Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Kitchen is just one of the dizzying food options at Disney Springs (I still refer to it as Downtown privately). It’s become Disney World’s hub for foodies seeking something more refined than theme park pizza and french fries. Being a chef, I’m always on the lookout for eats of all kinds, especially anything “southern”. Southern cuisine is comfort food, and comfort food is always good for both body and soul. Well, the soul at least. It tends to be kind of bad for the body. But it’s so tasty! But it’s also the only cuisine that’s truly American. A blend of traditions from Africa, France, Spain and the Caribbean, southern cuisine is as worthy of study as any other in the world. There weren’t any courses on Californian cuisine in culinary school, but we spent half a semester just on Louisiana.
“Homecomin’” is one of those places that when you leave, you immediately start thinking about when you can come back. It’s elevated soul food, but not so elevated as to be snooty. The restaurant itself seems reminiscent of having dinner on a screened-in porch, the kind of evening you reminisce about years later. They actually have a screened-in porch you can eat on, but being from the Northeast I think I’d rather sit in the air conditioning. Thanks all the same.
Given that, serving brunch doesn’t really seem to fit that image, does it? I love brunch; breakfast, lunch and mimosas? What’s not to love? Homecomin’ has recently expanded their brunch service to Saturdays, and it’s easy to see why. This was my third visit to Homecomin’, and given the terrific experience of our first two visits (which I think I wrote about), I had high expectations for this one.
We were not disappointed.
The brunch menu is a somewhat simplified version of their regular menu, with some obvious nods to traditional brunch dishes. We started with drinks. My sweet tea “shine” was great, sweet and acidic without being overpowered by the alcohol. The star, however, was my wife’s white peach sangria, accompanied by a slice of peach that had essentially been picked in moonshine. It should really be on the every day menu.
We ordered the biscuits and gravy appetizer, along with the deviled eggs, both of which were as exceptional as always.
The biscuits are absolutely heavenly, and not spicy at all if you’re concerned about such things.
In addition to Homecomin’s signature dishes like chicken and doughnuts (which is even better than it sounds), the admirable Chef Smith has some standout brunch entrees that really showcase how well blending brunch with southern cuisine can work. While the Hallelujah Biscuit called to me, I chose the Hush Puppy Benedict for my entree, with a side of grits. I’m a connoisseur of Eggs Benedict (or “bennies” as we often call them in the kitchen), and I had to have it.
Hush puppy cakes replace the English muffins, and fried chicken and grilled ham sit between the cakes and an egg over easy. This is a southern dish, after all, so the hollandaise is flavored with pimento cheese. What results is a beautiful marriage of textures and flavors that might not seem like they belong together, but certainly do. The fired hush puppy cake serves as a vehicle for the dish, providing a nice crunch texture but to be blunt, not a whole lot of flavor, though it might just have gotten lost in the multitude of moving parts within this dish. The fried chicken is exceptional; it’s Homecomin’s specialty. The grilled ham adds some smoke and char to the dish, and those beautiful runny eggs bring a richness and fat that ties it all together. I wasn’t sure about the pimento cheese hollandaise, but it works nicely, adding another level of fat and some needed heat. Perhaps not the best “bennies” on property (that honor rests solidly on California Grill), it was a terrific dish, and extremely filling.
My wife, knowing she’d already be full from the appetizers, ordered the kid’s French toast with potato gratin.
The French toast was good but not great. I appreciated the prevalence of cinnamon and vanilla (two of my favorite flavors), but it wasn’t anything all that special. The gratin turned out to be mashed potatoes with melted cheese. That’s a lay-up of a dish if there’s ever been one, and it certainly was good.
So it’s not be the best brunch on property. That’s an extremely high bar to clear. There’s absolutely zero shame in being second to California Grill. If you’re looking for a fancier, more high falootin’ meal, that’s where I would go. But Homecomin’s brunch is truly outstanding, and perhaps more importantly, stays true to its roots; southern comfort food to nourish the body and soul.
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