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DINING REVIEW: Brunch at Chef Art Smith's Homecomin'

I have been a longtime champion of Chef Art Smith's Homecomin'—a restaurant I have routinely called one of my all-time favorites anywhere. I find myself eating there once every month or two now as a local, but I had never had the opportunity to venture to its Rise 'n Shine Brunch, available Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m., until now.

The Hallelujah Biscuit and Grits with Bacon and Cheese

Feels Like Home

While nothing has changed in its atmosphere since it first opened, the one at Homecomin' is as relaxing as any on property. Though the restaurant's interior, with its large windows and vaulted ceilings, is gorgeous and perfectly melds casual dining with something more formal and upscale, my preference is to always dine outdoors when the weather allows. Mornings are perfect for this, as the Florida heat hasn't quite set in for the day, and on colder days (like the one we had while dining) the waitstaff will turn on outdoor heaters. The hostess asked our preference as to sitting indoors or outdoors, and we were immediately granted our preference.

And the waitstaff is great here, too. Connections have always felt personal with Homecomin's staff, with waiters taking the time to get know us on every occasion that I have been (though especially here at brunch). It all forwards everything Homecomin' presents itself as: a restaurant that makes you feel like a local.

Southern Cocktails

The Blueberry Mimosa and Southern Mary

Homecomin' extends that local concept through its cocktails, with its all-day moonshine bar giving a southern flare to all guests in the area. The brunch menu has its own selection of cocktails too, making blueberry mimosas and its custom Bloody Mary selection its specialties.

The blueberry mimosa was among my favorite mimosas anywhere (go for the large, trust me), and, as someone who generally despises any Bloody Mary, I thoroughly enjoyed this one, too. The Southern Mary was mine of choice off the menu, featuring Dixie Black Pepper Vodka, Whiskey Willy’s Bloody Mary Mix with pecan-smoked bacon, fried green tomato, pimento cheese-stuffed olives and seasoned salt rim. The toppings alone were enough to satisfy, and that was before even diving into the drink.

The blueberry mimosa was still my favorite of the two, with a standard mimosa meeting blueberry puree and a handful of blueberries.

A Must-Experience Brunch

If you've ever eaten at Homecomin' or have heard someone talk about it, it should come as no surprise that this is now in consideration for one of the best meals I've ever had—Disney destination or otherwise. The farm-to-table, locally gathered ingredients are unbeatable by any more commercialized experience, with cooking techniques that take time and a perfect blend of seasoning. Dinner at Homecomin' has become my default when showing visitors around Orlando, but now brunch makes a strong case to take its place.

Pecan House-Made Doughnuts

We started with the house-made Doughnuts—mini iced doughnuts piled with pecans, bacon and drizzled with house-made caramel—and now I need a full-service restaurant that serves only these. Decadent and packed with flavor, this was among one of the best bacon-and-sweet combinations I have ever had. As was a trend throughout the brunch, Homecomin's bacon is something special, and I don't think I could turn my nose up at a full meal of it.

I've also had the brunch's appetizer offering of fried green tomatoes and deviled eggs during my dinners at the restaurant, and you can't go wrong with either. All appetizers are an outstanding pick, and my recommendation is to go with the doughnuts to balance out a savory meal, or one of the others if your entrees will trend on the sweet side.

Hush Puppy Benedict with Potato Gratin Mash

Our table had a combination of the hush puppy benedict, the hallelujah biscuit and the french toast (which we had them add their chicken tenders to—essentially a hybrid between the chicken and doughnuts entree and the french toast), and I'll be hard-pressed to pick just one of them next time I go. Each one is decadent and rich, and makes for a luxurious-but-still-homely meal. If you struggle to make up your mind like we did, take our route and split two entrees with someone at the table.

That said, the hallelujah biscuit was my favorite of the entire meal, if only because it included Chef Art's famous fried chicken (which is my current food addiction—I struggle to go a month without it). The full dish reads like this:open-faced biscuit topped with Chef Art’s famous fried chicken, two over-easy eggs, pimento cheese, pecan-smoked bacon and smothered in sawmill gravy.

The Chicken and Doughnuts, but with French Toast

I said, "Wow," when I read it on the menu the first time, and repeated myself when it was delivered. I chose the grits as my side, topped with bacon and cheese, and my simple recommendation is this: order those.

We finished with the restaurant's hummingbird cake, and as someone who usually does not go for desserts at restaurants, am I ever glad we did. As decadent as everything else on the menu, its cream cheese frosting and side of vanilla bean ice cream was exactly what we needed to finish one of the richest, most delicious meals any person in our party has had since the last time we ate at Homecomin'.

And so after brunch, Homecomin' continues to reign supreme as one of my all-time favorite restaurants. Reasonable pricing, near-flawless food and outstanding service makes it a must-dine that begs you to either come hungry or with plenty of refrigerator space for leftovers.

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