La Hacienda de San Angel Review
Merry mariachi music and enormous straw sombreros may be only two of the jovial draws to Epcot’s Mexico. Surely the rainbow blends of fruity margaritas and corn tortillas stuffed with grilled delicacies are a few of the others. And both can be found at La Hacienda de San Angel, the newer dining locale which joins the Cantina de San Angel and the San Angel Inn (yes, the names can be confusing) at the Mexican pavilion. While the Cantina is the quick service stop and the Inn is the restaurant inside the Mayan pyramid (and situated next to the “Gran Fiesta Tour” river attraction), La Hacienda is a table-service restaurant on the banks of World Showcase Lagoon adjacent to the Cantina. And while not as romantic and intimate as the San Angel Inn, this locale boasts stunning views of the water. Or at least all but one of the tables do. More about that topic later.
Although we did have a 6:45pm dining reservation and the restaurant was surprisingly only half-full, we waited quite a bit for our table while other diners sans reservations seemed to be seated immediately.
When we were led to our table, we were seated against a black wall, high enough to obstruct any glorious and much-anticipated water view. While the hallmark of the dining room are the grand windows (La Hacienda is at the edge of the lagoon with fabulous, not-to-be-missed prime views of Illuminations if you dine later in the evening), we were seated at the one table which had the charming ambiance of being inside a darkened box. And while we expressed some slight disappointment with our table, no one wanted to address our displeasure despite the more than half-dozen empty tables scattered throughout the room.
Well, at least we could feast our eyes on the Old World allure of the dining room. Terra cotta walls, earthen clay pottery, glass illuminated globes dangling from the ceiling, golden pointed stars accenting the walls, arched entrance ways – all give rise to a charming, quaint hacienda straight off a Mexican painting. The muted earth tones played perfectly against the bright and cheerily attired servers in their bursts of reds and blues. The sparse murals of wallpaper mimic the colorful stripes of a Mexican blanket. The room is perfectly themed. The heavy wood carvings and wrought iron are authentic accents.
If only the attitudes of the staff were as sunny as the Mexican feel of the room and the yellow tiles adorning the entrance. From the manager to the hostesses to the servers, everyone seemed rather abrupt and distant, not the Disney norm we have come to expect. It was highly disappointing and glaringly evident. It made for a bit of an awkward experience.
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Oh well, we supposed we needed a drink to keep the festive feel of the evening alive despite the cool staff. We began the evening with the Mango Blueberry Basil Margarita ($13), a deliciously refreshing concoction of tequila, orange juice, coconut rum, mango puree, basil and blueberries complete with a potent chile powder on the rim. Very exhilarating and highly addictive. The chips and salsa we munched on while we indulged were thin and crispy, and the duo of salsas accompanying the chips were fresh and zesty.
The menu is a bit limited but definitely interesting.
For starters we sampled the Taquiza ($11.50), a trio of mini tacos each with a tangy and distinctive flavor. The presentation was festive and vibrant. The beef taco with chipotle salsa was the clear favorite although the chicken with salsa verde also was bursting with a spirited roasted flavor. The marinated pork in cream queso fell a bit short in comparison as the sauce was a little overly and unusually sweet for a queso. And while the innards of the tacos were delightful, the tortillas themselves were mealy and grainy. I opted after taco #1 to omit consuming the tortilla.
We decided on the La Hacienda Parradilla for Two ($49.95) for our entree – a mixed grill of NY strip steak, marinated chicken, chorizo sausage, fresh vegetables and corn accompanied by black beans and rice. The presentation was amazing. Bursts of brightly blooming colors – oranges, yellows, greens. It was as lively and entertaining as the finest Mexican fiesta. A brilliant display.
And while this dish was indeed a feast capable of feeding more than two diners, the contrasting flavors and taste components seemed erratic at best. The black beans had to be the best we have ever sampled while the rice was dry and bland. The chicken and steak sizzled with tender goodness while the chorizo was tough and oddly sweet. The vegetables were grilled to smoky perfection while the corn had a pickled essence of which we weren’t too fond. It seemed to be either a huge hit or complete miss – an exuberant high or a disappointing low. And again, those corn tortillas were a total disaster.
Although stuffed we had to sample a Mexican dessert. We chose the Empanada de Manzana ($7.95), a light puffed pastry filled with sauteed apples with a subtle hint of caramel. While perhaps it would have been a bigger success had it been served warm and not room temperature, the pastry was light and flaky, and the apple filling was sweet and scrumptious (if a bit skimpy).
La Hacienda certainly has a prime locale, and almost every table offers a stellar view. The food ranges from delicious to disappointing. And while the windows give rise to a perfectly pleasing atmosphere, the disinterest of the staff, at least on this night, was a bit detracting. Maybe the best bet would be to book a table for Illuminations while dining on chips and margaritas. Ole’!
FOOD: From authentically brilliant to boringly bland, the fare runs the gamut from lovely to lackluster. The presentation may overshadow the taste and for good reason.
ATMOSPHERE: The multitude of extensive windows offer a glorious view of the lagoon while the room’s interior and decor is simply, charmingly and realistically quaint
SERVICE: Some of the most disappointing and underwhelming service at any Disney table-service restaurant. Disinterested servers and bored hosts.
TIPS: This restaurant offers dinner only (not lunch) beginning at 4pm. Book your reservation later in the evening for a spectacular and prime viewing location for Illuminations. La Hacienda also has many gluten-free options.