Click image above to see video of the grand opening.
Epcot’s newest restaurants, the remodeled La Cantina de San Angel quick serve and the new full-service La Hacienda de San Angel, were dedicated in a grand opening ceremony Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010. The date was significant because it marked the bicentennial of Mexico’s independence. The restaurants are open to the public as of Thursday, Sept. 16.
La Cantina had long been a favorite of visitors to the Mexico pavilion who preferred something quicker -- and less pricey -- than the San Angel Inn inside the pavilion. Many also preferred sitting outside on the shore of the lagoon rather than in the perpetual night atmosphere of the Inn. (San Angel Inn gives the illusion of dining outdoors, next to a river that is the waterway for the pavilion’s ride, but we know it isn’t real. Right?)
As you might expect from the name, the decor of La Hacienda is meant to invoke a grand Mexican home, one that features lots of booth seating. But more important than the seating, or the colorful original works of art that adorn the walls, is the bank of tall floor to ceiling windows that afford diners a view of the lagoon and, thus, the nightly fireworks show, Illuminations. Perhaps only Tokyo Dining offers guests such a view of the fireworks in air-conditioned comfort. Window seats in La Hacienda are going to be the most sought after -- and once a group has one, don’t expect them to vacate it until sometime around 9:20 when Illuminations ends. The same for the deck seating for La Cantina, where the view is even more impressive without the window frame obstructions. When I asked officials of the two restaurants how they intend to deal with “campers” who grab a seat early and stay without necessarily purchasing more food and drink, they admitted they do not yet know.
An improvement over the outdoor seating for those choosing La Cantina is that most of the tables are under cover, including a large gazebo that juts out into the lagoon. That will help keep the rain and sun off of diners. Even better, folks who purchase food from the walk-up windows of La Cantina will be allowed to use some of the seating inside the air-conditioned La Hacienda, which is open only for dinner service. (I’m told diners will be turned away from the indoor space beginning at about 2:30 each afternoon so staff members can prepare for La Hacienda’s 4 p.m. opening.)
(Note that reservations can not be made for La Cantina, and while they are accepted -- and recommended -- for La Hacienda, window seats cannot be guaranteed. However, even booths across the room have a pretty good view of the pyrotechnics.)
Samples of the food were passed at the opening ceremony, but I can’t judge how the actual product will be until I’ve had a chance to dine. The menu from La Cantina is brief -- really only three items, priced from $10.50 to $11.95, that could be considered entrees, though the $9.95 nachos and $7.25 guacamole with chips are priced like one. (I will tell you that the empanadas filled with queso were the best thing I sampled at the opening; not sure what the $10.50 version will look like.) Click here to download La Cantina’s menu .
La Hacienda’s menu features a roster of premium margaritas, priced $12.50 and $13. There is also a list of 17 or so tequilas (the operators of the restaurants, Palmas Services, also has the very popular La Cava del Tequila inside the pavilion with dozens more). Starters range from $6.95 for black bean soup to $12.50 for queso fundido. Entrees range from $22.95 for fried shrimp tacos to $25.95 for flank steak or roasted pork. There are also two parrillada selections, priced at $49.95, that serve two people. Click here to download La Hacienda’s menu .
La Hacienda will seat 250 people while La Cantina’s outdoor area can accommodate 150. Together, the new venues offer 12,000 square feet of dining area. The old Cantina, which opened in 1982, seated 288 in 3500 square feet of dining space.
La Cantina will begin service daily at 11 a.m. and remain open throughout the day; La Hacienda will start service at 4 p.m. daily, serving until 9.
For reservations at La Hacienda, call the Disney dining line at 407-939-3463.