Florida native Chef Art Smith is putting Fresh from Florida right in the heart of Disney Springs with today's opening of Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine.
You might know Chef Art from his appearances on TV, or visited one of his restaurants in Chicago or Washington, D.C., but you can now get a chance to enjoy the two-time James Beard Foundation winner’s unique southern inspired comfort food in the Town Center.
Fitting beautifully with the theme of the Town Center, Homecoming pays homage to classic Florida, from the building itself, to its position on the spring, the decor, and of course the food.
Occupying a prime spot on the spring, Homecoming’s entrance is directly across from Morimoto Asia, easily accessible from The Landing or from the bridge alongside STK.
The opposite side of the building faces the spring, with its crystal blue waters completing a postcard scene.
The Dining Room
Stepping inside, you are greeted by a bright and airy space, with a light and relaxing decor.
Staying true to its Florida roots, the interior features Florida cypress, and zinc table tops made in Florida.
Even the artwork that hangs on the walls is from Floridian artists.
The seating carries the HFK (Homecoming Florida Kitchen) logo, which works well, and there are a variety of seating options, from counters, to booths, to tables.
The ambiance is extremely relaxed, but not overly loud. Families with young children will have no problem feeling at ease.
The restaurant is roughly split into two sections, divided by the central Shine bar.
The inside dining room is closest to the kitchen, with the bar in the center, leading to an outdoor seating area. The bar can service both the inside and outside areas.
Unique among the Disney Springs restaurants, Homecoming’s outdoor seating area is fully screened and covered. So even though you are outside, a mesh screen keeps any bugs out, and overhead fans keep it somewhat cool.
The views across the springs are spectacular, and it is sure to be a popular spot, particularly outside of the summer months.
Disney Springs has nearly every cuisine covered, but Chef Art’s Homecoming manages to still bring something new and different.
Everything at Homecoming is about classic Florida, from the farm to table. Nearly everything on the Homecoming menu originates from Florida, even down to many of Chef Art’s family recipes.
To start things off, we ordered the Jasper Board, which is a $15 assortment of Pimento Cheese, Smoked Sausage, Shaved Ham, Bread and Butter Pickles and Candied Pecans.
Not only does the dish look beautiful, but it tasted great. Each piece on the board deserved its place. Large enough to share between two, but you might be fighting for the last bite.
The $9 Bunch of Puppies were next, and wow, you are looking at some seriously good hushpuppies here.
They are pimento cheese hushpuppies, served with a red jalapeño jelly. You get around 10, and this should be considered a must-order item for the table, trust us on this one.
Moving onto entrees, the menu has a lot of options, for varying budgets and levels of appetite. There are sandwiches and salads from $15, through to main plates around $25 to $30. The most expensive dish is the $41 Strip Steak.
Chef Art is well known for his fried chicken, so we naturally had to start with Art’s Fabulous Fried Chicken main dish.
The $26 dish features a good sized serving of chicken, with mashed potatoes and a cheddar drop biscuit. The chicken is buttermilk-brined for 24 hours before being fried, and wow, can you taste the difference. The chicken is incredibly moist and tender, and wrapped in a wonderfully seasoned batter. We would have liked the batter to have been a little crispier, but that takes nothing away from how good the chicken is.
The description for the mashed potatoes says “creamy”, and they are not kidding. It has to be some of the best mashed potato you are going to get anywhere.
Our one disappointment on the dish, only one cheddar biscuit - and not a very big one at that. They taste wonderful, and a couple more on the plate would be very welcome, but they are available as a side for $6.
Next up was the Chopped Pork Barbecue Plate.
Priced at $23, the dish includes a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce served with Momma's Mac and Cheese.
The pork was tender and flavorful, and the sauce added a welcome zip to the dish.
And as for Momma's Mac and Cheese that comes along with the pork, just take a look at the picture - it says it all. The work of art is without question a top-tier Mac and Cheese. Not soupy, not thick and plastic-like - just about perfect.
Now a friendly piece of advice, make sure you leave room for dessert. This is phrase that is usually over used, but in this case, it is richly deserved.
Homecoming has a ridiculously strong line-up of cake and pies. These aren’t fancy pieces of art work, but some solid basics, done exceedingly well.
A glance at the dessert menu is going to leave you struggling to decide. Our plan was to go with a couple, but the generous portions of the main plates left us close to hitting the wall, leaving us with the agonizing choice of selecting just one of the seven desserts on offer.
On the recommendation of our server, the Hummingbird Cake was our pick, and my goodness, it was good.
The photo perhaps does not do it justice, but this is a BIG piece of cake. Easily sharable between two people, the $10 slice of heaven is a pineapple-banana cake, with a cream cheese frosting and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.
It’s the perfect blend of delicious moist cake, and a sweet cream frosting that is just perfection on a plate. We struggle to find its equal among the many cakes we have tried. Whatever you do, make this cake part of your trip to Homecoming.
The drink menu is extensive, with a whole host of local beers, wines, and speciality drinks.
This is the $10 Bootlegger - Florida Dark rum, Florida Light Rum, Fresh Lime Juice, Blackberry Jam, Grenadine and Simple Syrup. The perfect drink for a hot Florida day.
There are also some non-alcoholic speciality drinks, including this frozen Icee drink.
A quick word on the kids menu. Unlike a lot of restaurants, the kids menu has had some actual thought put into it. There is a choice of fish, cheeseburger, fried chicken, and even a grilled tenderloin. Each dish has a choice of vegetables and starch, and a special kids dessert is also available - doughnuts and ice cream.
View the Homecoming menu.
Grab and Go
If you are in a hurry, and don’t want the full sit down experience, you can visit the Grab and Go window for a quick bite.
It’s located at the outdoor bar area, and includes a couple of sandwiches, sides and cakes. We’ll be back later for a separate look a the Grab and Go.
Disney Springs got off to a great start with its new restaurants, and with each opening, the line-up gets stronger and stronger.
Chef Art’s Homecoming manages to be unique in an area packed with restaurants, and it is without question worthy of your visit.
Unlike some of the high end restaurants in The Landing, Homecoming is a mid-priced restaurant, where you should expect to pay around $50 per person. Some might consider this expensive for the type of food on offer, but its quality is far above a typical Southern comfort food restaurant.
Service was good, at the standard you would expect to find at all Disney World restaurants.
What stands out the most, is the scratch made mentality that is at the heart of all the dishes. Everything that can be made in house is, and it tastes like you are right there in Art Smith’s own kitchen in Jasper. Even the hot sauce on the table is house made.
Homecoming isn’t one of those celebrity inspired restaurants by name only. Chef Art himself was greeting every guest at the restaurant today, and keeping an eye on everything leaving the kitchen.
If you are looking for some new dining experiences on your next trip, Homecoming should be high on your list. If you are a dessert lover, Homecoming should be at the absolute top of your list.
Homecoming is on the Disney Dining Plan at 1 Table Service Credit, and is open from 11am to midnight Sunday though Thursday, and until 1am Friday and Saturday.
Reservations will be available at Disney.com from July 21.
As with all restaurant reviews on WDWMAGIC, this review was not part of any promotional visit, and was paid for out of pocket.
Jul 12, 2016 / 4:26pm EDT