That Disney Dining Thing: San Angel Inn Restaurante & Sci-Fi Dine-In

World Showcase lagoon

I’m getting out ahead of my Disney Christmas in July trip report with some avant food reviews! Read all the posts in this trip report here. Onward!

The best Disney restaurants are not simply restaurants. What is a Disney park for but its elaborate themes? Not every table service meal in the World is guaranteed to be spectacular, but there are restaurants where you can walk in and know at least the atmosphere is going to be spectacular.

I recently ate at two such restaurants: San Angel Inn Restaurante in Epcot and Sci-Fi Dine-In in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I am not grouping them in a single post because they are similar – from experience to cuisine to vibe, they couldn’t be more different (except for the simulated night. Simulated night is compulsory). Where they converge is in the strength of their ambience, so much so that I could see them going head to head in a fight for your WDW restaurant reservation roster. Let’s battle it out!

Quick disclaimer: In addition to being similarly rich in theme, both restaurants are similarly poor in light sources. I heartily apologize for the food photos in this post in advance.


San Angel Inn Restaurante is located inside the Mexico Pavilion’s pyramid at one end of Epcot’s World Showcase. While I think we can all agree that Mexican food is some of the most universally beloved out there, the real allure of this restaurant is its setting. Already the false night of the pyramid’s market square is special – but when you add the boats from the Gran Fiesta tour floating by under the Mayan architecture and active volcano, you’ve graduated from special to exemplary.

San Angel Inn - table and view of the pyramid

Thus the real question becomes – does the menu live up to the setting? Reviews for San Angel tend to be mixed. I do think some of the negativity is because the food is not as good as the surrounding decor; I’ve never been blown away by a meal here, but neither have I left disappointed. This is Perfectly Good Mexican cuisine. Not incredible, yet perfectly pleasant. Keep your tastebuds’ expectations low, and you’ll be fine.

Or drink until the food looks good? 😉 While the margaritas aren’t the all-time best I’ve ever tasted (shoutout to Gringos & Mariachis in Bethesda, MD), they’re clearly scratch-made. The price tags are high, but that’s WDW for ya.

On my most recent trip, I snagged two such margaritas. The first was the Black Magic margarita, which is frozen and uses mezcal instead of tequila. Neil Patrick Harris allegedly invented this concoction, and I must say I’m impressed by how well the smokiness of the mezcal is balanced by the sweetness of the blackberry. Normally I prefer my margaritas on the rocks, but in Florida a frozen marg can be the perfect weapon against the heat.

Disney restaurants with great ambience - San Angel Inn Restaurante

Speaking on margaritas on the rocks, I also enjoyed the El Diablo, which is a spicy cucumber-jalapeño margarita with both mezcal and tequila. While the spice is definitely there, I continue to wish this drink pulled just a little less sweet. I’d like a slightly more-cucumber forward flavor to push past the liqueur. Still, if you’re into spicy drinks, this one will do the job.

Disney restaurants with great ambience - San Angel Inn Restaurante

For food, I went with the Tamal de Rajas: traditional Mexican vegetables in a tamal topped with Ranchera salsa, crema Mexicana and queso fresco. This dish is $15, and as in my experience San Angel’s entrees are pretty sizable, I only ordered this.

Disney restaurants with great ambience - San Angel Inn Restaurante

Mistake! You get one tiny tamal for your money. I’m a big fan of these sort of sweet corn mash dishes in Mexican cuisine, and the cotija cheese on top did make the whole thing sing. All the same, I don’t think I’d order this again unless I wasn’t that hungry. Luckily we also had complimentary chips and salsa to balance me out!


Sci-Fi Dine-In is housed in a giant soundstage in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, one of the last vestiges of the “working studio” conceit still in the park. Once inside, however, the movie pretense is quickly dropped. While you can still see where the soundstage walls stop if you look up, the idea is that you are now at a retro drive-in movie theater.

Part of the fun of this theme is that there’s a 45ish minute loop of B-movie film clips, cartoons, old school commercials, and more that play on a big screen. Oh, and you can watch it as you eat at your table designed to look like a chrometastic ’50s convertible. Neato.

Disney restaurants with great ambience - Sci-Fi Dine-In

The menu is pretty generically American, with a retro-ish diner vibe to match. Think burgers, onion rings, milkshakes, etc. But then of course they also cater to modern tastes, which is how I wound up trying their plant-based burger.

The Flying Saucer Impossible Burger makes a lot of hefty promises: a plant-based burger AND grilled mushroom AND fake cheese and aioli AND pesto AND lettuce and tomato.

Disney restaurants with great ambience - Sci-Fi Dine-In

I felt about this burger the way I feel about most if not all of Disney’s plant-based burgers: it’s pretty good, but it’s not gonna fool anybody. I do think the grilling on both the burger and mushroom are a nice touch, and vegans should be happy with this meal. I’d also recommend it for those looking for a filling but still comparatively light option. If what you really want is a burger, however, then get a burger. No miracles to see here.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the french fries at Sci-Fi are quite good! I’m not usually huge on steak fries but these were crispy and salty in the best way. Get them. This is Disney! Side salads are for real life.


Which to choose, which to choose? I would give the culinary edge to San Angel – I mean, Mexican food is a lot like pizza, no? Even when it’s bad it’s good. On the other hand – and this may be controversial – I think Sci-Fi Dine-In takes it by a nose in terms of ambience. Yes, San Angel is more beautiful, but Sci-Fi Dine-In is SO. MUCH. FUN.

In short, and as is the case in most of life, it all comes down to personal preference. Are you feeling more evening serenity or nighttime shenanigans? Do you have kids who would be entertained by the drive-in movie element? Do you have adults who could really use a quality margarita or three? Either way, the theme ensures you won’t forget you’re at Walt Disney World!

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall and on Instagram @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

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