The Derby Deli & Dueling Piano Bar – Review

Due to illness, we sort of missed Valentine’s Day, so we made it up to ourselves this past weekend by visiting The Derby down in Mission Viejo. David had been there before for a work related party, but I hadn’t been before. We made reservations for 7:30pm, so we could get there a little before the show started and get our food, etc.

We ended up in a tall table in the back corner – something that disappointed me at the start, because we were pretty far from the stage and way too close to the curtain seperating us from the rain outside, but it actually proved to be a good vantage point to take in the show and people watch from. We started out with the appetizer sampler, so I could get a little taste of everything, plus a couple of GIANT beers. The beers are by far the best bang for your buck. The prices are pretty high here, athough you have to counterbalance that with the fact you aren’t paying a cover to get in for the show. But the beer was about $11 and 32 ounces. Had I been smart and just ordered two of those, I would have been good for the whole night. (I was not smart, but we’ll get back to that later.)

The sampler was HUGE. It came with as many wings as a standard order at most bars. The wings were hit and miss, though, some being super meaty and tasty, others being way too fatty, so I was glad to have some other items. The best item was the mozzerella sticks, which were more like those mozzerella balls you get at the grocery store, but flattened out and covered in bread crumbs, then deep fried. Which is too say, they were mostly hot, overgrown string cheese sticks, which was fine by us. The chili slathered on the bottom of the plate was actually pretty tasty, and made me wish we’d gotten the chili cheese fries instead. There was something that resembled a deep fried empanada on our plate that I found way too doughy, and a helping of their infamous “Dawn’s Balls” (think deep fried meatballs but with proscucitto instead of ground beef), which I quickly declared too salty for my consumption (although David likes them, so your mileage may vary.)

After awhile, the piano player came in and started playing some random tunes while they distributed forms for requesting songs, on which you can also let them know if you are up to something special. The waiters or waitresses will take these up to the players for you, along with a tip of your choosing. The size of the tip, how full the room is, what kind of event you are celebrating, and how likely the crowd is to like the song you requested seem to all be factors to getting your request played. Like our first request for The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” (our song! Squee!) to celebrate our REALLY late Valentine’s Day, and David’s request for Gaga’s “Bad Romance” got played pretty quick. Oh, yeah, another factor in their little game – you can also tip to have a song NOT played, so they are also likely to play a song people will be inspired to tip them to stop. (Someone’s request to play Katy Perry’s “Fireworks” quickly earned them well over a $100 in competing tips. Impressive.)

Part way into the show, we decided to order one of their giant sandwiches, which are also expensive, but easily split between two (or maybe even 3) people. Seriously, one half of our turkey and cheese was almost as big as my head. I couldn’t even figure out how to eat it without taking it apart. And the fries were tasty, too, although that might have been the beer talking by that point.

One of both the key cool things about the Derby, and the key danger to your wallet (if not your liver) is that the show is very interactive with the audience, with lots of songs that inspire singalongs, silly dancing, and just good old nostalgia. (Can you sit still though Grease’s “Summer Nights”? Then you…. must be really young. Ok, I have to admit, the songs here might not be your thing if you aren’t a Gen X’er.) The atmosphere (and having the waitress come by on a regular basis to ask if we needed anything), inspired us to order a piece of cheesecake, and a couple of mixed drinks. Now, on the upside, their Manahatten Sidecar may have finally pulled me away from rum and back to Gentlemen Jack as my favorite hard liquor, but on the downside, those drinks and the cheesecake were probably completely unnecessary and drove our night’s bill into “we could have gone to Morton’s” territory. On the other, other side though, it’s a night out for fun and drinks, and we went into it with a Morton’s budget anyhow.

But for those nights with less to spend, I’d probably go for splitting a sandwich and just ordering a couple of their giant beers of doom. And saving a couple bucks to outbid that Justin Bieber request.  (Seriously though, this place was a lot of fun. David had to drag me out after a run of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” almost inspired an order of a round of drinks from the waitress, instead of requesting  the check.)

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Derby Deli & Dueling Piano Bar – Review

  1. davidnscott

    I really liked that empanada… thingy. For the record.