I love that Disney Springs is evolving with a vibrant dining scene filled with “celebrity” chefs preparing specialty menus—and Art Smith’s Homecoming is no exception. Art Smith was a college program Cast Member for Walt Disney World and is the first one to return and open his own restaurant—something that he and the restaurant pride themselves on. In between that time he has made a name for himself as Oprah’s private chef and on Food Network. Homecoming, so named because he was coming home to Disney and to his native Florida, also prides itself on locally sourced ingredients to make their fresh cuisine with a Southern/Home Cooking feel. From the décor (think Fixer Upper) to the Blue Gingham shirts worn by the servers you immediately feel comfortable and at home when you enter the restaurant. Reservations are recommended as this is quite a popular place and it isn’t that large although seating is offered inside and outside on the porch.
I have enjoyed 2 meals at Homecoming and feel confident in recommending it as a great place to try at Disney Springs. The menu offers a good variety of choices and you can find lighter items as well as traditionally fried Southern foods.
For starters there are several great choices. There is a larder board that offers a version of a cheese plate and charcuterie. While this looked and sounded delicious we opted for a couple of other options from the appetizer menu. The hush puppies that are made with the house pimento cheese are fantastic, I definitely recommend those. We also tried the Anna Maria Island Fish Dip—the fish is smoked in house and combined into a dip with cream cheese (everything is better with cream cheese). It is served with house made crackers. The “fishy” taste was a little stronger than I anticipated but this was still a very tasty appetizer option, and I love how fresh and locally sourced it was.
For entrees I haven’t been able to pass up the fried chicken. This is a signature item for Art Smith and it is brined in buttermilk before frying it up with a fresh, light breading. You can get the chicken in a few different entrees: just a plate of fried chicken with sides; fried chicken with house made doughnuts; and the fried chicken sandwich. I opted for the sandwich because it was the least expensive of the options and it was served with the house made Barbecue Chips which I love. The chicken was tender and juicy and it was full of flavor—I chose to eat it without the bun, but the bun was very good as well. The barbecue chips are a version of house made chips, freshly fried then seasoned with barbecue spices. They are then drizzled with icebox dressing . . . that may be my favorite part.
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Then it was time for dessert, and there are a few really tasty options on the menu. Because I was sharing with my 17 year old I opted not to get the cake soaked in moonshine, but it sure did sound delicious. Instead we went with a slice of Art’s famous hummingbird cake. Many restaurants in my area of North Carolina have a version of this cake, so I was interested to see how this one might stand out. Hummingbird cake is somewhat similar to a carrot cake in texture, but has pineapple in it. And, of course, cream cheese dressing. I was a little surprised at the price of the dessert, but when our server delivered this gigantic multi-layer wedge of cake it seemed more justified. And it was served with a vanilla ice cream that was locally made . . .and so rich and creamy. We made a good choice, the Hummingbird cake was delicious and rich, but at the same time not too heavy like a chocolate cake would be. Between the two of us we could not finish it.
We have enjoyed both of our dining experiences at Art Smith’s Homecoming, and part of the reason we have is due to the servers. Especially on our last meal there, our server took the time to explain dishes on the menu, but also gave us little details about the plates we ordered as she delivered them which was a nice touch to what Art Smith’s Homecoming is trying to accomplish with local ingredients and promoting Florida agriculture. I hope that they keep up this practice of explaining the nuances of the ingredients and menu items as they no doubt continue to grow in popularity and continue to be a busy restaurant. The only negative is that it does get a little loud with the inside seating, but all of the positives definitely offset that.
I recommend that you give Art Smith’s Homecoming a try whether it is for lunch or dinner. I even think it is worth the trip over to Disney Springs just to eat here. Just be sure to make a dining reservation through Walt Disney World’s dining system, or check out Homecoming’s website.