We’re here for a FIRST LOOK at Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine!
Newly open in the Town Center of Disney Springs (yesterday was Opening Day), Homecoming is the latest venue opened by a Celebrity Chef in Disney World.
While the restaurants backed by Chef Morimoto (Morimoto Asia) and Rick Bayless (Frontera Cocina) make up other terrific recent additions to Disney World’s shopping and dining district, Homecoming is especially significant to Disney World and Florida as Chef Art Smith has strong connections to both.
Hailing from Jasper, Florida, Chef Smith is also a former Disney Cast Member via the Disney College Program! So, as you can imagine, even though Chef Smith heads up restaurants in other areas of the country, the name Homecoming has an extra special meaning.
We’ll be back with our full review of this new spot next week, but in the meantime, we couldn’t resist sharing this FIRST LOOK with you.
Oh, and just look who dropped by to say, “Welcome!”
(If only I had asked him about that awesome shirt that he and some of the other staffers were wearing! But we DID get another special souvenir… you’ve got to read on, though, to find out about it!)
Not only does the name “Homecoming” reflect Chef Smith’s Florida roots — even the design of the restaurant itself is something of a tribute to the Sunshine State.
Lots of windows bring in plenty of Florida sunshine, making the large indoor seating area (with Florida cypress used throughout) bright and cheerful.
The Floridian theme extends to much of the artwork in and around the building. And it’s worth noting that the murals were created by an artist from Tampa.
The Shine Bar has its own entryway to the left of the main entrance.
Both the walk-up bar and the seating area on the wraparound porch are covered, and offer some fantastic waterfront views.
You can also access the beautiful porch from the inside of the main area of the restaurant.
While sleek has been the name of the game in many new locations in Disney Springs, the look and feel at Homecoming is welcoming and charming, while retaining a modern aesthetic.
Now that we’ve taken a quick look around, let’s check out the menu…
It’s not just Southern fare at Homecoming… it’s Chef Smith’s take on Florida fare, too (click the menu image below to enlarge)! Church Lady Deviled Eggs and Bee Haven Bay Fried Green Tomatoes are among the strong list of Starters (and I’m already partial to the Bunch of Puppies — there are nowhere near enough Hushpuppies in Disney World, and these are made with pimento cheese!).
There’s a nice selection of Sandwiches and Salads alongside the Main Plates (which is where you’ll spy Art’s Fabulous Fried Chicken!), allowing for a decent variety of price options. And did you see those Sides? Items like KC Greens (kale and collards), Momma’s Mac and Cheese, and Cheddar-Cheese Drop Biscuits are all up for grabs.
Of course, you’ll need to wash it all down (click the image below to enlarge)! Draft Beer is available along with Cans & Bottles, and altogether four Florida breweries are represented. These are offered alongside Wines and a whole slew of “Crafty Moonshine & Resort Cocktails” which come together to make a pretty huge Drink Menu.
And the Chef probably wouldn’t want you to leave without a little Dessert ;). Chef Art’s signature Shine Cake, Hummingbird Cake, and mini Orange-Sugar Doughnuts are a few of the options. And, of course, Key Lime Pie.
Again, we’ll be back with our full review next week, but here’s just a little glimpse of what we tried, starting with The Local cocktail: coconut rum, lime, and simple syrup with a pineapple and coconut garnish.
Our starters included the Jasper Board (an assortment of pimento cheese, smoked sausage, shaved ham, bread and butter pickles, and candied pecans).
And how about a batch of those Church Lady Deviled Eggs?
And, yeah — we just HAD to… Here’s the Fried Chicken & Doughnuts (it’s served with a side of the KC Greens)!
The Fried Chicken is buttermilk-brined for 24 hours.
But the fare doesn’t end there… Momma’s Mac and Cheese and the Iron Skillet Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Cane Sugar were our substantial Sides.
As an aside… I just love the doilies under the side dishes!
Our desserts were served up with a couple of stories…
First, we tried the Hummingbird Cake. Chef Smith first made this pineapple-banana cake with cream cheese frosting for Maya Angelou’s 75th birthday. Then he made it again for Lady Gaga’s 25th.
Chef Art’s signature Shine Cake is for adults only… this Butter Cake is soaked with — are you ready for this? — Moonshine Syrup!
Before we wrap up our sneak peek here, I’ve got a little tale to tell… on Opening Day, Chef Art Smith was kindly stopping at tables to say hello and chat. I mentioned how much I enjoyed the homemade Hot Sauce that sits on the tables, and asked if it might be for sale (because if it was, I would TOTALLY buy it. This stuff ROCKS).
I couldn’t believe what happened next. That bottle you see above? The Chef himself brought it to me to keep! Talk about being made to feel right at home… 🙂
Before we go, there is an anomaly with the rollout of reservations for Homecoming that we’d like you to know about. During these opening weeks, this Table Service location will be available only to walk-up guests. Advance Dining Reservations, however, will be available via the Disney World reservation system beginning later this month for dates beginning on August 15th. And Homecoming is One Table Service Credit on the Disney Dining Plan.
We are VERY happy to say “Welcome” — or “Welcome HOME,” rather 😉 — to Chef Art Smith and Homecoming! We’re looking forward to sharing much more with you soon when we present you with our full review of the newest eatery in Disney Springs. In the meantime, though, we’ll leave you with this: it’s a pretty neat and uplifting thing to have a restaurant dedicated to celebrating the Sunshine State — no matter if its a place you call home all the time, or simply when you pay a visit to Disney World. After all, there’s a lot that’s worth celebrating here.
Contributing to this post: Tina, Wendy, and AJ
Are you excited to pay a visit to Homecoming? Please let us know with a comment!