We’re back at Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming Florida Kitchen for another visit today!
You might be scratching your head and wondering, “But AJ, you guys were just there a little bit ago. Why a return so soon?” Well, lots of reasons, actually. But the primary one is this: Once is never enough when it comes to reviewing Disney restaurants. Restaurants in the ‘World are notoriously inconsistent, and while Homecoming impressed us initially, I always like to duck into a new spot after it’s been open for a bit, just to see if the shine and sheen are still around. In fact, we review spots over and over, so we can always make the best recommendations for our readers.
In addition, dear friends of mine invited me to tag along for a catch up session, and Homecoming was the agreed upon choice for dinner. And like I’m gonna say no to Fried Chicken? Not likely.
Besides, there’s plenty to cover on this menu, and a follow up visit gave me a chance to show you a few new things.
Let’s check out how Homecoming is doing, a few months along in the journey.
The premise of Homecoming Florida Kitchen (HFK) is pretty cool, actually. Chef Art Smith is a native Floridian, who even spent some of the early years of his career as a Cast Member at Disney. So it’s befitting that the restaurant’s name is Homecoming, as he returns to his home state.
The restaurant is a celebration of Old-Meets-New Florida in so many ways. The architecture echoes Florida Vernacular style, with lots of windows to let the light in, and deep overhangs from the hip roof to keep the heat out.
Since the whole premise of the re-imagined Disney Springs is that of an old Florida town, the style and substance of the restaurant make it a natural choice for the area.
To the far left of the entrance, you’ll see the Shine Bar. It’s accessible from inside the restaurant as well, but this separate entrance is convenient if you’re just stopping by for drinks.
Back to the main entrance of the restaurant, wood cabinetry boxes in the waiting area and lends warmth.
I like the glass backing for the cabinets, though, which allow plenty of light to filter through.
Once you enter, take a moment to observe the details. The rustic chandeliers are an example of art from repurposed materials. Those are actually potato sacks that form the shade!
The mural above the kitchen depicts Florida’s agricultural heritage.
Pull back a bit from the individual details, and you start to see the shape and overall theme of the space. While the elements are homespun and rustic, the feeling of the open floor plan is modern.
I found a mix of seating. There are tables and chairs as well as booths, and many of the seats carry the striking “HFK” symbol, which looks like a vintage post mark.
The bar occupies an area to the left. Don’t those chairs look super comfy?
The bar forms a square that adjoins to an outside bar area. The shaded area is comfortable and relaxed.
In speaking to Chef Art Smith, we know that he puts a premium on “porch time”, and so it was no surprise when Homecoming debuted with plenty of porch seating overlooking the springs. Again, this is such a comfortable area, and the views are really lovely.
House Made Hot Sauce adorns each table, and copper toned salt and pepper grinders lend additional warmth.
It’s time to take a look at some of the dishes we decided to try this time.
The menu at Homecoming focuses on Southern comfort food with Florida flair. While it’s not huge, we certainly found plenty of tempting choices.
A look at the Starters menu gives you a glimpse into the restaurant’s vibe. You’ll find clever names, some of which include Florida locales, like Jasper (Chef Art’s hometown) and Anna Maria, named for Anna Maria Island.
And seriously — who can resist something called Bee Haven Bay Fried Green Tomatoes? (Spoiler alert: we didn’t.)
We also found some interesting Salads, including a headliner that features Homecoming’s signature dish, Fried Chicken.
The Main Plates section reads like a “who’s who” of regional Southern favorites. And if you’re visiting Homecoming with hopes of trying Fried Chicken, there are two more ways to indulge in the dish here.
Buns & Such offers up some interesting takes on Sandwiches.
At the outside bar, you’ll also find a selection of breezy Cocktails as well as a Grab and Go Menu of to-go foods.
During our first visit, we shared plenty of pictures highlighting Homecoming’s interesting Cocktail selections. Don’t miss the Old Fashioned Elder — a contemporary twist on a classic favorite.
As the bar name implies, the restaurant also makes ample use of Moonshine in cocktails. We found the Moonshine Mash, with refreshing flavors of Watermelon, to be perfect libation for a sunny day.
Be sure to take a look at that review for photos of nearly all of the drinks available.
As you may have guessed by now ;-), we decided to kick off our meal with Bee Haven Bay Fried Green Tomatoes. The sliced tomatoes are prepared traditionally and deep fried with a Corn Meal Crust. Served on a bed of Local Greens, they’re topped with Shaved Ham and a drizzle of Remoulade.
These were a hit for us, and we’ve heard positive reviews from friends as well. The flavor combo is fantastic.
Next, we couldn’t pass up the Barbecue Chicken Wings. Jumbo wings are tossed in Homecoming’s signature sweet and spicy Barbecue Sauce. They’re topped with a sprinkling of Benne, or Sesame, Seeds. What a great touch! The dish is at once reminiscent of both Asian and Southern specialties.
These might have been my second…no, third…favorite thing of the night! And, honesty, so many things were SO SO good that third down on the list is still pretty spectacular.
We opted for a couple of selections from the Salads menu as well. Our first selection, the Kitchen Plate, gave us the opportunity to sample our choice of three selections from Homecoming’s side dish menu. We went for Southern Style Green Beans (YUM), Momma’s Mac and Cheese (DOUBLE YUM), and Cucumber Salad (MEH…compared to the others).
One of my friends chose a salad for her entree, and the Fried Chicken Chopped Salad won out. The large dinner salad combines diced Fried Chicken Breast with Mixed Greens, Chopped Boiled Egg, Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Icebox Dressing, and Cheddar Biscuit Croutons.
This was acceptable, but there were other dishes that we’d recommend over this one. But if you’re looking for lighter, though still filling, fare, this is a good choice.
I decided that I couldn’t visit Homecoming without trying the signature dish — Chef Art Smith’s Fried Chicken. The plate comes with three pieces of Buttermilk-Brined Fried Chicken, garnished with house made Hot Sauce and Pickles.
Normally, it’s served with Mashed Potatoes and Cheddar Drop Biscuits. I opted for a side of Southern Style Green Beans in place of the potatoes.
And this fried chicken isn’t just spectacular…it’s legendary. Seriously, if you eat here, don’t miss it!
Of course, since I made room in my carb budget by skipping the ‘taters — THIS happened. Cheesy pasta is a favorite of mine, so I had to give Momma’s Mac and Cheese a try. Note that the mac and cheese here is beloved by many, and it’s perfect if you’re looking for the scratch mac your mom used to make. To my taste, it needed salt. Lots of salt. But I was apparently born with a salt deficiency, because nobody ever wants things as salty as I do.
Salt. (There. I’m done.)
Another friend decided to try one of the the sandwich selections and went for The Hamilton. This homespun take on a burger combines two Beef Patties, White Cheddar, Grilled Onions, Chow-Chow Relish, Bread and Butter Pickles, and Tomatoes — all served on thick sliced, Griddled Bread. House-Made Chips with are drizzle of Icebox Dressing serve as the side.
There is a lot a lot a lot going on in this sammich. And it’s all worth it.
After a dinner full of hearty comfort food, we decided dessert was definitely in order. We started with the Shine Cake. Rich Butter Cake is soaked liberally with a Moonshine-spiked Simple Syrup, and served with a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream. Children need not apply for this one.
Note that while it’s “soaked” in simple syrup, it’s not soggy at all. Just moist. So those of you who, like me, don’t like soggy bready type desserts (tres leches cake, tiramisu, etc), you don’t have anything to worry about here. In fact, I only tried this one because I figured I should…but it turned out to be my FAVORITE of the night! Even more so than the cream cheese frosting-bedecked Hummingbird Cake! And if you know me, THAT’s saying something!!
And speaking of the Hummingbird Cake: Rich Cream Cheese Icing enrobes moist Pineapple Banana Cake. This was incredible, too. Both signature desserts are worth ordering, for sure.
A scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream and a drizzle of Fruit Coulis complete the plate.
Art Smith’s Homecoming Florida Kitchen is comfort food done right.
There is a lot to love about this new Disney Springs restaurant. First, it’s beautiful, and it totally captures the feel of what they were going for here — a taste of old Florida, dressed up a bit for a modern audience. It also successfully straddles the line between “Southern” and “Florida.” I think those of us who visit Walt Disney World sometimes think of the area as just a tourist attraction. It’s good to remember that the World is located in a place of history and heritage as well.
That said, the menu at Homecoming does feel a little pricey. True, the food is good quality, but if you are dining without the benefit of the Disney Dining Plan, you may experience a little sticker shock when the bill comes. I’m happy to report though that the spot seems to be continuing to offer the great quality that we experienced from the get go.
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Now, I’d like to hear from all of you. Will you be dining at Homecoming the next time you visit Disney Springs? Leave a comment and let me know what you think!