Restaurant Review: San Angel Inn Restaurante
My friends are incredibly patient with me as a rule. That goes double for my admittedly odd sense of humor.
For years now, I’ve made the same joke with them about eating at a particular restaurant.
This place features a Mayan temple off in the distance…INSIDE the building.
I always joke that I’m having dinner at that Mel Gibson movie. It doesn’t even make sense unless you’re one of the few people who watched Apocalypto.
I mean, that film bombed, but I’ve handcuffed myself to the joke for no good reason. I guess it’s because I have warm feelings about the Mexico pavilion.
So, I’d like to take this opportunity to review the restaurant that leads to my weirdest movie reference, San Angel Inn.
About San Angel Inn
The history of this place is oh so much better than you realize. In Mexico City, there is a very real restaurant that represents the ultimate in repurposing.
Before this place became an eatery, it functioned as a Carmelite monastery. The building dates back to the 17th century when it was called Hacienda Goicochea.
Some pretty famous people throughout history frequented San Angel Inn/ Hacienda Goicochea.
For example, Jose Zorilla, author of Don Juan Tenorio, arguably the most famous Don Juan interpretation, wrote about the place in his memoirs.
So, the roots of San Angel Inn in Florida connect to the ones from the still-operational place in Mexico.
When Disney planned EPCOT’s Mexico pavilion, executives secured the rights to San Angel Inn as a core part of the building.
Had you visited Walt Disney World during the 1980s, the interior of the Mexico pavilion would have appeared eerily similar to today.
That Mayan temple has mirrored the larger one outside the building. Meanwhile, the restaurant by the temple has remained to this day.
As such, you’ll have no trouble finding the place. When you enter the World Showcase from (the former) Future World, you’ll turn left.
Then, you head to the giant Mayan temple in the distance. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d get to type.
Anyway, once you’re inside the Mexico pavilion, you walk toward the water. On one side, you’ll notice Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros.
On the other side, you’ll discover the check-in station for San Angel Inn. This restaurant provides a similar, albeit superior, experience to Pinocchio’s Village Haus.
You’ll dine right by the water of the connected theme park attraction.
So, during your meal, you may get a view of the boats passing by on their way to meet Donald Duck.
Checking in at this restaurant is always an adventure. The host area resides right by the restrooms.
Since guests tend to do a lot of walking at the World Showcase, someone in my party inevitably wants to use the facilities.
Based on several personal experiences, I can tell you that the cast members here will NOT check in your party until everyone is present. They’re emphatic about this matter.
On at least two different visits, someone in my party got too close to the seating area. A cast member flew in front of them, literally blocking the way.
Nobody is going to mess up the headcount at San Angel Inn! Of course, on this occasion, my wife and I were traveling alone.
So, we learned from past mistakes and stood side by side when we checked in. For possibly the first time ever, our table was ready when we arrived.
Ordinarily, we expect to wait at least 15 minutes here, even when we have an Advanced Dining Reservation. It’s an extremely popular place.
However, we don’t mind the delay. The shops at the Mexico pavilion are terrific for quick browsing.
If anything, I regretted that I couldn’t look at a few skeleton-y trinkets before the meal. I always love that.
Finding a Table and Getting Started
Anyway, the cast members sprinkled a bit of Pixie Dust on us, probably because the place was less crowded on this day.
We got to sit by the water! Let me stress this pro tip to you! Always ask for a table near the water at San Angel Inn.
Watching the boats is fabulous in and of itself. However, the icing on the cake is that this section is darker and somehow more serene than the rest of the building.
You will forget that you’re at Walt Disney World when you’re dining here. In fact, it feels more like dining near Venetian gondolas at night.
We were thrilled before we even ordered our drinks! That goes double because we’re huge fans of the Gran Fiesta Tour. Waving at the riders is fun!
When the menus arrived, we already knew what we wanted. A cast member always provides a complimentary basket of chips plus twin salsas.
One of the salsas is mild enough that I can have it, which is really saying something. The other is like the chili Chief Wiggum serves Homer:
Yes, you may go on a vision quest with a space coyote if you eat it. Or not. Some people eat at Chipotle all the time and are fine.
We skipped appetizers this time because it was just the two of us. In addition, we weren’t particularly hungry since EPCOT had a festival going on that day.
Also, I usually order appetizers more for others in our party than for myself…unless there’s fried mozzarella.
I will say that Queso Fundido is well worth your money, though. I’m always amazed by how quickly a party of five can tear through a couple of those.
We skipped straight to the entrees, which triggered a delay. I have an onion allergy, which can cause the nicest kind of problems at Disney restaurants.
Whenever you mention a food allergy, the server stops what they’re doing and tracks down a chef.
They’ll take your precise order, asking questions to ensure they don’t accidentally serve the wrong ingredient(s).
This process adds 20+ minutes to the dining experience. As such, I usually just veer away from anything that has onions in it rather than mentioning my allergy.
I slipped up this time, almost reflexively. So, we ate plenty more chips while we waited for the highly conscientious chef to arrive.
Eventually, I managed to order the world’s plainest Carne Asade. I almost felt guilty about the number of ingredients that they had to leave off the entrée.
Of course, that’s the same way I order the meal at the Mexican restaurant we frequent down the street. I did go whole hog with refried beans, though.
Accidentally or not, they brought me a double serving of them. I…didn’t complain. That stuff is delicious.
As for the steak, it was okay but nothing memorable. That’s 100 percent on me, though. By ordering it plain, I negate what’s unique about the dish.
A normal person would get chipotle butter and some other fixin’s.
My wife ordered the Huarache Vegetariano. I don’t think you need to remember anything from your high school Spanish class to recognize it’s a vegetarian dish.
Huarache is a fascinating oblong Mexican dish that looks so cool. It falls somewhere between an open-face burrito and an oddly shaped veggie pizza.
This one looked gorgeous on the plate, allowing my wife to eat with her eyes first. The dish itself is vibrant and overflowing with flavor.
Desserts and Final Thoughts
We were full and should have skipped dessert. But this place serves Tres Leche de Horchata. So, we were never going to do that.
You can diet when you get back from Disney. Eat to your heart’s content while you’re there. You’re already burning several hundred calories a day anyway.
The Tres Leche is a sponge cake that combines the unique flavors of rice milk and corn ice cream to deliver a truly remarkable taste.
I’m not always a fan of it, as corn ice cream is often hit or miss. This time, it was definitely a hit, though.
Really, that’s the case for the entire meal. We loved our whole dining experience at San Angel Inn and cannot wait until the next time we return.
The food’s always good, but it’s the ambiance that makes the place unforgettable. Of course, that goes double when you get a table by the water, which we did!