Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’

Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’

Well, let’s get this out of the way right now.  Prior to eating at Homecoming Restaurant, I had no idea who Art Smith was (did he host that Coast to Coast show on last night AM radio?).  I’ve since done my homework and see that he’s a Florida-based chef specializing in southern cuisine.  He also was part of the Walt Disney Magic Kingdom College Program back in the day, so it’s cool to see him coming full circle and opening a restaurant on property.

Getting a reservation (sorry, “priority seating”) is very easy to do if you have the Walt Disney World MyDisney Experience app on your phone (do note that it does require a credit card confirmation, just in case that bothers you).  We were meeting my cousin for dinner, and we got a PS for 8:10 on a Tuesday.

Well, problems arose as my cousin was delayed at work and had to go home and clean up.  We spoke to the hostess and she assured us that there was no problem.  It took him a while to get there (and to find the place), so we really weren’t ready to be seated until 9:15.  Just as the hostess said, there was no problem whatsoever and we were promptly seated.

Okay, the full name of this place is “Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine.”  We’ll get to the “Kitchen” part, but first let’s talk about the “Shine.”

If you look on the bar, you’ll see several different styles of moonshine.  We’re big fans of the fine folks at Ole Smoky Moonshine, so it’s nice to see them represented down here.  Many of the drinks here have at least some moonshine in them (as an aside, the debate over what qualifies as “moonshine” is boring.  All that matters is that it tastes good).  I opted for the Muleshine (a Moscow Mule made with White Lightning moonshine instead of vodka, with some peach puree added), while Karen got the  Bootlegger (Rumshine, dark rum, blackberry jam, grenadine, line juice, simple syrup and OMG I want a drink now).  Both drinks were $12, which is in line with most everywhere else at Disney Springs.   I thought both were very good and sufficiently strong.

We started off with the Jasper Plate ($20), which is essentially their version of a charcuterie.  There’s pimento cheese, shaved hams, bread and butter pickles, candied pecans, smoked fish dip, and buttermilk crackers.  Every bit of that was delicious (I was shocked how much Karen liked the smoked fish dip seeing as she hasn’t quite accepted seafood into her life yet).  I really have to call out the candied pecans and the buttermilk crackers , though – they were quite exceptional (Karen has reminded me that the bread and butter pickles were really good too.  Pretty much every bit of the Jasper Plate is praiseworthy).  It was also a perfect amount for three people – more than that and you may start fighting over who gets what!

My cousin opted for what seems to be the signature dish here, Art’s Famous Fried Chicken ($28).  Look, lots of people claim to have famous fried chicken.  Watch TV for twenty minutes and you’re bound to see somewhere selling fried chicken that they claim to be famous, but most of them aren’t much better than what I can get from the deli at Publix (not a dis on Publix, incidentally.  Their fried chicken is pretty damned good.  I mean, there’s a reason the website http://arepublixchickentendersubsonsale.com/ exists).

Sorry, I got lost for a bit there.  Anyways, the chicken here is buttermilk brined for 24 hours prior to being fried.  As a result, it is delightfully moist and flavorful.  You get three pieces, served with creamy mashed potatoes and cheddar drop biscuits.  Pretty outstanding meal (though probably not something I would order regularly.  I don’t want to sound like a total cheapskate, but $28 is a lot of scratch to drop for a few pieces of chicken.  Don’t get me wrong – if you’re paying, we’ll eat ALL THE CHICKEN).

Karen opted for the Fried Chicken Chopped Salad ($16).  It’s exactly as advertised – a nice mixed greens salad with fried chicken on top of it.  Oddly enough, the salad isn’t on the menu any longer – I think maybe it was pulled in favor of a seasonal offering.  Suffice it to say she was quite pleased with the salad (and we’re from Columbia, so they’re up against the Lizard’s Thicket Famous Salad and Chicken).

Now, I have to preface my entrée but pointing out that I did not intend to be difficult.  I merely asked our server if he’d recommend the Chicken Sandwich ($17)  or the Country Club ($18).  His immediate response was “Both. Get the Country Club with the fried chicken instead of the grilled chicken.”   I’m generally not a special order kind of guy, but that sounded like an outstanding idea.

Oh crap – that was a completely outstanding idea. You get the awesomeness of the Famous Fried Chicken combined with pecan-smoked bacon and red jalapeno jelly.   The flavors all went together perfectly.  Guys, I don’t have the words for how good this is.  They should have sent a poet.  Those house-made barbecue chips were the tits, too.

All in all, this was an outstanding meal.  Everything I tasted was solid gold.  It was a little pricier than I would prefer (though that may be less of an issue if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan), but there’s no denying that the quality here is exceptional and the staff is fantastic Totally recommend checking it out.

ADDENDUM

We heard about their Grab and Go menu, so we wanted to try out one of their to-go chicken sandwiches one night.  I didn’t see any signage about the Grab and Go, so I walked in the main entrance and asked the hostess.  She gave me a small menu card and told me that you order at the bar.  No problem.

We headed over to the bar, grabbed a seat, then waited several minutes before a bartender got to us (really, it was a minute or two longer than it should have been.  Even if they were busy, there were four people behind the bar and someone should have greeted us at the very least).   When we told the bartender we wanted to order off the Grab and Go menu, he told us that Grab and Go was only available during the day.  He did offer to ask if the kitchen could accommodate us, but we didn’t want to be those people.  It was disappointing that the hostess didn’t know about the limited hours, but I’m not going to hold one uninformed staff member against the whole place.  It’s still outstanding stuff.