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Review: San Angel Inn in Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion

Today, we are heading into the pyramid once again for dinner at one of Epcot’s most atmospheric restaurants — San Angel Inn Restaurante.

We have had a myriad of experiences here, ranging from very, very bad to excellent. In the past, San Angel Inn has suffered from a Disney restaurant’s biggest drawback — inconsistency.

We haven’t visited the original Mexico table service restaurant since the pavilion’s latest spot, La Hacienda de San Angel, opened on the waterfront. But we continue to love to drop by La Cava del Tequila and Cantina de San Angel, Mexico’s counter service option, so we thought it was time to give San Angel Inn a try once more.

Besides, they had undergone some changes since our last meal, and we wanted to see them for ourselves.

Atmosphere

Walking through Epcot anytime of the day is a treat, but it’s especially beautiful at night. And that’s when we decided to visit Mexico for dinner one evening on a recent trip.

You’ll find San Angel Inn by heading into the Aztec Temple, which serves as the centerpiece for Mexico.

Pyramid -- Up Close

Aztec Pyramid in Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion

And inside the pyramid, it’s always nighttime. As you make your way toward the back of the building, you come into an open courtyard setting, which feels like the town square of a quaint Mexican Village. In the distance, you’ll spot another Aztec Temple that looks very like the one you just entered. Beyond that, there’s also an active volcano. It’s really quite pretty, and sets the mood for the entire area, which also houses shopping, as well as La Cava del Tequila and the Three Caballeros Attraction.

In fact, boats of riders make their way along the quiet river below the restaurant — very similar to Blue Bayou in Disneyland.

View of the Aztec Pyramid

View of the Aztec Pyramid Inside

Among the other village building facades that border the square is the entrance to San Angel Inn, through this archway.

San Angel Restaurant Entrance

San Angel Restaurant Entrance

Step through the archway, and the floorplan for the restaurant opens up before you. It’s actually a fairly small space. But tables are placed very close together. This was a new detail of the recent renovation and restaurant updates, and I’ve gotta say — it’s not my favorite aspect of dining here. I’m uncomfortable in a restaurant whenever I feel like I can reach out and touch the person at the table next to me.

Seating Area and Restaurant Scenery

Seating Area and Restaurant Scenery

This table for two, near the rail that overlooks the Three Caballeros attraction, does offer a bit more intimacy. We always recommend requesting a waterside table here!

Aztec Pyramid, Volcano, and Intimate Seating

Aztec Pyramid, Volcano, and Intimate Seating

The layout of the restaurant is quite nice. The floor is actually comprised of varying levels, which lend some interest to the space. I took this photo near the railing, looking back up into the courtyard.

Lower Patio Seating Area

Lower Patio Seating Area

Although tables are uncomfortably close together, they are well dressed. The refresh that San Angel Inn underwent in 2011 resulted in a “casual elegance” in the space. Tables are now set with white tablecloths and blue and white china — design choices inspired by the original San Angel Inn, located in Mexico City.

As a result of the refresh, San Angel looks less like your favorite neighborhood Mexican chain restaurant and more like a fine dining spot.

Table Settings and Lanterns

Table Settings and Lanterns

Tables are Close Together

Tables are Close Together

I’d kinda really like to have a set of these. :-)

Close Up of Place Setting

Close Up of Place Setting

But, alas, table settings do not a successful dining experience make, right? (My house at Thanksgiving will teach us that over and over again. ;-D) Time to settle down and see a few dishes.

Eats

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the original San Angel Inn — which dates back to 1692! — check out the top of the Beverage Menu.

Drink choices at San Angel are pretty interesting actually, with a good assortment of Top Shelf Margaritas, Tequila, and even Mezcal. We credit the opening of La Cava del Tequila, with its handcrafted margaritas and amazing tequila assortment, with this development. You can even get their Tequila Flight here!

Beverage Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Beverage Menu — Click to Enlarge

We asked to see both the Lunch and Dinner Menus just so we could show you the difference. Notice on both, you have the standard Epcot table service prix fixe option. Order the “Traditional Mexican Lunch” or “Traditional Mexican Dinner” for three pre-selected courses and your choice of soft drink or iced tea.

Lunch Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Lunch Menu — Click to Enlarge

I thought it was kind of interesting that you could only get the Tacos de Pescado — Fish Tacos — in the dinner prix fixe option. That’s something to note if you’re a big fish taco fan.

Dinner Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Dinner Menu — Click to Enlarge

Chips are still complimentary here, and we were glad to see that they still appeared not to be as pre-packaged as they were on our first visit.

Chips

Chips

Salsas come in two varieties — a mild red version and a slightly spicier green version, made with tomatillos. Both had a fresh taste, if they were a little lacking in spiciness for our heat-loving palates.

Salsa

Salsa

Next, we had to order one of our favorite dishes from our previous visit. Tostadas de Tinga had pleasantly surprised us before with a generous portion and fresh flavors.

Tostadas de Tinga

Tostadas de Tinga

Alas, our serving was considerably smaller. And given that we paid nearly twice the price — yes, you read that correctly — this time around, this development was pretty disappointing.

Tostadas de Tinga

Tostadas de Tinga

But we shook it off, and continued to anticipate our meals. My husband went for the Carne Asada. The grilled New York Strip is served with a Cheese Enchilada, Black Refried Beans, and Mexican Rice. The plate also comes with Guacamole.

Carne Asada

Carne Asada

And you know — it was fine. But the steak was on the small side, and overcooked, and the sides were just sort of bland. There was nothing “premium” about the plate that would justify the sticker price.

Carne Asada

Carne Asada — Up Close

During my first visit to San Angel, I was bowled over by a fantastic dish, Pollo a las Rajas, and I’ve ordered it on every visit since. (I know — boring.) But they’ve changed the recipe slightly from my first visit, so it’s not nearly as incredible as I remember.

The chicken was fine, but the rice was a more cilantro-based recipe versus a Spanish rice type of flavor. And the topping had previously been a more queso-based sauce versus just a cream sauce. The flavor didn’t wow me as it had before.

And again, a steep price hike since our last visit made everything even worse. More money for less food that simply didn’t taste as good as it had on our previous visit. Not the kind of trend I like to follow.

Mole Poblano

Pollo a las Rajas

Dinner had missed the mark, and we had zero confidence in desserts, since they’d never been great here. Still, we forged ahead. The menu had changed up a bit since our last visit.

Dessert Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Dessert Menu — Click to Enlarge

We tried the Crema Bavaria first. It was basically a square of gelatinous mousse with not much going on. A small square of gelatinous mousse. That cost $8. You can see by the size of the mousse next to the blackberries and blueberries how small it was.

Crema Bavaria

Crema Bavaria

The Pastel de Queso con CajetaCheesecake with Caramel “Cajeta” Sauce — had the potential to be something very special. I mean, Cajeta is fantastic! But it wasn’t all that special. It was just plain cheesecake with the tiniest drizzle of cajeta sauce on top. Sadness. And, again, small.

Pastel de Queso con Cajeta

Pastel de Queso con Cajeta

We wrapped up the meal, still a little hungry, our impressions of this fun spot once more tarnished.

Overall

There’s no two ways about it — San Angel Inn Restaurante needs to step up its game. With new, much better fare available, spots like Tutto Gusto, Via Napoli, and Spice Road Table, it would be a good idea for the quality to improve here to compete.

I mean, you’re halfway there, San Angel! You have a primo, beautiful location with lots of foot traffic. This is a fun destination spot, just waiting to live up to its reputation as an Epcot food destination! Here’s  hoping that food and service come together to match the prices here on our next stop in.

What are your impressions of San Angel Inn Restaurant? Leave a message and tell us about your experience here.

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32 Comments

  1. Mealtrip says:

    The San Angel Inn environment is one of my favorite in all of Epcot, minus the closeness of the tables of course. It seems to me, that the food quality and quantity slid down just a notch right after their sister location La Hacienda, took themselves off the TIW discount program. Over the years, my cherished “Pescado a la Veracruzana” has gone from being made with a Swordfish, to a Red Snapper, and then to Mahi, and now to the now ubiquitous “catch of the day”, which may or may not even be white fish (which sort of diminishes the dish’s regional authenticity as being “a la Veracruzana”).

    My mantra has always been, “If you can’t plate something amazing for what you’re charging, then charge more.” It appears however, (comparing it with other Epcot locations, such as Tutto Italia, Restaurant Marrakesh, and even Tokyo Dining) that San Angel Inn’s prices are about as high as they can go, before the restaurant would fall into the dreaded “signature dining” category. This may be another case where the Disney Dining Plan is suppressing culinary excellence by limiting the amount of cost that can be associated with the preparation of any given dish.

  2. Sue says:

    I really appreciate this review — and you “taking one for the team” by trying it over & over. My kids love the Three Caballeros ride and I’m often tempted to eat at San Angel because of the beautiful setting. It’s reviews like this that remind me to stick with our tried-and-true. If I’m going to have an over-priced, sub-par meal at WDW, it might as well be a character meal.

  3. Sarah says:

    I ate here for the first time about a year ago. My kids and I were so excited because we had always loved the look of this restaurant and we love Mexican food. We had a similar experience as you. This restaurant was a complete let down. The food wasn’t very good, small portions, and our service was horrible. I was hoping it was an off night, (I hadn’t discovered this wonderful website yet) but I can see now it is the norm.

  4. jeffk says:

    Atmosphere-wise, this is still probably my favorite restaurant in the park—it’s a shame they just can’t seem to get the food part down. I’m another Pollo A las Rajas fan, and I’m really bummed to hear that they changed the recipe. I might be even more bummed to see the Cochinita Pibil gone from the lunch menu—that was one of my favorite dishes in all of Epcot.

  5. Jenny says:

    San Angel is a hit or miss but it is one that my DH really likes. And now that Le Cellier became a signature restaurant for lunch and dinner, we will go there for his Birthday. It makes him happy. :)

  6. Jim says:

    San Angel used to be a wonderful restaurant with top notch service — but that was back in the 80s and 90s. I took my wife there for the first time in 1996 and we were blown away by the wonderful queso fundido, but more by the amazing waiter, who was an older gentleman who had worked at the original San Angel in Mexico City. He loved his job and it showed, with him preparing the queso table side and then dividing it and serving it to us. Ever since the late 90s it started to go down hill (just like Alfredo’s). We still eat there occasionally for the ambiance, but I think with the exception of La Cava, all the Mexican restaurants at Epcot are very inconsistent and usually not very good.

  7. Joni says:

    I have the same thoughts Jim, with all the restaurants at Disney not one good Mexican restaurant. Use to be Juan & Only’s had an amazing flan. But that is gone.
    San Angel is beautiful who hasn’t seen it on the boat ride and said WOW would I LOVE to eat there. So romantic eating by the water where it is always nighttime. BUT….huge disappointment in the food category I have never understood how a restaurant in Disney can be so sub par with all the famous chef’s and the unlimited availability to great quality food. Why they let them continue like they do. Doesn’t any one check them out from time to time, like a secret shopper? I mean the little fast food across the way is much better at a fraction of the price. Too Bad has the potential to be a great place to eat. And with the prices you should EXPECT it.

  8. JennM says:

    Awww, I hate when I hear that someone had a bad experience at San Angel Inn, and it seems like I hear it a lot. But it is one of my favorite Disney restaurants! I was very seriously considering licking the amazing pumpkin sauce right off my plate when I ordered the lomo de puerco, and I found the Crema Bavaria to be the perfect light and refreshing ending to a very filling meal. *shrug* I don’t know if we’ve just been lucky or what, but it is a favorite for my family.

  9. Linda says:

    Oh no! After reading this blog post and all of the following comments, I’m nervous – I JUST booked my first reservation for San Angel last week. (Visiting there in a few weeks.) So many negative reviews, but I’m going with my mother and she insisted on having Mexican food for lunch.

    Well, here’s hoping that the tides will turn in the next few weeks and something magically delicious will happen there. haha

  10. John says:

    We haven’t dined at San Angel in years (I think 2005 was my last trip), and nothing I’ve read in any reviews makes me want to change my mind. I absolutely love the location and ambiance, and (like Coral Reef), it kind of upsets me that Epcot doesn’t feel the need to intervene and demand that this restaurant step up it’s quality game. Everything about this place screens “strip mall Mexican”, with lots of pre-packaged, unimaginative food … which is a shame, since Mexico offers some of the freshest and best cuisine in the world. When the rest of Epcot is introducing fantastic, inventive spots like Tutto Gusto and Spice Road, San Angel is like flypaper to absorb the ill prepared and non-demanding diners. That’s a shame.

  11. Glory says:

    We’ve eaten here two times and we’re very disappointed both times. Oh well…..there are too many fantastic restaurants to worry about one that has consistently been a disappointment.

  12. JennyRM says:

    The last time we ate at San Angel Inn with my extended family (2012), service was horrible. My nephew has a severe milk allergy and I swear our server rolled her eyes ( ROLLED HER EYES) at this when mentioned. I was flabbergasted. Food was subpar and we all left feeling less than magical. Luckily, we had better dining experiences elsewhere (Whispering Canyon and even Pizzafari bent over backwards to try to accommodate his allergy needs).

  13. Julia B. Meyer says:

    Joni, we absolutely loved! Juan and Only. I thought we were the only people on the planet who remembered it. San Angel will never come close – the service and the food need too much work.

  14. Jeanie says:

    I agree with the review. Sadly, small portions of notsogreat food for a very high price tag. I hate to say it but, taco bell is more enjoyable. I did find the service to be outstanding however. So, that makes up for a lot. Plus, the margaritas are made in la cave and brought over so that’s a definite perk.
    I know the atmosphere is part of the charm but the lighting is my biggest problem with this location. I could not see my food at all. Mood lighting is fine but we were eating in the dark. I took the cover off the table lamp but it still did not help much. I had trouble getting food on the fork because I could not see it and was missing it.
    One person in our party got a free birthday dessert of ice cream that was nice. But, as with most disney restaurants, the desserts have all been dumbed-down to fluffy pudding type things…i.e. CHEAP.

  15. Tara says:

    This is one of my favorites, but it really seems to depend on what you order. I always order an appetizer, a margarita, and the reason I go – the tortilla soup. I am obsessed with it! I can’t say we really order entrees. But if you want a beautiful, lighter lunch it is great!

  16. Emily says:

    The San Angel Inn is truly one of my favorite places in Disney. For my family, our yearly trip is not complete without going here for at least one meal. We’ve never been disappointed by the food and have always found it well-prepared. The menu changes slightly from year to year, as a lot of Disney restaurants do, but we always find something delicious to try. I know AJ has a problem with the portions, but I don’t think that a meal has to be a particularly large one to be a good one. The only thing that I won’t defend about San Angel is the dessert selection, because I rarely find something that stands out for me to try.
    Really the best thing about San Angel is the ambiance and the very friendly service that we consistently experience. If this restaurant appeals to you for that, then I would not count it out from your plans because it is such a unique and worthwhile dining experience.

  17. Ashley says:

    We’ve never eaten here because I don’t like Mexican food, but the atmosphere is so amazing. One of my absolute favorite places to just hang out at WDW is sitting on the fountain between the ramps inside this pavilion. Maybe one of these days it’ll get better again?

  18. Diane says:

    I am so suprised by these comments. My family loves this place. We go all the time. Not only is the atmosphere nice we all (6 of us) enjoyed our meals. It’s one f the must go to places when my older son is with us.

  19. Donna says:

    My first visit to San Angel Inn was in February of last year and my expectations were low considering the reviews I read. But it was the best meal of my entire trip. I was there again last week and ordered the same exact meal and it was a complete let down. The fish tacos were dry and flavorless and I was amazed by them last year. I did enjoy the crema bavaria. I thought it was light and delicious but it still didn’t make up for the tacos. I won’t be going back there on my next visit.

  20. Sam Winston says:

    Sad news, as it’s a wonderful location. Maybe it’s a bit of confusion on management about what the place should be? The Hacienda seems to have more upscale modern food and the Inn is more ‘tex-mex’.

    I’d like to see the Inn incorporate more regional food of Mexico…it’s a big country with many regions, Using that as a opportunity would be in keeping with “World Showcase” to spotlight regional cooking like Yucatan and Acapulco.

    Heck hire Rick Bayless to revamp the menu and concept.

    Am I correct in thinking that both resturants are owned by a Non-Disney corporation and simply ‘rent’ the space there? To most corporations there would be no reason to upgrade; they’re making a mint in profit doing minimal because of the location.

  21. Michelle says:

    My husband and I haven’t eaten at San Angel Inn since our honeymoon, 10 years ago. We love this restaurant! As par for the course, we’ve found themed restaurants to not have the best food. It’s a decent meal, but you really go for the theming. And we’re ok with that!

  22. Heather says:

    You mentioned coveting those beautiful dishes from San Angel Inn. As a Disney geek, who doesn’t care for the “Mickey Themed” decorating scheme, I would LOVE to be able to purchase dishes or other fixtures themed after favorite restaurants! The dishes from Wolfgang Puck featured in the Sushi post are fantastic! I would totally hang one off the landscape paintings from Landscape of Flavors over my divan! How bout miniature chandeliers from Via Napoli? Come on Disney! Please??

  23. Melly says:

    It’s not a great sign when the description on the menu is misspelled, as in the Mousse de Chocolate. If they can’t even get the difference between “an” and “and” right, they are not paying attention to detail.

  24. Venessa Hinojosa-Wright says:

    Overpriced Fancy Mexican Food. I wish you all could come to my grandmas house to show you what real Mexican food looks like. I will tell you what they don’t fail on though, their homemade chips and La Cava bar. Top shelf!

  25. Katye W. says:

    Sopa Azteca (tortilla souo) is my most favorite thing in the world!! It’s a must have!! So beautiful, with great presentation! I try (and fail) to recreate this at home. I have to stop by every trip to get my “fix”; And I actually liked the carne asada, my steak had amazing flavor, and was perfectly cooked. Plus our waitress was incredible!! I believe her name was Carmen. She was so sweet. And anticipated our next request…. She even remembered that we had sat at her table once before and who we were with. This has been a long time favorite. It hasn’t always been the best but the last 4 times I’ve been there ( within 3 years I think) it has been wonderful. And it is just so gorgeous in the building!! Beautiful atmosphere!

  26. diane gonzales says:

    My fiance and I had dinner in the Mexico pavillion 2 years ago, he had a ceviche tostada and i had a bite of it, and thank goodness that was all i did because later that night he was out for the count with food tomay! We lost an entire day due to this, beyond that the food was mediocre at best, now every time we go there for our annual trip for food and wine festival all we get from mexico is a beer because we know they dont make those. We are both of mexican decent and its unfortunant that this is our least favorite pavillion to eat in. They really need to go back and revamp this place starting with the restaurant.

  27. Tracy Winston says:

    We go to San Angel every visit – which is 1-2 times a years. It is always EXCELLENT service and the food is always AMAZING!!! We are going back later this year and I have already made my reservations!

  28. Mealtrip says:

    @ Sam Winston – You are correct, but the relationship is far more complex than “rents the space”, as is the case with most restaurants unfortunately.

    “San Angel Inn, LLC” runs the San Angel Inn Restaurant, La Cava del Tequila, La Cantina and La Hacienda Restaurant in the Mexico pavilion at Epcot’s World Showcase.

    Then there’s another group, “Springs Food Service, LLC” that runs the food and beverage service throughout Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort including room service, the Pepper Market, Maya Grill, Siesta’s, Café Rix, Laguna Bar, Rix Lounge and Las Ventanas.

    There’s a third group… “Palmas Services, LLC” that has managed San Angel Inn, LLC’s and Springs Food Service, LLC’s interests in Orlando for the last 10+ years.

    Everybody gets a piece of the pie (pun intended). So there’s a management company, managing a restaurant company, managing a restaurant. Richard Debler is the president of Palmas, LLC and is currently listed as the owner of the “San Angel Inn Restaurant at Epcot” and “Springs Food Service at Disney’s Coronado Springs”.

  29. Dania says:

    I concur with the review. This restaurant has the POTENTIAL for greatness, but the food is lacking (and I’m being kind). Our local Mexican fine eatery in Miami puts this place to shame. EVERYTHING on the menu is OUTSTANDING. I mean EVERYTHING from the appetizers to the entrees to the ORGASMIC desserts. Now why would I spend my Disney dollars at the San Angel Inn when there are SO MANY other eateries (many within EPCOT itself!) to choose from. Please for the love of all things sacred, I truly hope this eatery gets its act together soon. It takes up too much of prime EPCOT real estate. The food simply cannot continue to justify its existence.

  30. Mike Venere says:

    I have ate here twice in the last 3 years and have had enjoyable meals both times.
    Last year we gave Hacienda a try and I am headed back to San Angel this year.
    But seems like it is turning into a hit or miss place…..I hope it’s not headed in the direction of Coral Reef….which I have totally crossed off my list of places to go!

  31. Amy says:

    This review makes me sad, because I know it’s true. I remember dining here in the late 80′s and it was, hands down, the best meal of our trip. Took my then-boyfriend there in the early 00′s and it was pretty good, but not great. Went back in the mid-00′s and it was just okay. Skipped it altogether last time, and while I miss the SAI of my memories, I didn’t miss what it’s actually become. I agree with the PP’s, with so many quality restaurants at WDW (especially in Epcot), there’s very little reason to eat here. I did used to love the atmosphere, but with the tables now jammed together, even that has diminished.

  32. Lala says:

    I never remember this place having good food. The first time I ate there was back in 94, and it was substandard chain Mexican then. Another go in 2002 didn’t change my mind.

    I REALLY wish they would get good food here! I love the atmosphere and ambiance. It is so fun to set there “at night” and take in all the scenery. It really stinks that the food is so bad.

    As for service… I had not one single good server during my trip a couple months ago. This seems to be the trend at WDW.

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