The Derby: dueling piano bar

The Derby piano bar and deli serves great music and food. (Joseph Espiritu/Lariat Staff)

Lauren Small

Bored of the same old OC nightlife? The Derby is now open for business! The dueling piano bar and deli is spicing up the Orange County nightlife with a new spin on live music entertainment.

New York Style Deli and 1930s Hollywood was the inspiration when Dan Lauriano first opened The Derby on May 15. A USC graduate-turned-cover-band guru, Lauriano traveled around the country playing at different bars looking for inspiration.

It was through his traveling band that he was able to see what works and what doesn’t when it comes to bars, especially ones with live music.

Who would have guessed that dueling pianos would be the hot ticket?

“It was crazy. We literally opened the doors the first Friday night and the place hit the ground running,” general manager Patrick Reilly said.
They have only been open a few months and the buzz is whirling all around town.

Already a favorite of the “Real Housewives of Orange County,” this restaurant and bar is not your stereotypical watering hole.

Imitating an old Hollywood club, the lounge area is surrounded with stylish wrap couches, dramatic chandeliers, and photos from the inspired era. This makes it the perfect spot for casual cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

Then there’s the piano lounge, where all the magic happens. At the center of the open outdoor patio rests two side-by-side pianos, a set of drums, and a plethora of goofy props and hats.
After 9:00 p.m. the pianists take stage and the crowd and staff are encouraged to do so with them, props and all.

They play songs requested by the guests and everyone laughs and sings along.

“We have seen an elderly lady standing on the piano hula hooping and singing,” Reilly said. “It gets crazy, but it’s just a bunch of people having a great time.”

Expect to find a very diverse crowd of people at any given night. One side of the restaurant will be celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary; another group is celebrating a 21st birthday; and a bachelorette party all in one room.

The Derby appeals to all ages and truly is a place where everyone can gather and let loose.

For college students, Tuesday night is the best night to go. With a younger crowd and only a five-dollar cover charge, people can enjoy $2 Coronas all night long. Pianos start at 9 p.m. so get there early before the place packs up and the line gets insane!

Not only are they popular for their excellent nightlife, The Derby is also a full service restaurant and deli. They are famous for their pastrami and they might be one of the only places on the West Coast that does their own pastrami in house.

Their matzo ball soup and vast array of brisket meat sandwiches are also some of the top sellers on the menu.

Guests can enjoy half off appetizers such as the delicious onion rings and drink specials every day from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Between old ladies on pianos, wild conga lines, and loud singing and dancing, The Derby is proving itself to be a surprising hot spot for Orange County locals.

“There’s no way of describing what we are. We are literally just a boundary-breaking adventure that you have to just come see for yourself,” Reilly said with a chuckle.

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