Thursday, September 03, 2020

Dining At The Derby

Slides of the original Brown Derby restaurant are difficult to come by (at reasonable prices, at least!). Somehow I recently scored this 1954 shot of the original Wilshire Boulevard location which opened in 1926. We need more buildings in the shape of a hat, don’t you think? Gotta’ get closer for a view of the entrance area:

A previously posted shot of the roof and sign from 1963:

A closeup of the sign:

By the 1980s all the original Brown Derby Restaurant locations had closed, and in 1987 the brand was licensed to the Walt Disney Company. I had the pleasure of visiting the Walt Disney World location in 2010; they did a damn good job recreating the look and feel of the original. Here’s their version of the sign:

I was most excited to try their Grapefruit Cake, which was delish:

Want the recipe? Of course you do.

Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake
1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, separated
3 tbsps grapefruit juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Brown Derby Grapefruit Cream Cheese Frosting
2 - 6oz packages cream cheese
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon rind
3/4 cup powdered sugar 6 to 8 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
1 -1 lb can grapefruit sections, or fresh grapefruit in segments

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in mixing bowl. Make a well in center of dry ingredients. Add water, oil, egg yolks, grapefruit juice and lemon rind. Beat until very smooth. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar separately until whites are stiff but not dry. Gradually poor egg yolk mixture over whites, folding gently with a rubber spatula until just blended. Do not stir mixture. Pour into an ungreased pan. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly touched with finger. Invert pan on cake rack until cool. Run spatula around edge of cake. Carefully remove from pan. With serrated knife, gently cut layer in half. Let cream cheese soften at room temperature. Beat cheese until fluffy. Add lemon juice and rind. Gradually blend in sugar. Beat until well-blended. Add coloring. Crush several grapefruit sections to measure 2 teaspoons. Blend into frosting. Spread frosting on top of bottom half of cake. Tap with several grapefruit sections. Cover with second layer. Frost top and sides, and garnish with remaining grapefruit pieces.

Final part of the recipe: invite me over for a large piece. Below is a shot of one of the original Brown Derby neon signs, which is now part of the Neon Museum in Glendale’s collection:

And just for Lou & Sue...a shot from one of the funniest “I Love Lucy” episodes which took place at the Brown Derby (but was filmed on a soundstage):

See more Brown Derby Restaurant photos at my main website.


"Lou and Sue" said...

Dave, I wish I could've eaten at one of the original Brown Derby restaurants - especially back in the ol' classic Hollywood days! These are all wonderful pictures.

The WDW Brown Derby is one of my favorite restaurants; we ate there last November, with friends, and had a wonderful time, and the meal was delicious.

My absolute favorite I Love Lucy episode is the one where Lucy, Ethel and Fred eat at the Brown Derby and bump into William Holden. I think you need to add a picture, from that episode, to this post - to complete it. ;)

Thanks for this terrific post!

Daveland said...

You got it, Sue!

"Lou and Sue" said...

Thank you, Dave!!! :)

Fifthrider said...

I love your style of reporting. It makes me feel like I was there. I compare it to many modern articles I read and they're just flat, completely missing on how to bring the reader into it and make them care. Until now I had no idea Disney bought the brand. I guess it makes sense, I mean how else would they be able to put it in Hollywood Studios but still, I never knew they actually owned it until now. Also, thanks to that first shot I now see the original building has a brim. In all previous pics I've seen I never noticed the derby actually had a brim. Sometimes it just looks like a dome with a doorway. Visiting the Brown Derby in WDW was a real treat, especially to see the Club 33 elevator there, but in the end it's a replica. ( Everything, the park, the derby, the club, they're all replicas ) Still, for most of us it's the closest we'll ever get to gawking at William Holden.

Anonymous said...

This is so cool. I wish I could have seen this place, much less have a meal there.

I have had either meals or cocktails at several "iconic" old places in Hollywood, NY and SF, I suppose I "collect" old restaurants.

I guess I'm glad Disney bought it. I wish they would add this to DCA, or whatever it is called today.

Thank you, Dave.


Stu29573 said...

I alays thought it was strange how Disney based their Brown Derby on the non-hat shaped location. My wife and I went to the Disney Brown Derby on our honeymoon trip. It was actually really good and did remind me of a real "Hollywood vibe." A couple of the street performers (an agent a a gossip columnist) came in and made a big fuss over us (which my usually very reserved wife loved!) Then the waiter (having seen our honeymoon buttons) brought us free champagne and a keepsake photo of us in a Brown Derby folder. Very nice touch indeed!

Matthew said...

@Daveland - "Final part of the recipe: invite me over for a large piece."

You are too funny... and if I do... you will be invited.

Always your pal,
Amazon Belle

Andrew said...

Don't forget the cartoony by comparison Universal Studios Florida Brown Derby hat shop.