Codder.

If cocktails aren’t your thing, the wine list is filled with a nice range of bottles with a distinct California emphasis, by the bottle, half bottle or glass.  There are even a handful of pre-selected wine flights, and a wine pairing option.

So here comes the money-saving part.  (Because admittedly, $10 cocktails at lunch isn’t saving anyone any cash.)  There are exactly TWO items that every visitor to the Brown Derby is required* to order. 

Requirement #1 – The Cobb Salad.  It’s big enough for one person as a complete meal, two as a light lunch, or four as an appetizer.  And unless you’ve been to the original Brown Derby, I will wager that this will be the best Cobb Salad you have ever tasted.  Seriously.  Plus, doesn’t everyone want their salad tossed, tableside?  (Warning:  bourbon and vodka on an empty, dehydrated stomach may lead to bad jokes.)

The perfectly mixed salad is served.  There is magic in that mixing.  Each bite is a perfect combination of egg, avocado, bacon, and blue cheese goodness.  For $15, it’s one of the best dining bargains in the parks.

Even though we were pretty much full after the salad, we had ordered a couple of appetizers as our main course.  The blue lump crab cake was good, but not outstanding on this visit.  In past visits it was one of the highlights of the meal, but this time it was a little cold in the center.  Still, very tasty.

The tortelloni was more successful.  Lovely thin pasta, lucious tomato sauce, and creamy goat cheese and crimini mushroom filling.

Which brings us to…

Requirement #2 – The Grapefruit Cake.  Another Brown Derby original, this is simply my favorite cake on the planet.  I’m not a huge dessert fan, and this sweet, tart, slightly bitter, ethereally light cake hits all the right notes.  The frosting is cream cheese with grapefruit juice…mmm… Ask them for the recipe card before you leave.  If you are at all inclined to bake, you will want to make this at home.

I’m curious – am I the only one who is in love with this cake?  If you’ve tried it, let me know what you thought!  I also like Beverly soda – but that’s a post for another day.

And any concerns about whether kids like the Brown Derby should be alleviated by mini-MouseChow’s review.

*And by required, of course I mean by me.