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Review: La Cantina de San Angel

After finishing a day of the conference (the reason I’m here in Disney World is for a food blogger conference), I knew I needed a quick bite!

We’d been at seminars in the Odyssey Center all day long, and it was so nice to get out into the Epcot sunshine that I decided to STAY outside and headed right over to La Cantina de San Angel to have a snack by the World Showcase Lagoon!

Atmosphere

La Cantina de San Angel, Mexico’s counter-service restaurant in Epcot’s World Showcase, offers a refuge by the water with ample amounts of shaded seating. If you enjoy Mexican eats, need a quick bite, and fancy a margarita with your meal, La Cantina makes a great stop in your world travels.

Front of Restaurant

This location opens at 11 a.m. (along with the rest of World Showcase) and lines quickly form since Mexico is often everyone’s first stop as they begin their tour around the World!

Queue Lines

Once you grab your food, there are several options for seating. A large, circular shaded area offers great views of the Lagoon, and possibly some nice breezes off of the water if you’re lucky!

Shaded Seating Area

There is also seating right next to the queue area — this is great for a quick bite and a similarly quick getaway!

Seating Area

If you can stand the sunshine streaming in, these seats right next to the water are prime picks!

Lagoon-side Seating Area

No matter what, La Cantina is usually busy and bustling, so things here will be slightly loud and somewhat crowded. There’s not a lot of seating compared to other counter-service restaurants!

It’s a great place to relax during not-so-popular dining hours, however, as it has the best view of any counter-service location in the showcase!

Eats

On this visit I was eager to sample one of the restaurant’s frozen margaritas to see if it was as good as what you can get in the other half of the building — La Hacienda de San Angel table-service restaurant!

I was also in the mood to try out the nachos in the hopes that they used the same white queso you can get for the chips and queso at La Cava del Tequila (love those things!)!

Menu - click image for larger version

I quickly ordered some nachos and a Passion Fruit margarita (at the passionate — pun intended — recommendation of the cast member taking my order…he kindly told me that if I didn’t like it, I could just give it to him ;-D). Like at most counter-service restaurants, I took my receipt up to the window and quickly received my food.

From there it was on to the condiments table where you can pick up utensils, salsas, napkins, straws, and the like.

Condiments and Utensils

The restaurant has two all-you-care-to-enjoy salsa options: salsa verde (green chili salsa) that’s mild, and salsa chipotle (chipotle chili salsa) that’s hot.

Salsa

I chose both! ;-) As I now live in Texas, I feel that salsa really is a matter of personal taste. I’d have to get my husband to try them to give you a true review. He’s much more a salsa fan than I am… . I can give you a play-by-play of any queso on the menu, but salsa? Not as much. In this case, while I enjoyed the green chili salsa, the hot version was more to my liking!

Salsas

On the nachos, I got ground beef, cheese, and jalapenos. You can also get sour cream, tomatoes, and black beans on yours!

The chips here are the same chips they serve at La Hacienda next door (the table-service restaurant), but the queso is most decidedly NOT what they serve at La Cava del Tequila inside the Mexico pavilion pyramid (see my Cava queso review here). This seems/tastes more like a processed nacho cheese out of a can, which I have no problem with, but it’s not quite the “experience” of La Cava’s queso blanco.

Alas, I’m easy to please when it comes to plastic cheese, so I was happy with this version. The ground beef on top gets high marks from me as well. I hate dry, tasteless ground beef, and this was pleasantly smooshy and salty. Those jalepenos gave the expected kick and also served to mesh the flavors together into a savory package. Well done, La Cantina.

This is a good, filling snack to share with friends; or a solid meal if you’d rather nosh solo. In fact, I can picture bringing a bunch of friends here, grabbing a few margaritas and these nachos, and having a great afternoon talking and laughing by the water! Sounds fantastic, eh?

Nachos with Cheese, Beef, and Jalapenos

On to the margarita! Again, this is not what they serve in La Cava del Tequila or in La Hacienda de San Angel. These are closer to the frozen margarita stand margaritas. That means they’re 1) Strong, and 2) Not really all that great. BUT, there is room to believe that “a strong margarita is a good margarita,” so if that’s your camp, jump on board! ;-)

The flavor itself wasn’t too bad, but I’ve been spoiled by those excellent frozen and on-the-rocks margaritas in the other locations in Mexico. I was a bit disappointed in this one.

Passion Fruit Margarita

On a previous visit, I’d ordered paletas — Mexican popsicles — but since I haven’t yet written up the review for the blog, I think it makes sense to add it on to this one, don’t you? ;-)

Paletas come in four flavors: lemon/lime, mango with chili, cantaloupe, and coconut. On that visit, I ordered the lemon/lime and the mango with chili, and a fellow diner ordered the coconut.

Lemon Lime and Mango Paletas

The lemon/lime was perfect. A huge pop of sweet/sour flavor that never weakened! I loved it (of course, I do love lemon/lime anything, pretty much), and I can highly recommend this as a dessert at your La Cantina visit!

Lemon Lime Paleta

The mango with chili, however, was much too strong for me. The super-salty chili flavor was overpowering the sweet mango, and the two flavors just weren’t complementary at all.

If you read the ingredients list on the package, you’ll see that the paleta includes hot sauce and Chamoy, which is a sauce made from pickled fruit. That sour/savory/vinegary taste does come through in this, and perhaps that — combined with the salty power of the hot sauce — was what I reacted to so strongly.

My taste buds were very angry with me for that one. I didn’t take more than a bite. Would LOVE to hear from some of you who like that flavor — let me know what I’m missing about this one, please. :-)

Mango Paleta with Chili

While I didn’t try the coconut paleta, it was reviewed as being sweet and delicious. A pina colada on a stick, maybe?

Coconut Paleta

Overall

La Cantina de San Angel is a fun new addition to the World Showcase Mexico pavilion. Its accessibility and great views make it a prime target for everyone and anyone visiting Epcot, so try to avoid main mealtimes if you’d like to have a relaxing visit.

The food is fun and out of the ordinary for a theme park, so I think you’ll be pleased if you’re looking for more than your standard burger and fries!

What are your favorite eats at La Cantina or in the Mexico Pavilion?

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30 Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    We went the first week in March, and it was so busy, we got to sit inside the table service restaurant! Air conditioning, beautiful large-windowed views of the lake, and the beautiful decor of La Hacienda at a quick service price. I don’t know if that’s something they commonly do, but it was pretty sweet!

  2. marcellina says:

    I can’t talk about anything you reviewed except the paleta… I had the coconut two vacations ago and it was refreshing and yummy! I personally love anything coconut so it makes sense I would like it. I’m interested now though in the mango chili. I’m sure you know this already, but at least in Mexican food flavors, chili or lime is often added to a lot of sweet and juicy fruits. Well, since you live in Texas I’m SURE you know that. LOL. Have you ever been to those grocery stores in Texas, Fiesta? You can often find those little containers of limon salt that you can sprinkle over fruit or whatever you like! I think I’d like to try the mango on my next trip…. sounds like something I might enjoy.

  3. Eric says:

    This is a must do for us on each trip. We too love the nachos and the margaritas! The food always seems to be fresh and it’s really difficult to pass this location up if you enter WS from the Mexico side!

  4. Karen says:

    The mango and chili is actually a popular flavor for Mexican candy- I am a teacher with many kids from Mexico, and they all seem to enjoy it. Personally, I am not a fan!

  5. Alan says:

    I’ve never been a fan of Mexican food. However, I always enjoyed stopping here for a snack or counter meal. I guess the feel or ambience of this place makes me enjoy eating here. When I think back, the only counter meals, for savory food, I eat at more is in England at the fish and chips counter. Even if you are not a fan of this type of food, this is a meal you should give a try.

  6. Bryan Irrera says:

    I do have one question: I don’t see any in the pictures, but that may simply be the time of day or year, but what is the bird situation in this seating area like? In the past, in the old days with the older version of this restaurant (before they had that water side seating) the birds would swarm, terribly by mid afternoon. Having a bird phobia, this made this counter service impossible to choose for me. Have they put up any barriers to the birds (netting?)?

  7. AJ says:

    Jennifer — I remember that the indoor seating was an original plan of the restaurant (as La Hacienda does not open for lunch), but there was no indication that it was available when I was there. (I’ll be honest, I didn’t even look — now I wish I had!!) I’ll check this out!

    Marci — I’m looking forward to your review! Clearly it’s a popular flavor or else they wouldn’t have it there, but my palate was not expanded enough to enjoy it. Maybe I’ll work on that sweet/sour/salty/spicy mix as my next “flavor to enjoy!”

    Eric — Great comment on the fresh food! It really doesn’t seem “microwaved” at all.

    Karen — Thanks for the info!!

    Alan — That’s a good point. Even if you’re not a huge fan of Mexican food, you may be able to try something here that isn’t too far out of your comfort zone.

    Bryan — Good question!!! I didn’t even notice, honestly! If I go back to Epcot this trip I’ll check out the situation!

  8. Nancy says:

    We eat here at least once during every trip (if only just to get a margarita!). I ran the princess half last year and my one and only motivator was a frozen margarita! I told myself that as soon as I get that medal I can have one and even deprived myself of one on a previous vacation. With medal proudly displayed around my neck, I had not one but TWO margaritas (the wildberry and the fiesta flavors) and also managed to finish the whole serving of nachos! YUM! The tacos are my favorite at La Cantina.

  9. Wendy says:

    I haven’t been since the refurbishment, but Mexico QS has always been my favorite! I get the nachos. I look forward to the salsa! In the past, they just had those packets of salsa – which were fine, but this stuff looks better! Hopefully we’ll be stopping by next month on our trip. We’ve always gotten the churro, which is very yummy. But on a hot day, I bet I’d LOVE that coconut paleta!

  10. Becca says:

    I need to try that mango paleta! I love Indian food, and spicing up mangoes is something they do well.

    We didn’t have a great experience at La Cantina. They are very light-handed with the seasoning (you need that hot sauce!), and I felt like the food had been sitting under keep-warm lights for a while.

  11. Dan Heaton says:

    I’m a big fan of La Cantina and think it’s a major upgrade over the food from the previous location. We’ve eaten there at off hours, so the seating area is really nice and comfortable. The only downside for me is waiting for the food, which takes longer than expected. They do seem a bit disorganized in providing everything. That said, the tacos are excellent, and the prices aren’t too bad.

  12. Matt says:

    Partner and I snacked on nachos here back in October. The bird situation was a bit much. Those white birds with the curved beaks (I feel foolish for not knowing what they are called)were EVERYWHERE.

    On a side note, which is probably going to be t.m.i. but, whatever – lol. OK, the nachos were great, we really liked them and they hit the spot perfectly a few hours before our Le Cellier meal. But the next morning we both had, how do I say this delicately, green toilet issues. Knowwhatimean? We came to the conclusion that it was caused by the blue corn chips from the nachos! I have NEVER had that problem with blue corn chips. EVER! So, be forewarned, this may (or may not) happen to you as well. :-)

  13. Elizabeth says:

    I just ate here last Wednesday and had the chips and guacamole…which was YUMMY! Nice big chunks of avacado and a bit of a kick to it!

    As for the birds, yes…they do tend to hover around and walk amongst the tables on the patios.

    And as for the “green toilet issues”…uh..yes…had those, too!! :-) Ha!

  14. Elizabeth says:

    Oops…that was supposed to be “avocado.” ;-)

  15. Sandra says:

    We impulsively decided to try La Cantina for lunch on our visit in December. My husband was less than enthusiastic, especially because it was so crowded. I had noticed tables and chairs on the patio area of the Mexican pavillion, so we snagged one of those while I went to get the food and left him sitting peacefully in the shade.

    We had the QSDP, and selected the nachos, soft chicken tacos, and cheese empanadas. For dessert, we got one mango chili pop, one coconut pop, and one churro. We choose regular sodas for drinks. My husband ate about half of the nachos. I tried them and thought they were okay, but not anything special. We have lots of places to get nachos at home that I thought were better, as these seemed kind of thrown together and the chips were a bit stale. My picky son ate up his chicken tacos with the ketchup they provided on the condiment stand and loved them. I thought the empanadas were very good, a definite change from a sandwich or burger and perfect for someone who eats vegetarian like I do (mostly).

    My son inhaled his churro–but did not try the caramel sauce that came with it. My husband enjoyed the mango/chili pop and said he would get it again; he loves spicy and fruity. I had the coconut and wow! It was really refreshing and not too sweet, with chunks of fresh coconut held together by sugar. Again, it was something different from anything I’d had before, but now that I know, I will be looking for the guys pushing those little green carts around my neighborhood this summer selling Mexican frozen treats.

  16. canadianslovewdw says:

    to be at a food blog convention.. would imply there are other foodblogs… probably none of them are as good as this one…

  17. Mark Hickson says:

    I had Mango slices with chili sprinkles (lime-chili-salt) on top at DCA. Yuch! The Mango was hard like an apple and the chili sprinkles were too strong. I had to find a soft-serve ice cream to get rid of the taste!

  18. catherine says:

    Would love to know if they knock $ off the nachos if you get them without the beef. Looks awesome but I wouldn’t want the beef.

  19. catherine says:

    Oh the white bird with the curved beak is an ibis, and yes, they still walk around there a lot, so do the begging ducks, haven’t seen any gulls divebombing though.

  20. Meghan says:

    This is without a doubt one of my Top 3 places to eat in all of Disney World. The food is so good. We always get nachos and an order of the chicken tacos to split – and of course margaritas! If it’s too crowded at lunch (or hot/cold), they will usually let you go sit inside. The birds are annoying – but if people would stop feeding them, I would assume they would go elsewhere.

    Great great times and food here!!

  21. Heather says:

    I don’t like Mexican food but liked what I tried at the Mexico kiosk during food & wine. So in December, we decided to try this counter service place out. We also were able to sit inside, there was even someone that held the door open for us. ;) I had the Tacos de Carne & really liked it! Had the churros for dessert, and they were even better, lol!

  22. Eric K. says:

    When we were there in August 2011, we ate at La Cantina for lunch. It being August and bruttaly hot, we discovered that you can actually eat in one portion of the sit-down restaurant. You’re not right on the water, but it has comfy chairs, it’s cool and there’s no birds….

  23. Laura says:

    This is probably our most favorite counter service location in all of WDW! We get the tacos de carne and my daughter gets the cheese empanada kids meal. They’ll let you get the Mexican bottled sodas for your drink on the DDP. And we always get the churros for dessert. Everything is excellent. We go in Nov. and we’ve always been allowed to go inside to eat. It makes it seem more like a TS meal in that it’s quiet, good scenery, and nice bathrooms near by.

  24. Joanne says:

    We’re at Disney World now and stopped by the Cantina this evening for dinner. Having eaten there many times and always enjoyed ourselves, I was completely unprepared for the truly negative experience we had. To begin with, the service was just plain bad. The young lady taking our order left us with the impression that we were somehow bothering her. We ordered chips and cheese, tacos de carne, churros, a milk for my son, and a fiesta margarita. When we got to the window, the drinks were put down on the counter in front of us. The margarita was way overfilled, melting and running down the sides of the plastic cup. It was a sticky mess. Our food was not brought to us for almost another ten minutes, but the churros were not there. The server told us that they were not ready, so we should come pick them up when we were done with our dinner. Off we went to find seats, but there were none. We ended up sitting down on the ground by the railing outside of the Cantina. The food: There were no tri-color chips as there were in the past. There were only yellow chips that tasted very much like cardboard. Tostitos are far superior. The cheese tasted like melted Cheez Whiz. There was absolutely no nacho cheese flavor whatsoever. The tacos de carne were inedible The only flavors with which the meat was infused were smoke and salt. I took one bite and threw them away. After picking up my son’s churros we walked away and I went to Morocco, where I got myself a chicken shawarma platter for dinner. It was delicious! Sadly, after years of enjoying counter service at Mexico, I won’t be returning there again.

  25. AJ says:

    Joanne — Thanks for your review. I’m so sorry you had a bad experience :-(

  26. Judith says:

    The birds are awful –would not recommend simp
    ly because of them.

  27. Deb says:

    Love the Empanadas de Queso, My favorite meal there..
    I am not bothered by the birds, I think they add a little fun to the dining experience :)

  28. Mike says:

    We would have been disappointed with the food at any price, but we paid a staggering $70 for four meals and some nachos.

    This place makes Taco Bell look like a gourmet restaurant.

    A truly awful way to start out day one of our excursion.

  29. Kaetra says:

    I had the beef tacos and churritos. The tacos are on soft corn tortillas, the beef was just OK, but there was no cheese or lettuce. They were soggy and gross. For $12. Also the churritos were very stale and tasted like they were made a week ago and nuked. Yuck, yuck, yuck on the two items I ordered.

  30. John Schafer says:

    Visited this taco stand in June 2014, and we were sadly disappointed. The food was awful. They offer chicken tacos, beef tacos, cheese empenadas, and nachos (at least for main menu items). Our group of 5 ordered all 4 of these items, and after dropping over $60, were extremely disappointed. Starting with the best we had, we thought the nachos were decent, and relative to the other menu options, the nachos are the best option. But after seeing the picture of the nachos in this blog, our nachos were actually a disappointment. We did not have half the toppings that are shown in the photo in this blog (we had some ground beef, jalepenos, & cheese, but no beans or anything else, and nowhere near the level of toppings in the photo above. I would still recommend the nachos if you are stuck eating at this taco stand – as they are the best option available. As to the tacos & cheese empenadas, hugely disappointing. The tacos are served on 3″ corn tortillas, with very little meat, and no other toppings that you would normally expect on a taco. They put a dribble of salsa, but nothing more. No lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, onions, peppers, sour cream, guacemole, etc… They were flavorless little pockets of blah. I tried to add some flavor by adding salsa from the condiment bar, but they only had a choice of Salsa Verde (a green, very watered down, runny sauce with little flavor) or Chipotle Salsa (which seemed more like ketchup infused with some pepper sauce). Not good salsa options. Overall, very disappointing, especially when paying $10-$12 per “entree”. And in checking various websites for reviews of this stand, I’m seeing photos of some of the entrees (tacos & empenadas & nachos) and the photos look pretty decent. So I can see why some people are giving this place a good review. And if the food we had received looked anything like the photos that I have now seen, we probably would have been much happier with our dining experience. But what we got was horrible. Maybe it was because we ordered at 8pm in the evening (park shuts down at 9pm), and they just threw together whatever they had left. But it was definitely my worst dining out experience ever. Lots of much better options in Epcot. Go and eat anywhere else! Or if you are stuck there, stick with the nachos (best option they offer) and you’ll probably be fine.

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