We caught up with Richard Debler, the president of San Angel Inn LLC, and Executive Chef Ernesto Zendejas, in charge of the big changes at the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot. The all-new La Hacienda de San Angel and La Cantina de San Angel are on schedule for a mid-September opening, taking reservations for Oct. 15 and thereafter. (The first few weeks are a “soft opening” with no reservations.)
What’s going to wow guests about the new look? The architecture resembles an old hacienda, and you’ll see the distinctive blue dome from a distance. It’s right on the water, and very eye catching. And the view – the whole building is geared to World Showcase Lagoon and the fireworks…during the day it’s great for enjoying the waterfront.
Tell us about the “flex space” idea. We need quick-service capacity, but at the same time we want to increase table service. This space allows us during the lunch period to use a section of the dining room for quick-service guests – an air-conditioned space that will complement the terrace outside seating. So we will have 250 to 300 seats during the day; later in the afternoon La Hacienda switches to table service with 250 seats. We have a total of 400 seats.
What’s special about La Hacienda cuisine? We’re bringing two taco specialists from one of the best taquerias in Mexico to work with us. Corn tortillas are a major component of a great Mexican meal, and all of ours will be made fresh right there every day, also for La Cantina. Salsas will be made fresh – and not just tomato salsa. We have salsas made with chipotle and Serrano peppers, tomatillos, mangos. There are unique flavors from different regions of Mexico. Cilanto, habanero, spicy flavors from Southern Mexico . . . this will be a little different than our past menus.
Any favorite menu items? We have three or four spectacular appetizer items at La Hacienda. The trend in Mexican food is appetizers, such as mini tacos. [One that sounds especially delicious is chiles toreados y chorizitos, roasted sweet peppers with lime and sea salt and mini chorizos (pork sausage).] And I really like the skillet entrées – skillets with cuts of meat, veggies, seafood, to make your own taco. I’m still tweaking the menu!
How does La Cantina menu change? The Cantina menu will focus on tacos with meat or chicken, properly grilled, and garnished with fresh pico de gallo. We want to create an authentic Mexican taco, something that locals would buy at the market. Less Tex-Mex, more regional authentic Mexico.
We have to talk margaritas! La Hacienda will have a tequila ambassador on staff every day. We will feature tequila flights there like we do in La Cava [inside the Mexico pavilion]. We’ve developed a whole new line of margaritas with a mixologist from New York City.
New flavors? The coffee margarita is one of my favorites. We wanted to incorporate a little mescal, which has more of a smoky flavor than regular tequila. The Mescal gives it a cacao flavor, almost like a cappuccino. The top sellers right now are passion fruit and lime-raspberry, but we’re going to serve a mango-blueberry-basil margarita with fresh blueberries, mango puree and mashed basil. And an orange mango fire margarita with a dash of Tabasco and chile powder and ginger liquer.
Frozen or on the rocks? All frozen margaritas at La Cantina, on the rocks at La Hacienda.
And desserts? [Chef Ernesto chimes in.] At La Cantina, paletas, or popsicles, with fresh fruit, such as mango with peppers. At La Hacienda, the sorbets are outstanding, like tamarind, watermelon – very tropical fruit flavors. And a sweet tamal del dulce filled with guava paste. That’s a good one for sharing!
Are La Cantina and La Hacienda on the Disney Dining Plan? Yes, for 1 point, except for the larger entrées that are for 2 guests, they are 2 points.