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Most people gear up for Halloween parties as October comes to an end. With all of the costume planning and candy eating going on, it’s easy to forget about that other spooky holiday, Dia de los Muertos.
The family-focused Mexican holiday revolves around remembrance, specifically of relatives who have passed on. In Mexico, private altars are built and the favorite treats of the deceased are brought to their graves. In America, the Day of the Dead is typically celebrated like most holidays, with eating and drinking, and there are a handful of restaurants that are forgoing Halloween parties in favor of honoring the dead with food specials and cocktails this year.
Tamales are a common familial offering on the Day of the Dead, and over at Maya in Midtown, Richard Sandoval will be serving a trio of handmade masa snacks — one with pulled pork, one with chipotle-sauced chicken, and one featuring zucchini flowers, mushrooms, and queso in a sweet potato masa dough. They’ll be on the menu alongside cocktail specials from October 31 to November 2.
Also honoring the holiday with a special menu is Rosa Mexicano. All branches of the mini-chain will be serving red chile lamb pozole (a hominy-spiked soup), pork three ways, pumpkin crème brûlée, and a specialty veggie-infused margarita. It’s a pretty tame menu with a lot of “killer” fall flavors.
At Midtown’s Toloache and its new Upper East Side location, chef Julian Medina is going with a little scare factor for the holiday. Crunchy grasshopper tacos, maguey worm taquitos, and veal brain quesadillas with corn fungus (huitlacoche) may sound like something that you’d eat on a reality-show competition. You’ll find all three on the seasonal menu, along with more tame dishes like pumpkin guacamole and chipotle-crab-stuffed pumpkin.
If you’re looking for a Day of the Dead party that veers a little more Halloween-y, look no further then La Esquina and its newer Brooklyn sibling Cafe de La Esquina. They’ll both be throwing celebrations on Monday with costume contests in addition to mass imbibement. Prepare your best food-pun costume (cereal killer, anyone?) and make a reservation to guarantee your spot. While it may not be the most traditional way to celebrate las Dia de los Muertos, it’s certainly guaranteed to be a fun time.