I hope that you’re sitting down.
Because we have a ton of pictures and details to share with you about Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine!
The restaurant opened with fanfare and plenty of rave reviews. And we were right there with you as we shared a first look!
If you can believe it, we’ve been back to Homecoming Florida Kitchen (hereafter shortened to HFK to save my fingers extra typing) again since opening day. As a result, we have lots of variety to share with you about this special spot.
This is a place that beckons you to slow down and sit a spell. So to begin, let’s take a nice, leisurely look around.
You’ll find HFK right in the heart of Disney Springs, where the Town Center and The Landing come together.
While the outside may look a little Plain Jane at first inspection, you may form a different opinion after your initial look. Tons of windows, shaded in part by the metal hip roof that overhangs them, is reminiscent of the Florida Vernacular style of architecture. I love that you don’t find a single ounce of faux stucco here — the building choice of most Florida homebuilders these days.
Instead, wood siding with rich contrasting trim speaks of the warmth inside before you ever enter.
And don’t you love the sweet chicken door handles?
Enter in through the front door, and you see the same warm wood trim throughout the small waiting area.
The space is punctuated by cabinets. They feel like antiques, and yet the lines are clean and almost minimalist.
Cubbies within the glass-backed cabinets house a collection of curios, displayed fruit, and cookbooks by Chef Art Smith. The glass backing is especially handy here as the cabinet is tall, and the glass allows for division of space without interrupting the flow of light.
Don’t you love this? There’s something so inviting about it. And right there in the entrance, you get the sense that this place is about more than just comfort food.
Step into the restaurant, and step back to take it all in, and you soon see the vision in the details. The whole place is a celebration of Florida agriculture — past, present, and future.
Walls that are more window than anything else allow for sweeping views of the springs and let in lots of light.
The eye-catching mural located over the kitchen is a vibrant display of Floridian wildlife and agriculture. It was painted by an artist from Tampa.
The kitchen window opens into the dining area, and a row of tables located in front of it gives guests a bird’s eye view of the action. Incidentally, I love the artistry of those double booths. The ends look like church pews.
Seating throughout the space is a mixture of tables, chairs, and booths. Many of the chairs and benches are upholstered with this swell fabric bearing the logo of the restaurant.
You may also notice the chandeliers hanging overhead. The lining is actually burlap potato sacks, repurposed for the task. Aren’t they cool?
And really, there’s no shortage of light here! As if all of the natural sunshine weren’t enough, you’ll find plenty of decorative overhead pendants to keep things bright into the evening.
But another hallmark of any comfortable Florida home is, of course, a porch. There’s one of those too. And it overlooks those famous Disney Springs! (They really are gorgeous. If you haven’t had the chance yet, see them as soon as you can.)
But what if you just fancy a drink? Then head into HFK’s adjoining Shine Bar.
The bar itself extends into the restaurant. Seating is super comfortable. I’m thinking this is going to be the perfect spot to meet friends for drinks and small plates.
Chef Art’s wry sense of homespun humor extends to the coasters that you get as well. Super cute.
Of course, if you prefer, you can also order from the outside bar and sit on the porch. It’s nicely shaded and with ceiling fans, and is quite comfortable.
The area serves as a grab and go spot, both for drinks and food.
It’s a lot to take in! But let’s turn our attention to something even better than the beautiful surroundings — the food. 🙂
With all of the talk about Florida farming, you’re right if you guessed that using local ingredients is a priority for HFK. Whenever possible, they source their produce and other ingredients from within a 200 mile radius.
Having said that, you probably aren’t coming to HFK for produce alone. The menu is chock full of comfort foods with a Southern twist.
Much has been made of the drink menu as well. When we chatted with Chef Art the other day, he mentioned the emphasis on moonshine, and how there’s no hotter spirit on the market today. So you’ll definitely see it on the menu. But there is a good selection of Florida beer and other Florida spirits as well. (And don’t worry. There are lots of traditional favorites, too.)
Since beer always looks like, well, beer, we decided to go the route of cocktails. And because we visited twice (and had a few friends along for the fun), we have plenty to show you!
We’ll start with the Basil Smash.
In this one, you’ll find Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Sour Mix, and Simple Syrup Muddled with fresh Basil Leaves. The flavors, especially the basil, were very intense. Both in terms of taste and presentation, it seemed like an instant classic.
Next, we sampled the Old Fashioned Elder.
This take on a hot classic is crafted with Michter’s Bourbon, St. Germain Liqueur, and Bitters. It’s garnished in classic Old Fashioned style with Orange Peel and a Cherry. By far, this was my favorite drink of the visit. I already love an Old Fashioned, and the elderflower from the St. Germain really gave it a unique flavor.
The Local was the next cocktail we sampled.
Consisting of RumHaven Coconut Water Rum, Lime, and Simple Syrup, it’s garnished with a slice of Pineapple and Coconut Shavings. We found this one to be super refreshing and summer-friendly. It was the lightest of the three, so if you’re looking to have a drink that doesn’t “knock you over,” this is a great choice.
But on our later visit, we also had the pleasure of sampling three additional cocktails.
We were intrigued by the Cucumber Cooler. Like the Basil Smash, this one has some refreshing, albeit less traditional flavors that pair surprisingly well with the light sweetness of the other ingredients. It’s also served in an old fashioned champagne glass, lending a touch of elegance to the presentation.
The drink is made with St. Augustine Vodka, Lime Juice, Simple Syrup, and Cucumber Slices. It was so, so good on a hot day.
Next, we tried the Fig and Berries. Fun name, right?
It’s appropriate, because the cocktail combines muddled Strawberries with Fig Jam, Dobel Diamonte Reposado Tequila, agave, and Lime Juice. HFK’s answer to a Margarita, we enjoyed the smooth flavors here as well.
Our final drink showcased the house favorite — Moonshine — in the Moonshine Mash.
Mrs. Sutton’s Watermelon Likker, fresh Watermelon, Lime Juice, and Simple Syrup come together here to make a sweet, refreshing drink that was a hit with another friend.
With all of those drinks, we really needed to grab some food, too! and so we tried several of the Starters. First up, how can you resist a dish called Church Lady Deviled Eggs?
Six Whole Deviled Eggs are served in a cute porcelain egg carton. Each egg was topped off with a piece of crispy Ham, and they arrive on a bed of Greens. I know we’ve all had deviled eggs — but these were really good! The presentation of the eggs prepared vertically, instead of horizontally, made them interesting. And the smooth filling, which was creamy with lots of mustard, had an incredibly bold flavor. I think it’s a winner.
Charcuterie Plates are all the rage these days, and Chef Art brings his own twist on one with his Jasper Board.
The assortment is certainly plenty to share. On it, you’ll find Sliced Smoked Sausages, Shaved Ham, Bread and Butter Pickles, Candied Pecans, homemade toasted Buttermilk Crackers, and a side of Pimento Cheese.
I loveed everything about this offering, but especially the shaved ham and pimento cheese. Even the board it was served on was perfect. This is going to be a great option for guests who are looking for something light and shareable to go with a round of cocktails or beer.
And the Pecans! Sigh. The glazed, slightly salty pecans were so, so good.
On our follow up visit, we couldn’t resist the chance to try a Bunch of Puppies. The fresh from the fryer hush puppies feature Pimento Cheese right in the mix, and are served with a side of Red Jalapeño Jelly for dipping.
These were straight up amazing, and I’ve been dreaming about them ever since. Crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle, full of flavor, and beautiful to look at. They were a home run.
But we also had to try the Cheddar Cheese Drop Biscuits, which is actually considered a side. Because drop biscuit dough is handled much less than rolled biscuits, the pastry is light and tender. These were no exception, and it would be tempting to fill up on them before the meal arrived.
This does bring up one thing to consider: we didn’t see any complimentary bread as part of the meal. Keep that in mind if that’s something important to you.
It was time to move on to our entrees. We decided to start with the Chopped Pork Barbecue Sandwich. While the menu indicates a single sandwich, you actually get three sliders, served on fresh Parker House Rolls.
The three rolls were connected but easily pulled apart to make this a great sharable option. They were stuffed to overflowing with Homemade Sweet and Spicy Barbecue Chopped Pork, which was topped with a bit of Southern Slaw. The slaw itself contained Carrots, Onions, and Cabbage.
I wish there had been more of barbecue sauce on the pork, but you can always ask for a side. And while I didn’t find the dish to be spicy, I still loved the deep flavors of the slow cooked meat, housemade sauce, and crunchy cabbage.
All of the restaurant’s sandwiches come served with House-made Barbecue Chips drizzled with “Icebox Dressing” — similar to a Buttermilk Ranch — and topped with Scallions. Icebox dressing is an Art Smith specialty and I found the side to be a nice alternative to fries.
But Chef Art is also known for his Fried Chicken. So of course, we had to try that as well!
The dish is featured in several ways on the menu, but we went for the Fried Chicken and Doughnuts. Because. Well. Fried Chicken and Doughnuts.
The platter consists of two pieces of Fried Chicken, eight Miniature House-made Sugar Doughnuts served with Maple Syrup, and KC Greens.
The fried chicken itself looked heavily breaded, but it tasted very light with a good balance of seasoning. It was topped off with a very light dusting of Confectioner’s Sugar.
I loved the flavor combination of the chicken and doughnuts, and I appreciated that the syrup could be used to dunk the doughnuts in, drizzle over the chicken, or both. This is in the same ballpark as chicken and waffles, but slightly better, I think.
If you’re wondering, KC Greens are Collared Greens and Braised Kale and topped off with shaved Onion. They were incredible, and I think it’s fantastic to have this true nod to Southern flavor on the menu. You can also get them as a side.
Speaking of sides, we had t get a few of those as well. First up — the Iron Skillet Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Cane Sugar.
These were perfectly prepared in their simplicity. I personally would like a little contrasting flavor — some smoked paprika or a salt and pepper counterpoint maybe — but they were delicious, and nearly as much dessert as side dish.
But with a dish called Momma’s Mac and Cheese on the menu…well. You know we’re not passing that one up.
A crunchy topping covers the whole thing. No sprinkle of breadcrumbs here, thankyouverymuch.
But inside, there’s a creamy, dreamy mac and cheese, with tons of rich flavor. I love the consistency here — totally smooth and saucy. This is comfort food at its finest.
You’d think we might have been tempted to skip dessert. But nope!
The sweets team features lots of flavors that you might expect to see at a potluck or a family reunion picnic. Except even better.
We started with the Hummingbird Cake, a Chef Art specialty. It was served at Maya Angelou’s 75th birthday as well as Lady Gaga’s 25th and Chef is very excited to have it on the menu.
The presentation is pure nostalgia: a large slice of Pineapple-Banana Cake is covered with Cream Cheese Frosting. A scoop of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream comes nestled alongside, and there’s a drizzle of Berry Coulis on the plate. I loved everything about the moist cake and buttery icing. It was a great combo, without being too rich.
And it reminded me: why am I not eating more cake??
We were also anxious to try the Shine Cake. It may look like a humble slice of Bundt Cake, but there’s more happening here.
This is an Adult-only dessert — because the rich butter cake is actually soaked in a Moonshine Syrup! Like the Hummingbird Cake, the Shine Cake comes with a side of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream as well.
I personally couldn’t taste the moonshine. So if you’re hesitant to order this because of the alcohol flavor, don’t be. The flavors were very simple but also delicious. It was definitely the lighter of the two desserts we initially tried.
But on our follow up visit, we also had the chance to try a seasonal offering — Hamilton Pecan Pie. According to the menu, the pie — more like a tart, with its delicate and thinner construction — is a 100 year-old family recipe. It was studded with Chocolate Chips, which is always a plus when it comes to Pecan Pie, IMO.
I loved the obviously house-made pastry, and the ice cream broke up the candy sweetness nicely. This is a solid version of a classic dish.
What an amazing meal! But there’s one other little anecdote to share with you.
Chef Art himself was on hand for throughout opening week, greeting guests and overseeing the experience for everyone. We had the chance to chat with him a few times, and it seems like he will very much be calling this part of the world home going forward.
Having the chance to talk with him a little made it clear that he’s warm and passionate, and wants nothing more than to share stories and the love of food with his guests.
While talking to him on opening day, we mentioned that we really loved the Homemade Hot Sauce on our table. It turned out to be one of our favorite parts of the meal! It reminded me almost of a slightly sweet Sriracha — spicy but not so much that it detracts from the flavor of whatever you’re eating.
When I told Chef Art he needs to start bottling and selling it — he disappeared and came back with my own bottle to take home! It totally made my day!
There was nothing that we didn’t love about Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine. Seriously. I think that this place is going to be the heart and soul of Disney Springs.
Yes, it’s pricey. But if you look across the board, that seems to be a trend at Disney these days. So I’m not sure it’s really out of line for what you’d pay at other resorts, or in a metropolitan area. And do keep in mind — they accept the Disney Dining Plan, and are considered a one table service credit spot.
As for advance dining reservations, Disney has said that they’ll begin taking requests for seatings after August 15 sometime soon.
I envision comfortable times with close friends, taking in the Florida feeling of this place. Because he’s captured that — that crossroads between Southern and Almost Tropical that is the Sunshine State. And with pride of place at an all time high, it’s nice to see Florida so lovingly represented.
Will you be dining at Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine in the near future? Let us know in comments below!
Contributing to this post: Tina, Brooke, and AJ