Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Review at Disney Springs

Homecomin’, the trademark-friendly name of the restaurant opened by Chef Art Smith back in July 2016, has already established itself as one of Disney Springs’ most popular restaurants.

Offering one of the most accessible menus at Disney’s shopping and dining district, Homecomin’ serves comfort food favorites with a Florida twist in one of the Springs’ friendliest atmospheres.

And that authentic friendliness goes a long way in creating one of the more pleasant overall dining experiences on Disney property.

According to Trip Advisor, Homecomin’ is the Springs’ highest rated restaurant, and while I’m not sure I would go quite that far, I’ve never tasted anything that I didn’t like or experienced a meal that I would describe as anything less than excellent during my six or seven visits.

Like most other restaurants in the Springs, Homecomin’ offers an expansive centralized bar area with open seating, making it an ideal choice for an afternoon rendezvous for drinks and shareable appetizers.

A limited number of sandwiches and desserts are available to-go from the bar. With Morimoto Asia Street Food across the way and D-Luxe Burger just down the road, among other options, you might pick up a Fried Chicken Sandwich and walk it elsewhere if everyone can’t decide on sushi, burgers, or pizza.

The screened-in porch offers picturesque views of the water.

At night, enjoy music outside with patio seating.

The menu has undergone some subtle changes since opening nearly a year ago, including adding buttermilk crackers to the Jasper Board and Tropical Shrimp Cocktail. The Thigh High Chicken Biscuits arrive in place of the Chicken Wings. The Harvest Salad is served with chicken or fish instead of steak tenderloin. The Reunion Greek Salad replaces the Tarpon Springs Greek Salad. The “Kitchen Plate” with choice of three sides is a newer offering. The HFK Barbecue Bun still offers plenty of sweet and spicy barbecue chopped pork, but is served on a brioche bun instead of Parker House Rolls. The Country Club with grilled chicken is new under the Buns and Such moniker. The Fried Chicken and Doughnuts entree comes with mashed potatoes instead of KC Greens. The Chopped Pork Barbecue Plate now uses the singular form of biscuit because it only comes with one. The Braised Short Ribs are new, replacing the $41 Strip Steak that was ostensibly a little too popular with the Dining Plan crowd. The Fried Catfish no longer arrives with kale and collards.

So whatever you tried last time is probably still here, in addition to a couple of new items.

The drink menu has undergone a few changes too. The Mood Ring, The Belle, and Apple Pie A La Mode are all new and the “Shine on Tap” has some different offerings.

Kids can get in on the action with several tasty-sounding choices.

The $10 Church Lady Deviled Eggs – HFK-style whole deviled eggs arrive “in carton” with one of the most precious food presentations that I’ve ever seen.

Six whole eggs arrive, each impossibly creamy with an earthy accompaniment in the chives and a meaty finish with the prosciutto on top. Heavenly, really.

The $10 Bunch of Puppies – House-made hushpuppies served with pimento cheese and red jalapeño jelly.

What we were served early on in the restaurant’s run was on the dry side, I thought, but the jalapeno jelly does a nice job of spicing up the smooth sharp cheddar cheese inside of the crispy exterior, while at the same time contrasting with the sweetness of the pimento. You may have better luck since you’re going to have trouble rewinding and visiting on opening day.

These $12 Chicken Wings with HFK’s sweet and spicy barbecue sauce are no longer on the menu, but they do look good in the picture.

Or rather, now they do.

Since openin’, Homecomin’ has upped its moonshine game:

Now offering a few of their own concoctions, in addition to some local options. and some of the more well-known brands.

A flight is available to compare and contrast flavors.

I tried the HFK Lemon Shine infused with vibrant and tart fresh lemon on the recommendation of our server. And she was right – the zesty tartness with that ever-so-slight citrus-y sweetness created a wonderful flavor profile that really mellowed the burn of the ‘shine.

I also went with a local choice in the Palm Ridge Virgin, which tasted pretty rough, not unlike their whiskey. I also went with the highest-proof choice in the Old Smoky Blue Flame. At 128-proof, it was fun to chase it with the spicy pink pickle juice followed by a sweet candied pecan. Like the name, I was mildly surprised that I didn’t burst into flames after putting it back.

While the serving board above still bears the old “Homecoming” name, other items have been updated.

In the back, that’s the “Blue Hooch – Blue Flame Moonshine, lemon-infused moonshine, blue curacao, house-made simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, and a splash of Sprite. Our strongest shine on tap.” Like a lot of drinks that include it, it tasted mostly like the blue curacao, which I don’t really care for with its artificial orange flavor. The 22-ounce squeeze bottle is $8 and entitles you to return and get that amount for the $12 16-ounce price. If you’re anything like me, you’ll never remember to bring it with you.

Elsewhere, the $11 “Cucumber Cooler – Tito’s Handmade Vodka with lime juice, simple syrup, and crisp cucumber slices.”

This is probably the smoothest, most refreshing cocktail on the menu for those that enjoy cucumber. A real crisp, cool flavor that’s probably too easy to drink.

The $11 “The Local – RumHaven coconut water rum, lime, simple syrup and fresh pineapple.” Another light choice, I appreciated the subtlety of the fruity pineapple, citrus acidity of the lime, sweetness of the simple syrup, and  the natural flavor from the coconut, and how well they came together to complement one another. The rum is only 42 proof though and a bottle only runs $13, so don’t order this one expecting it to pack a punch.

Stronger is the $12 “Basil Smash – Woodford Reserve Bourbon, sour mix, simple syrup and smashed basil leaves.”

No matter how much I enjoy something, I very rarely order anything a second time. This drink is an exception with a prominent whiskey flavor that’s tempered with just a little sour mix and the sugar in the simple syrup. The peppery character of the basil is what elevates it. It’s a quality cocktail that uses better ingredients than a lot of other Springs’ bars at a lower price.

The $12 “Bootlegger – RumShine and dark rum, blackberry jam, house-made grenadine, simple syrup, and lime juice” is another favorite. The blackberry jam gives it a really natural sweetness to the drink without adding any unnecessary sugar and the house-made grenadine offers some more fruitiness, in addition to the rich color. Very refreshing, very good, and there’s some alcohol in there too, which is always nice.

The $12 “Old Fashioned Elder – Michter’s Bourbon, St. Germain Elderflower, dash of bitters, garnished with an orange peel and fancy cherry.” Probably the strongest drink on the menu, the Michter’s is relatively high end with a nice smoky quality to it that’s enhanced by the earthy undertones of the fresh-tasting St. Germain liqueur. Purists will scoff at the inclusion of the Elderflower, but I appreciated mixing up the regular flavor profile. Very good.

The $12 “Moonshine Mash – Watermelon-infused moonshine, fresh watermelon, lime juice and simple syrup” is extremely fruity with a strong watermelon flavor. It’s also served ice cold with a lot of ice, making it one of the more refreshing drinks for someone that isn’t looking to find themselves dancing at STK unexpectedly in a couple of hours.

The $11 “Figs & Berries – Fresh muddled strawberries with Dobel Diamante Reposado Tequila, fig jam, agave and lime juice.” This is an interesting, fresh take on your typical margarita with the jam and juices doing a nice job of washing away the flavor of the tequila, which remains pronounced on the front of each sip. Quite good and freshly prepared.

The $12 Sweet Tea Shine – Sweet Tea, Fresh-squeezed lemon, and Moonshine was overwhelmingly sweet when I tried it early on in the restaurant’s run. No alcohol flavor at all, which I’m not sure is a good thing.

It’s probably smart that they don’t do frozen drinks anymore. “The Real McCoy” was a Rum Runner with a Real McCoy 5-year old dark rum shooter was disgustingly sweet and nearly impossible to drink given its thickness. Somewhere, somebody is still working on one of these despite disappearing from the menu months ago.

The beer game is solid, but roughly priced for the most part.

Overall, the current drink offerings at Homecomin’ are quite good, always freshly prepared (with the exception of the so-so “on tap” offerings), and a couple dollars less than most other restaurants. Morimoto Asia, STK, Paddlefish, Frontera, etc. serve cocktails that typically run $14-$17 instead of $10-$12.

Back to Food.

The $9 “Addie May’s Chicken & Dumpling Soup – Simple and Delicious” is one of the best values on the menu – a substantial portion of creamy soup full of juicy chicken, fresh vegetables, and thin pieces of chewy dough. I was somewhat surprised that the “dumplings” were just strips rather than surrounding some kind of filling, but it worked nicely here. This would be enough food to fill small appetites or those that aren’t looking to stuff themselves early in the day, particularly if another side was added or an entree was shared. It was also served piping hot, which I appreciated.

Salads here are also fantastic.

This is the “Fried Chicken Chopped Salad – Mixed Greens, Egg, Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes, and Cucumber tossed with Icebox Dressing, Cheddar Biscuit Croutons, and Fresh Herbs.” It’s a huge salad – I couldn’t finish it after starting with the soup – piled high with cold fried chicken and a ton of fresh vegetables and greens. The Icebox dressing has a zesty component to it and it’s served with a side of ranch that makes the whole salad impossibly creamy and delicious. A lot of fresh flavors here and a smart way to get in on the fried chicken if you prefer salad over sandwich. Very good.

A smartphone shot of the $17 “Fried Chicken Sandwich – Buttermilk-brined for 24 hours and double-battered, dressed with hot sauce, aioli, iceberg lettuce, tomato and bread and butter pickles.”

If you’re not so interested in sharing, my recommendation is to go with the sandwiches in order to save some money and still enjoy some of the restaurant’s boldest flavors. This is $10 less than the plated fried chicken for a huge portion of boneless, juicy fried chicken, fresh vegetables, and a deliciously soft, slightly crispy toasted bun. The creamy aioli tempers the flavor of the hot sauce, which offers a nice spicy component. You can always add more. The fries are nicely seasoned with salt and pepper and reliably arrive crispy and fresh. Certainly not the most interesting of accompaniments, but they do the job if you’re in the mood.

The $19 “Big Fish Sandwich – Grilled fresh Florida fish of the day, hot sauce aïoli, iceberg lettuce and tomato served with house-made barbecue chips drizzled with icebox dressing.”

On each of my visits, the fish has been grouper. And each time, it’s been served in a whopping portion. Grouper ain’t cheap, and this mildly flavored, flaky fish is served as an 8-ounce filet in between the soft, crispy bun, and the same thick, fresh vegetables that we saw with the chicken sandwich.

Despite having a fabulous, nuanced flavor in and of itself, I thought the fish didn’t work so well in the sandwich as its subtlety was lost against the other ingredients. I ended up eating the fish separately and wasn’t at all mad about it given the quality. But fish in sandwiches like this is typically fried so it contrasts better against the softness of the bun. I wouldn’t fry the grouper, but probably would have gone a different direction with it sandwich-wise. Still incredible though and a great value if they continue to serve fish of this quality.

House-made Barbecue Chips served with Icebox Dressing is the default side. I’d ask for more of the dressing on the side, because just a little is poured over the top. You can also substitute another side for a modest charge depending on what you want to go with. The crunchy chips otherwise taste fresh and are served in an overwhelming portion. But I think the best part is the buttermilk dressing that sets them apart from your typical offering.

Originally, the $16 “HFK Barbecue Bun – Sweet and spicy barbecue chopped pork piled high on a brioche bun and topped with southern slaw served with house-made barbecue chips drizzled with icebox dressing” was served on three Parker House Rolls, which are pictured here.

The pork is piled high and has a distinct vinegary spiciness to it that really helps bring out the flavor of the pork, which is then tempered slightly by the thick slaw. A great dish at a reasonable price.

The same pork is served on a plate as the $24 “Chopped Pork Barbecue Plate – Dressed with HFK sweet and spicy barbecue sauce served with Momma’s mac and cheese and cheddar drop biscuits.”

The barbecue is tender and flavorful, though it just “feels” like it belongs in between a bun rather than plated like this.

Momma’s Mac and Cheese is a straightforward dish baked nicely with some tempura crunch for a crispy topping before giving way to the creamy, cheesy pasta underneath. Quite good though not “out of this world” or anything.

It’s probably a matter of personal taste, but I didn’t care for the KC Greens: Braised Kale and Collards – too sour with too much vinegar for me. But it’s a large portion and if you like your greens with a lot of vinegar, then you’ll like this.

I’m not sure if it’s controversial, but I’m not crazy about the Cheddar Drop Biscuits either – they’re so dense and have a “stale” quality to them even when I assume they’re fresh.

Not a lot of flavor and no honey, spread, butter, or anything to accompany.

The $26 “Shrimp & Grits – Pan-seared shrimp with tomato gravy and Tasso ham served over creamy Bradley’s grits.”

About six smallish shrimp, pan-seared to a nice crispiness, arrive on top of a bed of cheesy grits with with meaty ham pieces underneath a robust, spicy tomato sauce that’s packed with stuff. The flavor was complex, yet familiar, with a variety of textures, but it’s the only dish I’ve been served here that I didn’t think, “Wow, that’s a lot of food.” So while I enjoyed the flavor, I’m not sure that it’s necessarily worth going out of your way to order, but it’s one of the few non-fried, non-barbecue, non-sandwich entrees on the menu and it should satisfy your average appetite.

On the fish front, here’s a lousy smartphone picture of the $22 “Fried Catfish – Accompanied by hushpuppies, grits, and a side of remoulade.” I’ve tried the catfish at several on-property restaurants in recent memory…Trail’s End…BOAthouSe…Boatwright’s…Paddlefish…but this is easily my favorite of the bunch with three large pieces lightly fried. The problem with catfish is typically how much it drys out, and that wasn’t a problem here at all, particularly when it’s spiced up with the excellent homemade hot sauce. A couple of cornbread balls that had a really nice, sweet flavor accompany. Quite good and a lot of food with the side of grits.

“Art’s Famous Fried Chicken – Buttermilk-brined for 24 hours then perfectly fried and served with creamy mashed potatoes, cheddar drop biscuits, and love” is the star of the show and what the restaurant largely markets itself on.

Three pieces of bone-in chicken are served alongside the mashed potatoes and what is now two biscuits and without the hot sauce underneath. The brine leaves the chicken incredibly succulent underneath the rich, crispy coating. The mashed potatoes offer a nice contrast in texture – creamy underneath the meaty gravy and chive topping. Add a second side and you have plenty of food for two people to share.

Another option is the $25 “Fried Chicken & Doughnuts – Two pieces of Chef Art Smith’s famous fried chicken served with house-made sugar doughnuts and creamy mashed potatoes.

This arrives with a boneless chicken breast.

And a piece of dark meat chicken with the leg and bone attached.  I thought the doughnuts were actually the weakest component of the plating – too dense and cake-y to enjoy with the chicken. But you may prefer the style. The mashed potatoes are served without the gravy. which cause them to have a more straightforward flavor profile of potato and butter. Two dipping sauces are served and both the chicken and doughnuts dip nicely into the surprisingly viscous cane syrup. Overall, I think the 3-piece fried chicken plate for $2 more is the way to go. The desserts coming up are a lot more satisfying than the two doughnuts.

Overall, just about everything on the menu is a winner. The sandwiches are typically less expensive options that offer similar flavors to their plated cousins, but the entree plates are usually larger and more shareable. $27 for fried chicken is kind of nutty, but that’s about what you’re going to pay for an entree at most Disney Springs restaurants regardless. And the plate is large enough to share. Still, my go-to is the Fried Chicken Sandwich for the same money as you’d pay for a burger and fries at D-Luxe.

Five desserts are available.

My favorite is the $10 “Shine Cake – Chef Art Smith’s signature dessert. An adult only butter cake soaked with moonshine syrup. Served with a seasonal fruit gastrique and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.” The pound cake is fluffy and sweet on its own and contrasts nicely with the sweet-and-sour fruit gastrique underneath. The moonshine syrup gives it a rum cake quality to it with a rich flavor without the potentially-unpleasant burn of the alcohol that you’d otherwise find in moonshine. Very shareable and very good.

The Hummingbird Cake – The famous pineapple-banana cake with cream cheese frosting, from Chef Art’s bestselling cookbook, “Back to the Table.” Served with seasonal fruit gastrique and a scoop of vanilla bean icing” is stupid big. That’s not a small scoop of ice cream. The crushed pineapple gives the cake a sweet and tart component with the creaminess of the banana and tangy buttercream icing creating a satisfying, complex flavor profile. The ice cream does a nice job of cooling everything down and the small amount of tart gastrique adds another layer of flavor for anything that it touches. This could easily be shared among three or four people, even if you’re all still hungry.

Overall, Homecomin’ offers one of the Springs’ most accessible menus in one of its most casual settings.

I don’t usually discuss service because what I experience isn’t easily replicated unless you are a very strange Disney blogger and you’re seated at the same server’s table. But over a half dozen visits, I’ve never experienced anything other than authentically friendly, caring service. And that goes a long way in feeling welcome and enjoying the food.

While there are more interesting flavors and settings around Disney Springs, Homecomin’ offers a reliable experience with familiar flavors. There’s a reason it’s so popular and why people typically leave so satisfied.




And if you’re not from the South, then Homecomin’ may be unique in that you have a Morimoto, STK, Gibson, etc. nearby, but don’t have a lot of opportunities to try food like this. It’s a very good choice in a sea of very good choices. It will be interesting to see how it fares with The Polite Pig offering similar food at similar prices.

Comments

  1. Amber says

    Thanks for reviewing something besides the chicken, Josh, I had seen several reviews and the drinks looked amazing, but all the focus on the fried chicken just made me turn it off. I’m from Nashville, so seriously, that chicken? Lol, no. My hometown isn’t perfect, but our chicken is just – better. It’d be like eating sushi at WDW when you’re from Toyko. I hadn’t even bothered with the menu, but it looks interesting, the drinks alone seeing all your review here make might make it a good late lunch place even if the sides themselves will harden your arteries. My heart’s strong, so live dangerously.

    Really appreciate your site and insight.

    • Jeff says

      Everybody thinks their hometown does some dish better than anybody else, and they love to crow about it. (New York = Pizza, Chicago = Hot Dogs, Kansas City = BBQ, Los Angeles = Mexican, and on and on and on)
      It’s human nature…..and kinda annoying.

      The chicken​ is utterly amazing at Homecomin’ , no matter where you’re from.

      • Amber says

        /shrugs

        If it’s not spicy enough to bring tears I just don’t see the point. But great thing about WDW? They serve all markets.

  2. Matthew says

    Josh, southern “dumplings” are not filled. They are merely biscuit dough rolled out and cut into strips, so Homecomin’s representation is for the most part correct.

  3. Eddie 512 says

    I love the looks of every single thing about this place. But I CANNOT with the ‘ in the name. Why oh why can’t it just be named HomecominG?????

  4. Boo says

    We went to Homecomin’ for lunch a few days ago and really enjoyed the food, but we must have been really unlucky with the service. Our server forgot my sister’s entree completely (we had to ask for it – twice) and brought my husband the wrong dish. He apologised and said they’d comp us desserts to make up for it – and then promptly forgot one of them too (mine)!

  5. Anne Marie says

    We were there a little over a week ago. We must have just hit it at the wrong time but we had less than friendly service. Very uninterested. Forgot items and drinks not refilled. Food was good but for our Jasper board our waitress brought out 4 plates, every single one had the last persons food on them. Even the next she brought back. We used our napkins to eat the apps. Food was crazy expensive even for Disney. I like Chef Smith but in no hurry to go back if ever. :(

  6. Nancy says

    Thank you so much for this review, especially this line: “I thought the doughnuts were actually the weakest component of the plating – too dense and cake-y to enjoy with the chicken.” We are going next month, and I’ve been trying to decide if I want to get the fried chicken dish or the one with the doughnuts. Well, I don’t like cake, so cake-y? I’ll pass. Does the chicken breast with the regular chicken plate have the bone in?

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