by Beth Keating and David Keating
June 30, 2022
Located in the Landing section of Disney Springs, Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ is a smaller restaurant than you’d expect based on its incredible popularity. Hence, the difficulty getting reservations, particularly for the coveted Sunday brunch slots. We’ve waited for a long time for the opportunity to eat at this in-demand venue. And I confess, I wasn’t the one who snagged the dining reservation. Our out-of-town guests were able to find a lunch time table.
Bright and airy, with large windows that let in plenty of light, the décor is “farmhouse adjacent,” not quite as relaxed as a “barn” motif, but definitely with an agricultural feel. There’s an open kitchen and central indoor bar area that keep the place a flurry of activity.
Homecomin’ specializes in “farm-to-fork cuisine showcasing Florida’s freshest flavors,” and it has a comfort foods, casual vibe to the venue. The service was fabulous. Our cast member, a mom herself, was quick to bring lunch out for the toddler travelling with us, ahead of everyone else’s food, so that the parents could feed a fussy little one, and then get a chance to eat their own meals while their food was actually still hot. Hey, moms, imagine that?
Homecomin’ is the creation of Chef Art Smith, one of Disney Springs celebrity chefs and a native of Jasper, Florida (thus, the Homecomin’ name). He is also famous either for being Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef, or for serving a stint as a Disney cast member in his early days. You can pick whichever moniker excites you more. He is especially known for his Sunday brunches, and for his selection of “moonshines.” If you can’t score a dining reservation, there is also an attached outside Shine Bar if you just want to grab a drink.
Since moonshine is one of the specialties of the house, several of our seatmates opted to try something from that category. We ended up selecting two different libations: the Muleshine Cocktail, and the Moonshine Mash, both $14.00.
The Muleshine was the restaurant’s version of a Moscow Mule, served up in chilled copper mugs. It featured Midnight Moon Moonshine, with peach puree, lime juice and a splash of Q Spectacular Ginger Beer. It contained everything you would want in a Moscow Mule. The ginger flavors were there, but what made it especially nice on a hot day was the way that the lime came through in a much stronger way compared to most mules that you might expect to get at a location like this. I don't typically think of Moscow Mules as being particularly "summer-y", but whether it was the Florida sunshine or the flavors present in this drink, Chef Art Smith's made me a cocktail that was perfect for that summertime feel.
The second moonshine-centric drink we tried was the Moonshine Mash ($14.00), a watermelon-infused moonshine, with fresh watermelon, lime juice and simple syrup that had a light, summery feel, perfect in the Florida heat. Next time, we may also try one of the “Shine on Taps,” because Homecomin’ features so many unique flavors. (Maybe the “Strawberry Lemonade,” made with strawberry moonshine, or the “Blue Hooch,” made with both Blue Flame Moonshine and lemon infused moonshine?) Either way, it’s a good excuse to go back to Homecomin’ again.
For appetizers, we also went with a couple of the headliners that Homecomin’ is known for. The Church Lady Deviled Eggs ($13.00) are HFK-style whole deviled eggs, smooth and creamy. (HFK stands for Homecoming Florida Kitchen). There are three whole eggs in the portion (for a total of six servings when the eggs are halved and served up), and they are the most overstuffed eggs you’ve ever seen. The chilled eggs were topped with a crispy piece of bacon, and were a delightfully cool way to start off a meal on a very hot and humid day. All in all, they were good, and had a distinctly homemade flair to them.
Our out-of-town visitors were also intrigued by the opportunity to eat alligator in the Sunshine State, so we also requested an order of the Gator Bites ($16.00). And while they didn’t proverbially “taste like chicken,” the tender bites of gator tail were delicately flavored, just a hint of a fish undertone, and nicely crispy. They were hand-battered and lightly fried, and much of the flavor actually came from the seasonings in the batter, the dipping remoulade, and the house-made hot sauce. The hot sauce was spectacular, by the way.
We selected four different entrées for our meals, including the Cuban Sandwich ($18.00). Fresh, enormous slices of Cuban bread were pressed around house-smoked pork, shaved country ham, and Swiss cheese. House-made barbecue chips drizzled with icebox dressing jazzed up the side of the dish. Our server assured us that fellow cast members from the Miami area confirm that the sandwich is one of the best Cubans they’ve had, and our diners were quick to agree. The meats were tender, with just the right amount of “pickley-ness” on the sandwich, owing to the substantial number of house-made pickles layered in. The sandwich was huge! While we took part of ours home, it easily could have been split between two diners, especially if you were looking to sample a variety of foods from the menu.
Another diner opted for the fried chicken and doughnuts ($30.00). While it was a bit on the pricey side for a lunch entrée, especially compared to the chicken sandwich entrée, it was delicious. Two pieces of the restaurant’s famous fried chicken came with two miniature house-made sugar doughnuts, still warm from the fryer, and served with a ramekin of warm syrup. (The doughnuts are also available as a side dish, and truthfully, we could have eaten a whole plate of just the doughnuts.) The doughnuts were sweet and fluffy, with just a bit of chew to the inside of the doughnut, and a touch of texture from the sugar on the outside. So good! It’s up to you if you decide to use the syrup on the doughnuts alone, or over your chicken as well. We won’t judge! The chicken was juicy and tender, with a good crunch to the outside coating. Umm, yes, we drizzled our syrup over the chicken as well, and it was delightful! The entrée also came with a side of creamy mashed potatoes, which definitely had that homemade feel to them, with small chunks of potato in the mash.
Another diner opted for the fried chicken sandwich ($19.00), and while still pricey for a sandwich, it was a filling selection. The chicken on the sandwich is buttermilk-brined for 24 hours and hand-battered, then served up with that delicious house-made hot sauce, a swirl of aioli, lettuce, tomato and bread and butter pickles. It also came with the house-made barbecue chips drizzled with icebox dressing. The fried chicken was an especially thick piece, making for a large bite of sandwich by the time the veggies were factored in.
The final diner selected the Chopped Pork Barbecue ($27.00), and they were very happy not only with the flavor of their dish, but the size of the meal as well. The portion again was big enough to share, especially having enjoyed appetizers. The pork was a pulled pork style meat, sauced with Homecomin’s sweet and spicy barbecue sauce. It was also served with a big bowl of “Momma’s mac and cheese,” southern slaw and a cheddar drop biscuit. The BBQ Pork Mac and Cheese hit all the right notes as far as comfort food is concerned. The ratio of pasta to cheese was generous on the side of cheese and the BBQ pulled pork had the right mix of savory and sweet flavors. Pairing the two for forkful after forkful left our diner feeling satisfied, if not a few pounds heavier.
All in all, Chef Art Smith’s was worth the wait. When they say this is southern comfort food, this is really a code for a delightful, but heavy, meal. Be sure you come hungry!
Beth Keating is a theme parks, restaurant and entertainment reporter for DisneyBizJournal.
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