Friday, August 5, 2016

NEW!! Chef Art Smith's Homecoming Kitchen Review, Disney Springs!

Celebrity Chef Art Smith's new restaurant, Homecoming Kitchen, brings down-home southern flavor to the Landing area of Disney Springs! It's comfort food at its best, and you can taste the love in every bite. Homecoming Kitchen can best be described as a fancy, love-filled, home-cooked, Sunday dinner at grandma's house!

Chef Art is very hands-on with the new addition to Disney Springs. Don't be surprised if you are greeted by his smiling face. He's a very gracious man, and that definitely adds to the welcoming feeling of Homecoming Kitchen. 

The Food

I expected a lot of spice, heavy black pepper, and saltiness in the foods because that's what I've encountered with several "southern" fast food fried chicken restaurants. Don't expect to find any greasy, fast food style chicken here! I was happily surprised that all of the flavors are mild enough for any tastes and showcase nothing but fresh quality ingredients. This truly is the flavor of home-cooking. For those who enjoy an extra kick, a bottle of Chef Art's own hot sauce is on the table. 

Jasper Board ($15.00)- Assortment of pimento cheese, smoked sausage, shaved ham, bread and butter pickles and candied pecans.
This appetizer is perfect for sharing. The pimento cheese is so creamy. It has a mild flavor and I recommend a dash of hot sauce to add some lip-tingling heat. Top one of the benne seed (sesame) crackers with it and a little piece of shaved ham for the perfect bite. The smoked sausage reminded me of the mild pepperoni that I used to get at the Italian markets in my hometown outside of Pittsburgh. 
The bread and butter pickles were a nice sweet and slightly sour bite to balance the richness of the meats and cheeses. I can't say enough about the candied pecans...sweet, crunchy, bursting with freshly-roasted, nutty flavor. I would enjoy a bowl of them with a cocktail any day. Bonus: Unlimited crackers!

Church Lady Deviled Eggs ($10.00)- Homecoming-style whole deviled eggs.
The first impression is that the presentation is absolutely adorable. The second impression after taking a bite is that these may be what gets a Church Lady into heaven. The filling is creamy, smooth, and topped with some of the shaved ham (I believe). There's no strong mustard flavor or heavy seasoning. Just simple and rich.

Bee Haven Bay Fried Green Tomatoes ($12.00)- Shaved ham, remoulade sauce and dressed local greens.
More flavorful than any fried green tomatoes that I've had before, these were delicious. I often find that fried green tomatoes have an overwhelmingly sour taste...NOT THESE! There was only a hint of sour that was offset by the ham and breading. I'm not one to normally order fried green tomatoes, but I would enjoy having a plate of these as my lunch.

Bunch of Puppies ($9.00)- House-made pimento cheese hushpuppies served with red jalapeno jelly.
Seriously? This is just brilliance. How can we make pimento cheese better? Answer: pimento cheese hush puppies. The jelly makes a wonderful dipping sauce and despite having jalapenos, is not overly spicy. I suggest topping them with a big dollop of pimento cheese spread form the Jasper board. That's what I did!

Addie Mae's Chicken & Dumpling Soup ($7.00)- Simple and Delicious.
This should be renamed "A Big Bowl of Warm Love." What is more comforting than homemade chicken soup? It tasted like the homemade broth my mother made (and I make now). The vegetables still had some texture. The dumplings were more of a wide noodle style than a heavy dumpling. It's reminiscent of homemade chicken pot pie without a heavy, greasy crust. Another perfect choice for lunch.

Art's Fabulous Fried Chicken ($26.00)- Chef Art Smith's Signature Dish! Buttermilk-brined for 24 hours then perfectly fried and served with creamy mashed potatoes, cheddar drop biscuits and LOVE.
Definitely lives up to the name. Fabulous! Juicy, tender, crispy, full of flavor without being overwhelmed in black pepper and spice. We heated up the leftovers the following day and it was just as juicy and delicious. The mashed potatoes were the surprise standout with the meal. Creamy, rich, and a hint of garlic (I believe, although not listed on the menu). With some of the cream gravy they are a warm hug. 
The cheddar biscuits were the only slight misstep of the evening. I say slight because the first one that I had a nibble of was very tough and dense as if the dough were overworked. However, I tried a piece of a second one and it was much more tender. Both had mild cheddar flavor and the richness that you expect from a homemade biscuit. Again, they were not heavily salted as I've experienced from other restaurants. I recommend a few of them along with the Chicken & Dumpling Soup.

Strip Steak Topped with Palmetto Butter ($41.00)- A 16-ounce cut served with creamy mashed potatoes and dressed greens (greens replaced with cheddar biscuits).
This steak was huge and looked perfectly cooked. I cannot eat beef, but the rest of my party made a lot of comments and sounds that made it obvious how amazing it was. The first bite brought on a reaction of slowly-closed eyes followed by a big smile. For any steak-lover, this is a WIN!

Big Fish Sandwich ($18.00)- Grilled fresh Florida fish of the day, hot sauce aioli, shaved lettuce and tomatoes. Cucumber salad substituted for BBQ chips ($1.00).
This was a very BIG piece of fish (server, Lilly, said grouper). It's definitely enough for sharing. The cut was thick and yet stayed moist and flaky throughout when grilled. In fact, it was so juicy that the bun, tomato and lettuce (not shaved but I find shaved to be potentially messy) were warmed and "marinated" with the flavor of the grilled fish. The aioli added a perfect dressing to the fish. It was not spicy, just well-seasoned and did not distract from the mild fish in the slightest. 
The quality of all components of the sandwich were beyond my expectations. The tomatoes tasted fresh-picked from the garden. The bun was soft, sweet, and lightly toasted. For those looking for a lighter menu option, the grilled fish is an excellent choice.

(Although I did not taste any of the salads, I did see them and ask a few questions. They are very large portions, definitely enough for sharing. The shrimp on the Greek salad are massive. The Homecoming Kitchen salads are not a "healthy throwaway". They had the same quality as all of the comfort food items on the menu.)

Fried Chicken Sandwich ($16.00)- Buttermilk-brined for 24 hours and double-battered, dressed with shaved lettuce, tomato and bread and butter pickles.
Great option for trying the famous chicken in a smaller portion size. Much like the Big Fish, the bun is lightly toasted and the fresh tomatoes make all the difference.

Southern Slaw ($5.00)
No-mayo slaw with a sweet and sour flavor. I loved the crispness of the shredded vegetables and the little hint of sweet. The menu doesn't describe the dressing, but I would guess it is made from apple cider vinegar.

Momma's Mac and Cheese ($7.00)
Possibly the ultimate comfort food. The thick, rich, decadent cream sauce envelopes the macaroni with cheesy goodness. The added touch of a pile of cheese bubbling on top creates a masterpiece.

KC Greens: braised kale and collards ($6.00)
Another well-balanced bite, especially when matched with a bit of mashed potatoes. I expected them to be full of ham and grease, but they are not. Just fresh greens cooked until tender but still have some bite. Nothing mushy about these beauties.

These rich desserts are suitable-for-sharing sized portions and worth EVERY calorie!
As Chef Art says, "Never underestimate the power of cake."

Hummingbird Cake ($10.00)- The famous pineapple-banana cake with cream cheese frosting, from Chef Art's bestselling cookbook "Back To The Table". Served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.
The first bite reminded me of a banana split. It was moist, rich, sweet, and everything a dessert should be (when they aren't chocolate). The best way to describe it is to say the reaction of one of my dining companions. She took one bite and started to tear up and said, "that tastes like my grandma's cake." There's nothing more to say.

Shine Cake ($10.00)- Chef Art's signature dessert. An adult only butter cake soaked with moonshine syrup. Served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.
Hold on to your hat! The scent of alcohol (moonshine) proceeds each bite of this rich treat. It is a buttery pound cake made extra moist by the addition of the moonshine syrup. There's a reason why this is ADULTS ONLY. That moonshine is strong stuff.

Hamilton County Pecan Pie ($9.00)- A 100-year-old traditional Smith Family Farm recipe. Served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Available seasonally.
Toasty pecans with dark chocolate pieces scattered over them keep this dessert from being too sweet. It is very thin and has only a small amount of the gooey pecan pie center. I enjoyed the intense, almost bitter, chocolate flavor of this dessert. It's excellent for an adult palette.

The selection of specialty cocktails is delightful with interesting and unique options that you will not find elsewhere!

Moonshine Mash ($12.00)-Mrs. Sutton's Watermelon Likker, fresh watermelon, lime juice and simple syrup.
Perfectly refreshing in sunny Florida and lightly sweet. Few things pair better with fried chicken than watermelon!

Muleshine ($10.00)- White Lightning, peach puree, fresh lime juice, with a splash of Ginger Beer.
I understand why this is called "mule." It packs a KICK! At first taste, the ginger flavor was a bit strong, but then the notes of peach came through and it reminded me of a nice drink to sip while sitting on the back-porch rocking chair. This drink also paired PERFECTLY with every food that I tasted. It was particularly delicious following a bite of benne seed (sesame) crackers topped with pimento cheese and a splash of Chef Art's hot sauce. YUM! 
Homecoming Souvenir Cups ($6.00)- Charming reusable, non-crushable, solo cups are available in a variety of colors and designs. "Don't go home, SOLO."


Homecoming Kitchen combines warm tones and country elements in an upscale, yet welcoming, design. A blend of booth seating and various table designs lends an eclectic feel. Whimsical touches such as the chair coverings, front door design, and moonshine still are lovely details. 

We were seated at a large table that appeared to be a cross-section of a massive tree (I am not certain if it was man-made or not). The windows along the back of the restaurant provided beautiful views of the springs. The only thing missing from Homecoming Kitchen is a place to nap after all of the delicious food!

A sampling of sandwiches, sides, and desserts are also available for take-out.
A lovely bar, located along side of the dining room, is a nice stop for a refreshing cool-down out of the Florida heat.  

I highly recommend stopping in for the delicious, love-filled, home-cooking at Homecoming Kitchen. 
*HK is handicapped accessible.
*HK accepts the Disney Dining Plan and Tables in Wonderland Discount.
*Special thanks to Mary Morales of Mad Hatter Travel and Team Tink for inviting me to this fabulous food tasting event! Look for her on Facebook at
*LIKE AND FOLLOW TO SUPPORT MORE PRINCESSING! Find Jeanie on Twitter @PrincessPapers Facebook @ThePrincesspapers and on the Disney Dream Girls Podcast @disdreamgirls on Twitter! 

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