Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Revisiting the Brown Derby Lounge, A Review.

In June of 2014, I accompanied a friend to the Brown Derby Lounge for some appetizers, cocktails and people watching from their outdoor lounge.  The review is posted on The Princess Papers HERE. The food was less than impressive at the time and unfortunately, so was the service. I had higher expectations for Disney dining experiences, especially at a Signature Restaurant (service inside the restaurant on earlier visits was always top notch).

Last night, I returned after a long break to give it another go.  I am happy to say that the food offerings for the Lounge have improved drastically! Unfortunately, the service still had a lot to be desired. However, from what I observed, if you have the right server, you should have a fantastic experience here.

The Brown Derby Lounge is an outdoor area of tables that overlooks the walkway next to the Brown Derby Restaurant and the courtyard in front of the Chinese Theater/Great Movie Ride Attraction. No reservations are needed. Tables are on a first come, first serve basis. Simply take a seat when you see a table open up.  Most tables are bar height, but there are a few of normal height as well. 

We will go with the bad news first then the good news. (Feel free to skip down to the pictures of the food for the good news!) When we arrived at the Lounge, it was full. We sat at the only available table. Our server arrived immediately and asked us what we would like to drink as we were opening the menus (menus are kept on the tables). We quickly made our choices with hardly a moment to read the menu. Luckily, I was familiar with the menu and I asked questions about two of the food items. Unfortunately, he was unable to give clear answers and pointed to the food on the tables next to us to show us what it looked like. That was helpful, but not exactly what I expected when asking about the menu.
Although our drink order was taken (too) quickly, we waited at least 15 minutes for our drinks. The drinks arrived and our food order was still not taken. We also did not receive any napkins with our drinks. Eventually, another server (I believe her name was Angela and she was working very hard to cover all the tables WITH A SMILE! Good job Angela!) happily took our order and brought us napkins.  Our food was brought out by a runner. Before we could take our first bites, our server appeared and asked how things were. We asked for an additional napkin. It was brought, eventually. 

We never really saw him again other than one time when he cleared some plates while we were eating and another time he reached up to turn on a light that was in the umbrella over our table without acknowledging our existence as he did so, or asking if we would like the light turned on. (The light seemed to be an LED light and actually made it more difficult to see. We noticed no other tables had theirs turned on and turned ours back off.) When the bill arrived, one of the items was a higher price than listed on the menu. We had to flag him down twice to bring it to his attention and he said, "You have an old menu." His reaction seemed to suggest that we were to pay the upcharge. I again requested that the bill be corrected and he brought a manager over, eventually. The manager was very pleasant and handled the issue promptly. He also confirmed that the menus were the new ones. Our server dropped off the updated bill, dashed off, and we never saw him again. 
Two additional service issues that must be mentioned and I hope will improve ASAP.  First, our server walked behind my chair several times and each time, he knocked into my chair. Much like having your chair kicked on a plane or in a movie theater, this is an irritating experience. Several Guests walked behind my chair and none of them bumped it, so it was obvious that there was enough room to avoid hitting my chair...repeatedly. 
One final thing, just as in my previous review, the tables were not wiped off when we sat down. (However, I did see Angela wiping tables off when new Guests arrived at her tables.) I picked up the menu and the side facing down had food crumbs all over it...

Now, THE GOOD NEWS! I am delighted to say that the food was much improved in both quality and quantity from my previous visit. The Lounge has its own menu of appetizers and full bar. There is no option to order off the main dining room menu as of yet.

We shared three appetizers and were satisfied as having that for our dinner. First was the Brentwood Corn Bisque served with Corn and Lobster Fritters and Ancho Chili Oil ($11.00).
The soup arrives in two parts with the fritters in the soup bowl then then soup is poured over at the table. It was rich, creamy, full of rich corn flavor, and delicious. The chili oil was not overpowering at all. The fritters were more corn than lobster but surprisingly light and crisp. Very delicious and filling dish.

We also ordered the Crispy Bites: Parmesan-Goat Cheese Risotto Sticks with Whole-Grain Dijon Mustard Aioli, Brie Cheese with Sweet Onion and Orange Jam, and Blue Affine-Mushroom Arancini with Fig and Balsamic Dip ($14.00).
Unfortunately, when I reviewed my photos, the picture for this item was not there. All the items are served in a big paper cone together displayed in a wire rack with the trio of dipping sauces surrounding it. The brie sticks were like upscale cheese sticks and were the favorite of both of us. The risotto sticks were very large with a light crispy bread crumb coating. The blue cheese bites were small balls and very strong of blue cheese. Surprisingly, I was not a fan of any of the dipping sauces. My husband thought they were ok. Neither of us could detect onion or orange in the one sauce. We agreed it tasted like applesauce. The dips definitely tasted best when paired with the item for which they were made. 

Our last appetizer was, of course, the famous Brown Derby Cobb Salad ($9.00). 
This is an appetizer portion but generous. Compared to the 4 bite-size salad served last year (pic here), this is a great improvement. 

For our drinks, I ordered the Margarita Flight: Classic, Mango, and Pomegranate ($11.25). 
The classic was good, but very strong. The mango was my favorite. I took one sip of the pomegranate and it was far too bitter for me. I couldn't drink it. As usual, I find the drinks are extremely strong at The Brown Derby. Almost to the point of not being enjoyable...almost. 

My husband chose the Pineapple No-Jito ($5.75). 
This is a non-alcoholic cocktail. It looked pretty but he said it just tasted like watered down pineapple juice and a glass of regular pineapple juice would have tasted better. By the end of our dinner, I was feeling tipsy from the margaritas and poured the remaining of the mango into his No-Jito. Delicious! 

Desserts are available and are served as a trio with your choice of any three on the list. We skipped dessert but you can see them on my previous review HERE. The offerings seemed the same as last year.

Overall, the food quality and atmosphere of the Lounge on an evening with comfortable weather make it a great spot for a cocktail and snack or light dinner. The drinks are strong and from watching the other Cast Members, there is some hope for good service.  I believe that if an additional server was added to the Lounge during busy times that this would be a perfect spot to relax.  Hopefully on my next visit, the service issue will have improved as much as the food. Third time's a charm!

*The Brown Derby Lounge is handicapped accessible.  However, the area is tight and most of the tables are bar height.
*Tables in Wonderland is accepted at the Lounge.
*Contact Katherine at the link on the right side of the page to book your next Disney vacation or cruise and let her know the Princess sent you!

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