Welcome to Epcot, After Hours! The Epcot After Hours Wind Down event kicked off on Thursday, April 17, at 9:20 pm (immediately following “IllumiNations”).
This 21-and-over event features small plates and drinks at the guest’s choice of four restaurants on select evenings: Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room, Spice Road Table, Tutto Gusto, and La Cava del Tequila.
When we announced this event a couple of weeks ago, we got a LOT of diverse points of view in the comments from our readers. Many were concerned that the price for the event ($35) was too high. Others were excited for the opportunity to stay in Epcot after hours, enjoying one of their favorite — often crowded — hot spots!
I attended the Wind Down at La Cava del Tequila in Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion. Let’s see how it went!
I’ll start with a rundown of my food and beverage experience specific to La Cava, and then we’ll talk about the event itself — what’s good and what could use some improvement. There’s a lot to share, so let’s dive in.
La Cava del Tequila
A group of about 10-12 guests gathered for the evening. Walking into an adults-only situation was a refreshing experience — granted, that’s something you typically have at La Cava, but there was a bit of a different feel.
Some of that had to do with the settings in front of us: a tequila flight, a small vodka shot (to “open” our senses, as we learned later), and a Mezcal tequila shot, along with a small bottle of water.
The lights were up a bit, too, for what we were about to experience. With the covers over our glasses, we all knew to wait to begin (which gave us a nice opportunity to meet the folks around us).
We soon found out that we were going to experience something truly unique: a tequila tasting led by Hilda Castillo. This is similar to what was done during the first Food and Wine Festival tequila tasting events, for those of you who have been.
Hilda combines knowledge, passion, and fun to help you feel comfortable and appreciate more of what you’re tasting.
The walls of La Cava are a classroom of sorts, and Hilda showed us how the wall mural displays the tequila process.
With her guidance, we experienced the characteristics of each tequila through color, aroma, and taste: an incredibly strong (I mean, WOW!) Blanco (White tequila), a Reposado (Rested tequila), and an Anejo (Aged tequila).
Because I am no Hilda (though I would like to be when I grow up!), I’ll offer these descriptions below that were provided at our settings.
With every visit to La Cava, I feel a little more comfortable with the world of tequila, because someone is always willing to share their knowledge with you. But I am still VERY much a novice, and found this presentation to be a huge bonus.
Nearing the end of the presentation, our small plates were served so we could sample the cuisine and the flavors paired with the tequilas. From left to right you’ll see Tostada de Tinga (shredded chicken tostada over refried beans with a wonderfully spicy chipotle sauce), Ceviche Acapulqueño (a zesty shrimp cocktail), and Tlacoyo de Puerco (marinated pork served over a grilled corn dough).
Something I really liked about the event at La Cava is that it was full of bold flavors, from the spices in the food to the strength of the tequila, and I say that as a compliment to the chef and to those who made the choices offered in the tequila flight.
From a flavor perspective, this was a very full experience; a continual build. Basically, I shouldn’t have any sinus congestion for the next month 😉 .
While I only attended La Cava, we did receive a bit of info about two of the other events from our friend @Mealtrip:
It seems crowds were also on the small side at Rose & Crown Pub and Tutto Gusto (10-12 people each). We also learned that our friend, The Hat Lady, was at Rose & Crown; however, we have since been informed that this was unique to the first evening.
However, from what we understand it appears that the style of presentation that we enjoyed at La Cava – and really, it’s what made the event at La Cava so enjoyable — is unique to La Cava.
Tutto Gusto did not have a presentation, though it seems they had the most food available out of the three locations. The uniqueness of Spice Road Table is obvious: outdoor seating by which to enjoy the views of a practically-empty World Showcase (on non-Extra Magic Hour nights, anyway… more on that in the next section).
After Hours Event Overview — What’s Working:
There was obviously a lot that I enjoyed at La Cava as you can see written above, specifically that they provided an experience outside the norm of what we can enjoy during regular hours. We’re curious to hear about any highlights at the other events. Here’s another thing I feel this event has going for it:
I touched on this briefly above, but this was a vibe unlike any that I’ve experienced at Disney World previously. Much as I enjoy seeing all the wee Princesses and Pirates, I liked the idea of an adults-only event option from the onset. Still, I hadn’t realized how enjoyable and refreshing it would be.
I arrived as a solo guest and had a terrific time, thanks to the great people I was seated with and next to. It did have a little of that “wind down” after a long day feel.
Update: Unfortunately, we heard word today that it may not be adults only for very much longer. The Disney website now states that prices are “per person” instead of “per adult,” and La Cava will be offering smoothies for kids.
After Hours Event Overview — What Needs Work:
It seemed to me that those of us at and around my table would have enjoyed having more food available in addition to our plates. While I went in understanding the whole “small plates” thing, when I considered that we were drinking straight tequila, there was a need to… “soak things up” a bit.
The full bar/beverage menu was offered for the event, but we weren’t able to order more food. My kingdom for some of that La Cava Chips & Queso!! I wish that or some close equivalent had been included in the price. With tax and gratuity at 20%, I came in at just under $45 (the gratuity is not preset — you add what you wish with suggested percentages, similar to typical Table Service receipts). Just a note: La Cava does not accept Tables in Wonderland during regular hours or for this event.
The evening I attended coincided with Extra Magic Hours (EMH) for Resort guests. The regular bar (ordering only, not seating) remained open for EMH, and unfortunately it did rob the Wind Down of its feeling of exclusivity. It’s tricky, because these are Resort guests paying for Resort perks, so I get that aspect; but speaking from the perspective as a guest at this specific event, I would prefer that the venues remain exclusive. I walked away feeling really curious about how it would be on a non-EMH evening — I imagine it would make a big difference.
I should note that at La Cava we were given a chance to offer this and any other feedback at the end of the night, so it will be interesting to see if and how the event grows and changes.
The Wind Down after the Wind Down
Though it has nothing to do with the official event, I must say that a highlight was my stroll on the way out of the park. I’ve never experienced World Showcase quite this way. At one point I realized there was no one in front of me, so I looked behind, and there was no one there, either. It was still and quiet, except for what is normally background music brought to the forefront. I know it sounds cheesy, but I honestly stopped and thought, “I will never forget this.”
But I did snap a couple of pictures… you know, in case I forget 😉 .
So there you have it: our unbiased and full review of the new Epcot After Hours Wind-Down event. Can’t wait to hear what you think in our comments section.
Did anyone experience any of the Wind Down Events? We’d love to hear your thoughts, reactions, and stories.