There have been a lot of changes at Disney World in the last year and Disney Springs (Downtown Disney to the Disney purists) has seen the lion’s share. There are a crop of new restaurants to tempt your taste buds, many by well known chefs like Art Smith, Morimoto and Rick Bayliss. For Food Network and Top Chef junkies, Disney Springs has become a food destination and Art Smith’s Homecoming is one of our favorites.
Recently my husband and I spent the weekend in Orlando at Hilton Grand Vacations SeaWorld property. We were primarily there to check out the resort and see what new things Hilton Grand Vacations had going on but we ended up at Disney Springs for a late lunch. While the Boathouse is usually my go to place, my husband suggested Art Smith’s Homecoming. We had eaten there about six months ago and he was enthusiastic about going back. While it pains me to say this, he was right. Our meal was delicious and our server, Nina, could not have been more engaging. We were seated near the kitchen door and saw the servers coming and going. Nina always had a smile on her face and made us feel welcome and at home.
The premise of Art Smith’s Homecoming is good, fresh, local, homestyle food. You will see pictures of Smith’s grandparents house on the wall beside the hostess station. The decor is homespun comfort. Many of the tables and portions of the bar retain the natural shape of the tree from which they were hewn.
Menu and More
The menu is southern comfort, from the offerings at the “Shine Bar” with its multiple moonshine offerings to the staple dessert offering of Hummingbird cake, the whole restaurant makes you feel like you are sitting on the porch swing of your grandma’s Florida farm. The house special -of course- is fried chicken. No self respecting southern restaurant would dare feature anything else. There is fried chicken in every form: chicken biscuits, fried chicken salad, fried chicken sandwich and the fried chicken plate. Regardless of your choice, the chicken is out of this world. It is buttermilk brined for 24 hours and double breaded. All of which adds up to crispy and delicious chicken. If barbecue is more your speed, the pulled pork sandwich topped with southern slaw will not disappoint. My husband is a bit of a barbecue expert (read snob) and he was licking his fingers.
Notice these delightful offerings are not served with ordinary sides. The menu offers homemade barbecue chips with icebox dressing but for a small fee you can choose any side. Since I was struggling between ordering the Kitchen plate, which allows you to choose any three sides, and the chicken sandwich, we agreed to upgrade our sides and get the best of both worlds. My husband had the grilled corn succotash and I had Momma’s mac and cheese as our upgraded sides. My husband may be a barbecue “expert” but I am the family mac and cheese guru. This definitely did not disappoint. The cheese was flavorful and plentiful. Oh, and the succotash was delicious as well.
Bring your appetite when you come to this restaurant. You will want room for appetizers and dessert (good luck with getting both on the same visit.) This trip we had the Bunch of Puppies, a basket of hushpuppies served with red jalapeño jelly and pimento cheese. Nina’s eyes lit up when we asked about the jelly. She proudly described its attributes and even told us where we could buy some (at the local grocery not at the restaurant.) When we then told her about our affection for pimento cheese and how we like to stuff it in hamburgers for the grill she was enthusiastic about giving that a try. Nina made a great trip even better. There is not much in this world that can compete with pimento cheese in my book (are we noticing a cheese theme in my menu choices) but I could have bathed in the red jalapeño jelly. It was sweet spicy and beyond compare. On other visits we have had the Jasper Board, Art’s charcuterie board ( grab the pickles right away so you don’t have to share) and the Church Lady deviled eggs. Seriously, I could book a table for a week and just eat.
We were too full to have dessert but I have had the Hummingbird cake on a different occasion and it is as moist, flavorful and delicious as this Southern classic’s reputation.
As you can see, from menu to decor, Art Smith’s Homecoming was that indeed for us. Nina made us welcome and the menu spoke to our hearts and roots. This is a special place. Don’t miss it.