REVIEW: Trying the Hollywood Brown Derby ‘Fantasmic!’ Dining Package at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

“Fantasmic!” dining packages are now available at five restaurants in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and we’re in search of the best bang for your buck. So this time, we booked a package at The Hollywood Brown Derby to try it out!

Exterior

The Hollywood Brown Derby is modeled after the original chain of Brown Derby restaurants in California. It resembles the second restaurant which was done in Spanish Mission style, as opposed to the original restaurant which was shaped like a hat. (Incidentally, the hat-shaped Brown Derby is represented at Universal Studios Florida and Japan, though they are not restaurants.)

Interior

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Caricatures of celebrities line the walls, which was a tradition at the original restaurants.

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WDW DHS The Hollywood Brown Derby guest book

A guest book is on display with (reportedly) authentic signatures from celebrities who have dined here. On our visit, the pages displayed were signed by Lindsay Collins, a producer at Pixar, and Josh Cooley, director of “Toy Story 4.”

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The Hollywood Brown Derby “Fantasmic!” Dining Package – $73 for Adults, $29 for Kids

The Fantasmic! dining package at the Hollywood Brown Derby includes an entrée and your choice of either an appetizer or dessert, plus a non-alcoholic drink.

Bread Service

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We hardly ever turn our noses up at bread service. It’s always very good here. The butter is sprinkled with red Himalayan salt.

Appetizers

Charcutierie Board – $21

Chef’s selection of Cured Meats, Cheeses, and Accompaniments

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The Hollywood Brown Derby charcuterie board is one of the best cheese boards at the Walt Disney World Resort. The offerings are subject to change but are usually consistent in quality.

Escargot Casino – $19

Roasted Garlic Béchamel, Crispy Prosciutto and Piquillo Pepper Crumb

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Going in, we expected a standard escargot offering, which meant plenty of butter and garlic. This dish, however, is the escargot equivalent of a loaded baked potato. It was served straight from the oven and was incredibly hot — still boiling, in fact.

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The béchamel — or French white sauce — combined with the crispy prosciutto offered the same basic dairy-and-bacon-bit flavors as an aforementioned loaded baked potato, though certainly of a higher quality.

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The snail at the heart of the dish was tender and quite enjoyable, once we allowed the dish to cool off enough to become edible. It’s a very accessible and enjoyable approach to escargot for the faint of heart, but if you want a more traditional preparation, this is not for you.

Entrées

Sustainable Salmon Coulibiac – $38

Pickled Mushrooms, Wilted Spinach, Puff Pastry, Mustard-Dill Butter Sauce

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Coulibiac is a Russian pierogi-style dish filled with fish, often salmon. This is essentially a deconstructed version. The presentation is odd and doesn’t make a good impression, which is a rarity for the Hollywood Brown Derby.

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The base is cilantro-heavy, so if you’re someone who does not enjoy cilantro, skip this. There’s plenty of rice to be had. The salmon was well seasoned, flaky, and enjoyable. The puff pastry on top is buttery and flaky as well. It’s a solid dish but not one we are likely to return to.

Our Famous Cobb Salad – $22

Spit-roasted Turkey, Bacon, Egg, Tomatoes, Blue Cheese, Avocado, Classic Dressing

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The Cobb Salad is consistently one of our favorite dishes.

Braised Short Rib – $41

Sunchoke Purée, Pickled Carrots, Spruce Chimichurri, Cassis Reduction

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While there’s a lot going on in the description of this plate, it really boils down to a pretty standard Disney short rib offering. The meat itself was prepared very well, extremely tender and moist.

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The sunchoke purée, spruce chimichurri, and cassis reduction simply didn’t do a lot to add enough flavor to what, on its own, was an unexciting piece of beef. The cassis with its tartness came the closest to making a more dynamic dish, though. The portion size was also a bit disappointing considering the $41 menu price — perhaps even less satisfying for dining package prices.

Desserts

Grapefruit Cake – $13

A Brown Derby Original. Vanilla Sponge Cake, Grapefruit Syrup,Cream Cheese Icing

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The grapefruit cake is supposedly a recipe from the original California Brown Derby restaurant, but the flavor profile changed in 2019 to be sweeter with less of the grapefruit’s tartness coming through.

Decadent Chocolate Cake – $13

Towering Chocolate Cake, Dark Chocolate Mousse, Whipped Ganache

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When it comes to the portion size, this is the anti-short rib and is, as listed, a “towering” piece of cake. Unfortunately, the portion size is about the end of the excitement as this is a very pedestrian piece of rich chocolate cake.

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It is presented really well and is fresh, moist, and topped with a light mousse. However the flavor offered is simply too similar to any layered chocolate cake you can find at a myriad of shops both on and off property.

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The highlight for us is the raspberry sauce which at least adds a different element to the offering, but this one is really targeted at the chocolate lovers — and for those who want nothing more than that, it will be a pleasing selection.

Winter Signature Dessert – $13

Pumpkin Mousse, Milk Chocolate Crémeux, Chocolate-Pecan Cookie, Vanilla Sauce, Chantilly Cream, Pecan Crumble, and Blue Cocoa Butter

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Our only real criticism lay with the not-so-sweet pumpkin mousse, but this is otherwise a nice dessert.

Fantasmic! Seating

Your server will give you the voucher used to redeem your seating. It should have your showtime and date on it. Ours were missing the showtime.

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Seating opens 90 minutes before showtime, and you have to arrive at least 25 minutes beforehand, or they will start to seat other guests in the reserved area.

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The queue for dining package guests uses the old FastPass queue.

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There are Cast Members stationed with directional signage to ensure you get to the reserved area.

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The reserved areas are the center sections of Mickey and Scar.

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This is the view if your seat is in the center of the center.

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And this is a view if you are stage left in the reserved area.

Overall

The Hollywood Brown Derby Fantasmic! dining package comes in at a hefty $73 per adult. If you are a party of meat lovers and opt for the excellent charcuterie board ($21) and filet mignon ($49), with your non-alcoholic drink you could consider yourself as breaking even. However, if you choose other popular options such as the Crab Louie ($17) and famous Cobb Salad ($22), you are essentially buying a $30+ Individual Lightning Lane for Fantasmic!

At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong by dining at The Hollywood Brown Derby, but you need to have a pretty good idea of what your menu choices would be and then determine if the dining package holds any value for your group or if you’d be better served with one of the less expensive options for securing Fantasmic! seating.

We thought a dining package was worth it in general, but some of the other restaurants offer a better value. We recommend arriving about 45 minutes in advance of your showtime. You’ll still have to wait, but it will be while seated in the amphitheater rather than enduring standby.

Hollywood & Vine is a similar price point but offers a buffet and character dining. Three other restaurants offer the entrée plus appetizer or dessert package. Check out our reviews for those below.

Check out the new scenes featuring Moana, Elsa, and more in our full show video here.

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