Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen: Southern Cuisine at Disney Springs

Homecomin' Florida Kitchen

As part of our quest to try all the restaurants we can at Disney World, we recently scored reservations at Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen at Disney Springs (check out their website here). I’ve wanted to eat here since it opened a year ago, but reservations have been hard to come by. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to find an open slot during lunch last Saturday. We would finally get to see what all the fuss is about.

About Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen

As the name states, the focus here is on Florida cuisine. But much of what is on offer could also be broadly termed Southern cuisine. We’ll take a look at the menu shortly.

The restaurant is the brainchild of Chef Art Smith, Florida native and former personal chef to Oprah Winfrey. Chef Smith also owns some other noteworthy restaurants in Chicago and Washington, D.C., and has appeared on Top Chef  and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Homecomin’ also strives to use fresh, local ingredients, meaning much of what you get is straight from Florida farms. The focus here is on farm-to-fork food, which should appeal both to locavores and the general public. Fresh food does taste better, and you can really experience that here!

The Decor

Homecomin' Florida Kitchen

Florida Cracker Style Architecture at Homecomin’

In our opinion, the decor at Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen is an absolute delight. The building itself is done in a modified Cracker-style, which is native to Florida. The inside carries this theme forward, with a focus on wooden cabinetry and natural light. There are also plenty of other neat touches scattered around.

The wood detail and natural light is evident in the bar

Florida Mural

Florida Mural above the kitchen

Be sure to take a good look around so you don’t miss any of the charming details, such as the burlap sack chandelier shades and the horse-bits placed on the back of some of the booths (a reference to Florida agriculture and ranching).

Horse-bit

Horse-bit detail on the back of our booth

The designers managed to add all these Florida details without making the restuarant seem too kitschy or stuffy, which was really impressive to us. The architecture and decoration does of good job of providing you with a sense of place and creates an atmosphere that really adds to the dining experience.

The Menu

The menu, though not overly large, still offers a lot of choice. Check out the full main menu here. They also have an excellent drinks menu, which you can view here.

As you can see, the menu is chock-full of Southern favorites. You’ll find several fried chicken dishes, catfish, fried green tomatoes, and hush puppies in this delightful comfort food menu. There’s also a heavy nod towards specific Florida dishes with the grouper and shrimp options. Also featured in many items are some of Florida’s many wonderful home-grown heirloom tomatoes.

As for the drinks menu: moonshine is king. This liquor, made with corn mash and best-known for its illicit manufacture during Prohibition, has become quite popular. At Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen, you can sample a variety of mixed drinks made from the potent liquor. Or, you can try a flight of any three of the many moonshine flavors they carry. If hard liquor isn’t your thing, there’s a respectable beer menu, which includes many Florida brews, and a small, but decent, wine menu.

Food Review

Our Starter

For our starter, we ordered the hush puppies. They came ten to an order and were roughly golf-ball sized, so not too small. They came with a healthy side of house-made pimento cheese and a side of red jalapeno jelly.

hush puppies

The hush puppies, with pimento cheese and jalapeño jelly

For such a simple dish (fried cornmeal-based batter), so many restaurants get this wrong. So many times, we have ordered hush puppies elsewhere that have been too dry or flavorless. But Homecomin’ got this Southern favorite so right that it even beats my grandmother’s recipe, and that’s saying something. They were perfectly flavored, crisp on the outside, and pillowy soft on the inside. The pimento cheese was simply amazing, too. I would love to have their recipe. We also enjoyed the jalapeno jelly, which was just sweet enough and not too hot- an excellent complement for the puppies.

Our Main Courses

Having heard that the fried chicken here is top-notch, I ordered the fried chicken sandwich. This was another winner. Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen buttermilk-brines their chicken for 24 hours before frying it, which made this perhaps the juiciest chicken I’ve ever tasted. The batter was also pure perfection- so flavorful but not overpowering and fried to a pleasing, crispy finish. It was complented by the bun, which was also a delightful mix of a just-crisp-enough outside and soft inside, and the flavorful hot sauce aioli.

The famous fried chicken sandwich with mashed potatoes

Jack ordered the grouper sandwich, which was probably the stand-out item of the meal. This Florida favorite was impeccably grilled, not overcooked as we’ve experienced so often in other eateries. The fish practically melted in our mouths, and was not over-seasoned, allowing the natural flavor of the fish to really shine. It was accompanied by the same outstanding bun that I had with my chicken sandwich.

grouper sandwich

The grouper sandwich with cheddar drop biscuits- notice how large that piece of fish is!

Bella ordered the chicken sandwich from the kid’s menu. Her chicken breast was prepared the same way mine was, just smaller and with a different bun. It comes plain in order to please the palates of picky kids, but they’ll let you add some pickles or tomato if you ask. Kids also get to choose a vegetable and a starch. She chose a salad and the macaroni and cheese. The salad came with house-made ranch dressing, which had a refreshing citrus-y flavor. The macaroni and cheese was house-made, too (no boxed food here) and was also excellent.

kid's sandwich

The kid’s chicken sandwich

Our Sides

Instead of the BBQ chips, I upgraded my side to mashed potatoes for $1. These, too, were quite good. They were creamy and buttery, and came topped with chives, which added a little more flavor. The house-made sausage gravy was tasty, too. I don’t normally put gravy on my potatoes, but I made an exception for this one.

Jack switched out his chips for the cheddar drop biscuits. These were light and fluffy while also being perfectly cheesy. They were melt-in-your-mouth good, and I also wish I could have this recipe. I think I’d make them at least once a week if I did.

Desserts!

Even though our starter and main courses were flawless, the desserts were the best part of our meal.

It was so hard to choose just one dessert, but I had to try the hummingbird cake. Reportedly, this dessert is quite popular among Chef Smith’s celebrity guests, so I had to try it for myself. It did not disappoint. The dessert is a pineapple and banana cake topped with cream cheese icing. It sounds simple, and it is, but simple is sometimes best, as was the case with this cake. Somehow, despite being a commercial kitchen, the chefs managed to give this cake a homemade flavor. You know what I’m talking about- it’s that flavor and texture that no store-bought cake can seem to replicate.

The giant slice of cake was not too sweet, which was nice, and neither was the cream cheese icing. This made the dessert enjoyable without being too rich. It’s served with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, which is a nice complement. If you order nothing else, you must try this cake. Just go to the bar and order a slice if you can’t get reservations.

The pecan pie, with a bite or two missing. It looked to good to wait for me to snap a pic!

Jack ordered the pecan pie. Normally, I don’t like pecan pie, but I could see myself ordering this someday if I ever get tired of hummingbird cake. Instead of the gelatinous goo found in most pecan pies, this one had a filling that was almost like honey. It also had chocolate in it, which was a nice touch. Served warm with a scoop of ice cream, this pie will bring back your favorite memories of Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house.

Overall, desserts at Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen are worth a visit on their own. There are a few more we’d like to try, like the Moonshine Cake.

The Service

As if the food and atmosphere wasn’t great enough, the service at Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen was also outstanding. Our server, Stella, was prompt, friendly, and very knowledgeable about the menu and ingredients. Every question we had, she was able to answer. Her recommendations were also spot-on, and she made sure to tell us about the details of what we had ordered that we might have missed otherwise (like explaining that the pimento cheese was made in-house). Even though it was busy, we never had to ask for refills, and she made sure to check on us with perfect timing to make sure that everything was satisfactory. The manager also stopped by to check on us. We, of course, had nothing but good things to say.

I saw lots of smiles on the faces of the other diners, so I can only assume that they, too, had good service. The Southern hospitality of the staff really seemed to match the overall feel of the establishment.

A Few Details

Reservations are highly recommended for Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen, and they tend to go quickly. Try to book at least a month in advance, if not more. If you’re willing to eat at “off-times” it can be easier to get in last-minute, like we did.

This restaurant also accepts both of the table-service Disney dining plans. To eat here costs one dining credit each, though we’d gladly pay 2 credits for this experience: it’s that good.

If you can’t get a reservation or you don’t want to pay for a sit-down meal, Homecomin’ has another option for you. They sell take-out over by the bar. Though there are only a few items on this menu (and no hummingbird cake), it still gives you a chance to try the fantastic fried chicken sandwich and the moonshine cake.

Overall Impressions

Everything at Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen was done well, from the ambience to the food. We highly recommend this restaurant when visiting Disney Springs, and it is definitely worth a special trip for locals. Though it is pricey, as is most Disney food, the prices weren’t shocking. They were about what we’d expect to pay at any nice restaurant. Our total bill for three people- one starter, three non-alcoholic beverages, three main courses, and three desserts came to just over $100 before tip. But we ate so much food that we didn’t have to eat again that night, and I even took my dessert with me to eat later (that’s why there’s no picture of it).

There is sure to be something to please everyone in the family on this menu, so be sure to book a reservation the next time you plan to visit Disney Springs in the Walt Disney World Resort. This place became an instant favorite, and Bella has already asked when we can go again. If it made my ultra-picky daughter happy, it is sure to become one of your favorites, too.

Dine and Shine

Sign outside the restaurant, highlighting the focus on moonshine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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