Cobb Salad Brown Derby

*This dining experience took place in November 2012. This also includes a gluten/dairy/soy free review in addition to my regular GF/DF reviews.


Ah the Hollywood Brown Derby. The name harkens back to the golden age of Hollywood when famous movie stars frequented the restaurant of the same name in California. I’ve long wanted to visit the Brown Derby, but never have mostly because I wasn’t always wowed by the menu options. I had heard great things about the Cobb Salad, but since it was an appetizer I didn’t think it would be worth the trip. Oh how wrong I was! I met up with a friend to celebrate their birthday. They love the Brown Derby and have been many times, so I was looking forward to the meal after hearing them rave about it.

Menu at the Brown Derby

The first thing I noticed when we arrived was that this restaurant feels more upscale–like California Grill or Jiko. I joked that I felt like I needed to be dressed up, but it was true! I did. Of course, everyone one else was in casual wear, so I didn’t feel out of place in jeans and a t-shirt. But, it would be really neat to go here with everyone dressed up to the nines. Tables in Wonderland could totally do an event like that!

Wall of caricatures
Dining room in the Brown Derby

After being seated, we were greeted by the chef who was very friendly and helpful. He was basically happy to help tweak any dish we might want. I was excited about that! For the appetizers he said he could Andouille-crusted prawn but without the grits. Which means he’d have to sub something out. The cobb salad is gluten, dairy, and soy free after removing the blue cheese. My friend who is soy free thought he’d have to do oil and vinegar on the side, but the dressing turned out to be OK for him. For entrees, he said the charred beef filet would be easy to modify (but I don’t eat beef) and he said the risotto didn’t have dairy in it (which I’ll be honest, I didn’t believe). The grouper was an easily modified option as was the pork chop. He said the salmon dish would be a nightmare to change (so I think that means no GF soy sauce on hand). Both myself and my dining guest decided to get the cobb salad since it comes as an entree choice. My friend also ordered a side of french fries (because they don’t use soybean oil in the fryers–they use canola oil there) and ketchup. The chef said he could make a more interesting dipping sauce if we wanted. He offered to make a truffle mayonnaise. I also asked about dessert options and he said he’d work with the bakery to create something. I said I wanted something chocolate. He first mentioned creme brulee but I had to remind him that it’s dairy (though he said the bakery could create some crazy allergy friendly things, I just wasn’t comfortable with that).

First up, we were brought some rolls with extra virgin olive oil. The rolls were the GNI brand rolls. I will say that they were really warm and soft, as opposed to the dry mess that I’ve had at a few locations. My guess is that it has to do with the way it’s heated (the ones at Liberty Tree Tavern were like sawdust and were the same rolls!). I will say they aren’t horrible this way, but not great either. I still prefer the Udis. I hope that in the future they are able to balance out the bread vendor changes. It feels like a guessing game at every restaurant I go to! 🙂

GNI Brand Rolls

Next up came our salads. Now as someone with Crohn’s Disease I have to be very careful with salad. It can really give me a doozy of a stomach-ache. Part of it is that my body has a hard time digesting crunchy veggies. However, I was really excited to see that the lettuce was chopped super fine and that their was an abundance of toppings that balanced out the lettuce. They put the dressing on the side for us and we mixed it in. The salad was amazing! I loved it as did my friend. We were both chowing down. I love the texture of the salad where everything is minced. The flavor was great and the dressing was excellent. This was a new fav for me. I will say too that I actually didn’t get much of a stomach-ache at all, which means it’s a good salad option for me on those rare occasions when I want a salad. Sooo good! The toppings were excellent too. I adored the avocado mash on it. Of course, I love all things avocado, but this was a great fit to the meal and nicer than just chopped avocado pieces.

Entree Cobb Salad

Next up came the french fries. I definitely got to sample them, even though it was not my order. OMG I loved the truffle mayonnaise!! So good. If you like truffle oil, you would like this. My friend isn’t a fan of the truffle oil, so they didn’t enjoy it (it has a very earthy taste to it). In fact, they didn’t finish all of the fries, so I got to really enjoy the truffle mayonnaise. Later after talking to the chef, it turned out that they made the mayonnaise from scratch. They keep Hellmann’s on hand which has soy in it. So, they made it soy free by making a batch themselves. That was a great touch and really lent to the velvety rich texture of the truffle mayo. It was also nice that they took an off the menu creation and really did a nice job to make it right.

French fries and homemade truffle mayonnaise

Next up came dessert. The chef said that the bakery put together a flour-less chocolate cake, strawberry/mango sorbet, and fresh berries with dark chocolate. They also included a gorgeous piece of chocolate tuile that was spray painted with hot pink edible paint. It was gorgeous! I really enjoyed this dessert. Again, they really took the time to make something a little different, rather than just dumping a piece of flour-less chocolate cake on a plate and charging me $9 for it (this particular dessert cost $9). I really appreciate it when restaurants make something a little different because so often we just get something pre-packaged or plain. It was also quite tasty. The flour-less cake was good, dense but delicious. I really enjoyed the flavors of the mixed sorbet. Yum! The raspberries with chocolate on it was a nice touch too (they really listened when I said I would like chocolate) and the chocolate tuile was divine! It looked almost too pretty to eat…almost!

Flourless chocolate cake, strawberry/mango sorbet, fresh berries with chocolate and chocolate tuile

Overall, I was really pleased with this meal. I enjoyed the ambiance at the Brown Derby–it was a gorgeous restaurant that really transported you back to Hollywood in the 1940’s. I waited for Lana Turner, Judy Garland, and Clark Gable to come through the doors! The food was excellent and the accommodation for food allergies was very good. I like it when chefs are willing to go above and beyond and make your experience exceptional. This was a good example of that. I would definitely head back again, especially for that cobb salad!

A solid 9 out of 10 for on my first trip. A definite must-do again.

A view of the servers and the bar area