It’s hard to believe that, even though we used to live within an hour or so of the Mexican border, we never took opportunity to visit. However, we do have the next best thing nearby. Living in central Florida certainly has its perks and we can visit the Mexican Pavilion at World Showcase at Epcot on a regular basis. Oh, I know, I know. It’s not the same thing, but at least we can have margaritas and listen to a mariachi band whenever we crave it.
Disclaimer: All expenses for this evening were paid by me. This post was not requested, nor compensated for its publication.
Footprints in Mexico
Honestly, I have to give hubby some props here. He was the one who came up with this wonderful idea of Dating Around World Showcase as a way to bring a little more creativity to our date nights. It’s no secret that life is exhausting, kids are demanding and work is nonstop ~ especially after two decades of marriage. Sometimes it is too easy to just fall onto a comfortable couch at night and zone out watching television. So, we made a commitment to explore Epcot’s World Showcase each week together in an effort to ignite the conversation, as well as learn something, experience something and taste something new together each week.
MEXICO ~ What does it have to offer?
The Mexican Pavilion in World Showcase is the first country represented in the World Showcase when hanging a left from Future World. There was no rhyme or reason to starting off here, but it just felt right. We both felt like this would be a great place to start.
To be honest, the Mexican Pavilion has a lot going on! There’s a margarita bar with a quick service just across the way (churros, anyone?). There are shops inside and outside the pavilion where you can purchase Disney souvenirs or Mexican trinkets. Donald has a spot where he comes out to visit with Guests and, inside the pyramid, Guests can enjoy a boat ride attraction that takes them through a crazy story with The Three Cabelleros.
Because we chose to go on a Friday night, we arrived just in time to sneak in for our dinner reservation at The San Angel Inn Restaurante. The menu for this place seemed a little bit more appealing to us than La Hacienda de San Angel, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t try that place in the future. I do hear that La Hacienda has some great seating for the fireworks at night.
The San Angel Inn Restaurante is a third-party table service restaurant located inside the pyramid. We pretty much made a beeline for the place from the entrance and only had a five minute wait between checking in and being seated. That gave me just enough time to snap a few photos of the interior.
It was dark inside. I’m not particularly a fan of that most times, but it did set a fairly romantic mood and tone, which hubby thought was nice. I just like to see where I’m going and what I’m eating.
Historical note: The original San Angel Inn in southwest Mexico City, Mexico, is an old Carmelite monastery that was turned into a well known restaurant. It is famous for its international cuisine, Mexican colonial architecture, interior decor and spacious gardens.
Finding our table
The tables in the San Angel Inn Restaurante are situated fairly close together. As you peer down the stairs leading into the dining area, it almost gives off the appearance of being family style, but it really isn’t. The tables ARE separated, just not by much.
We were seated on an aisle near the water, but not against the railing. Our server, Wendy, arrived very soon after we were seated and had a nice bright smile on her face (I could see that even in the dark). She talked us through a little bit of the menu, as well as the drink offerings, and helped us make our final beverage decisions.
Drinks and Chips First
Hubby went with the Classic Margarita, while I chose the Wild Passion Fruit handcrafted premium margarita. He liked his drink, but he didn’t love it. I loved mine at first, but it became extremely tart towards the end. I’m not one for sour, but I did like the fruity flavor it had.
San Angel does provide chips to every table, which was a plus in hubby’s book! Appetizer – check! Money saved! Chips are awesome!! Not to mention, the salsa and the guacomole dips were delish!
Interesting tidbit: Something we did note is that, with the ceilings so high in the pavilion, the noise from the crowd was somewhat muted. This enabled us to carry on a conversation without having to strain to hear each other, which is great for me (I have a small deficit in one ear).
Dinner Is Served
For dinner, we ordered the Carne Asada Tempiqueña to share. This included a New York Strip (which my boys find hilarious – New York strip in a Mexican restaurant) served with cheese mole enchilada, chipotle rice, black beans, guacamole, onions and poblamo rajas.
The steak was cooked to perfection, exactly how the both of us like it. It’s funny because, at the onset of ordering, Wendy was worried about us sharing a plate that involved steak. She has found that most couples do not like their steak cooked the same way. Fortunately, Hubby and I share our love for medium rare.
The chipotle rice, black beans and poblamo rajas were delicious. To be honest, we wish there had been just a little more to share, but the steak did a great job filling us up. Hubby liked the cheese mole enchilada, but I thought the strong molasses-like taste was just a little overbearing for me.
For dessert, Wendy didn’t have too difficult of a time convincing us to try the Pastel de Queso con Cajeta, cheesecake with caramel sauce cajeta topped with almonds. People ~ LEAVE ROOM FOR THIS!!!! It was so scrumptious and decadent that I was almost in tears when it was finished. Such a good choice!!
Meet Cast Member, Wendy
While the entire meal itself was good, what made it more magical was getting to know our Cast Member. Wendy is a bright young woman who shared just a little of her story with us. She was born right here in the States and has her parents close by. However, she has tons of family back in Mexico City, Mexico. Among those family members is her beloved Abuela. At various times throughout the year, Wendy will travel back and forth to visit her extended family. With every trip, she makes a point to spend quality time with her Abuela. Wendy has a very special connection with her and likes to think of herself as Abuela’s favorite (lol). (Please forgive the photo – I wish I had one that wasn’t as blurry. Wendy is truly a beautiful young lady)
Since the original San Angel Inn restaurant is situated in southwest Mexico City, we asked Wendy if she had ever been to it. She chuckled and confessed that she had actually never heard of the restaurant before her time at Disney! Now she has a mission to accomplish during her next trip to see her grandmother.
PS – Thank you, Wendy, for your story and the amazing copy of the menu!!! I love reading the history of the San Angel Inn on the back! Tell your Abuela we said hi the next time you see her!
MEXICO’S FAMOUS ATTRACTION
Once dinner was done, we decided to make our way over to the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros. This is a classic, very benign water attraction similar to that of It’s a Small World in Magic Kingdom. It was the perfect opportunity for us to just sit down next to each other, let dinner digest and take in the story told through various movie screens located throughout the attraction. To be honest, it’s actually a great hand-holding ride or even a snuggle up to each other ride – but keep it rated-G people. There are likely children sitting either in front of or behind you.
We wrapped up our visit with The Three Cabarellos attraction and decided to take some time exploring the interior of the pyramid. We had never really spent that much time inside ~ likely because it’s so dark. The darkness is intentional, meant to give the appearance of being twilight at all times. It’s a great idea…I just don’t like dark.
There are a good handful of shops lining the perimeter of the “market,” as well as various opportunities to browse trinkets and souvenirs in the the center. I particularly enjoyed walking through the Arribas store and found some absolutely stunning figurines to place on my “wish-list” (wink, wink). In the center, we found toys, candy and knick-knacks and tried on some sombreros just to have some fun.
Along the perimeter is La Cava del Tequila, a place to taste authentic Mexican tequila and learn a little history. We did not venture in this visit (mainly because we had already had our one drink quota), but I have heard some fabulous things about that place.
Día de Muertos
Before venturing back outside, we explored the area just before the entrance / exit. Disney Imagineers did a magnificent job creating a room dedicated to the famous Día de Muertos holiday. On the walls, there are numerous informational plaques that help Guests understand the traditions surrounding it, as well as its historical context.
Included in the theme is a huge nod to the Disney●Pixar movie, Coco, whose entire story-line focuses on the Día de Muertos holiday. Be sure to watch the windows carefully for a chance to see the ancestors make an appearance.
We also learned a great deal about the making of sugar skulls, perhaps the most recognized icon of Día de Muertos. Though made with sugar, they are rarely eaten and usually exchanged like valentines or left at grave sites to honor the dead. The thought is that the sugar’s sweetness balances the bitterness that comes with death.
There is a lot you could glean just by reading the walls in that building! So – don’t pass them by! Take a few minutes to check this out and walk away having learned something.
RETURNING TO DAYLIGHT
We spent the rest of our evening exploring what was left of Mexico before the Illuminations fireworks began. We walked over to a little shop that sits behind the La Hacienda de San Angel restaurant. The goal was to find a souvenir to commemorate our evening. Since I love collecting Disney pins, it made perfect sense to try to find the Mickey-shaped pin designated for each country after we have been to visit it. Unfortunately, our search was in vain that night as they were all sold out.
While looking for pins, we met Lorena, who was making jewelry right there in front of Guests. Hubby took a moment to ask her a few questions, one of which was who were her biggest customers. Lorena said that she does a lot of jewelry for cheerleaders, who love to have the initials of their high school or their class year engraved onto rings.
Other Things To Explore In Mexico
While we did not attend have the opportunity to do a Meet-and-Greet during our visit to Mexico, Donald Duck is a frequent guest to the area. He has a little section just past the Pyramid where Guests love to line up and say hi, snap pictures and get their feathered friend’s autograph. We were just too late that evening…maybe next time we’re in Mexico we will see him.
We decided that we would also save Illuminations for another date night around World Showcase. Illuminations is just one of the many beautiful nightly fireworks displays around the Walt Disney World Resort. This particular display celebrates the spirit of humanity and has three parts to it: The Earth is Born, The Triumph of Life and Hope for the Future. It features a 350,000 pound earth globe with the first spherical video display system. Fireworks are shot off an inferno barge that sends them 60 feet into the air!
Ending the Evening
We ended our evening with a quick walk through MouseGear, a store I LOVE to visit every time I visit Epcot, and then our leisurely walk back to the car. It was a beautiful night and we really enjoyed being able to explore Mexico together ~ trying on sombreros, sharing a meal and talking to cast members. Our next trip takes us to China and I can’t wait to share with you what we learned there.
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