User's Guide

How to Eat Better Than the Dead for Dia de los Muertos

A dearly departed Dia de los Muertos past at Self-Help Graphics
A dearly departed Dia de los Muertos past at Self-Help Graphics Photo: Hadley Tomicki

While Dia de los Muertos is a chance for your dead relatives to get a little graveside gourmet of their own, it doesn’t mean the hunger of the living will subside. There are plenty of opportunities for both street and silver palates to celebrate with full mouths and bellies in Los Angeles. Here we offer a look at some local events and restaurants with Day of the Dead-inspired food to stir your soul.


The longest running Dia de los Muertos celebrations in L.A. appeal to both our sense of tradition and thrift. Olvera Street holds nightly candlelight processions, along with workshops for kids, an exhibit at Pico House, and the display of community and merchant altars, while hot champurrado and pan de muerto are given out free through this Monday following the Novenario processions.

Self Help Graphics might not be as ancient as Olvera Street, but the tradition of hitting its yearly Dia de los Muertos celebrations almost feels as established. In addition to a massive dose of original art, several live bands, the gorgeous altars of artist Ofelia Esparza, work by her daughter Rosanna and Sticky Rick, original t-shirt screen-printing with Hit and Run, and kiddie craft workshops, food stands will set up with tamales and other handmade Mexican eats and sweets. There will be events at Self Help on Saturday Sunday night and the annual party will be on Monday at 5:00 p.m. at the L.A. Civic Center to accommodate the hoards.

On Sunday, El Gallo Café is holding a Dia de los Muertos Music and Arts Festival, which will feature the band La Santa Cecilia, artwork, altars, and pan dulce, coffee, tamales, and hot chocolate, plus El Random Hero tells us on L.A. Eastside that there could be free Jarritos, too.

That same day The South Central Farmers will hold their free holiday celebration in South L.A. Food is promised at the event, which seeks to educate newcomers about Day of the Dead, while providing live music, altars, and eight hours of activities in support of the farmer’s collective.

Sunday night will see a party at Highland Park’s Little Cave, as well, stretching into the late hours with their own art show, music, and lots of flowing liquor.


We know of three fine-dining restaurants getting in on Day of the Dead, too. New Latin-flavored Fuego in Long Beach has a special menu matched with tequila tastings, featuring dishes like lobster tail with chocolate foam and a chipotle-huitlacoche essence, plus lamb slow-roasted in agave leaves and a pan de muerto biscotti with a Oaxacan chocolate pot. The dinner is $65, $85 with tequila.

As part of its monthly Flavors of Mexico series celebrating regional cuisine from down south, Rosa Mexicano is paying tribute to its culinary founder, Josefina Howard, with Day of the Dead additions to its menu. Dishes include a generous use of pumpkin in a pumpkin goat cheese tamal with pumpkin seed cream, and a duck leg cassoulet with roasted pumpkin, pomegranate, guajillo chili, and toasted pumpkin bread crumbs. Rosa’s Dia de los Muertos full menu, which is served through November 22nd, is below. Reservations can be made at (213) 747-6188.

Lastly, the South Bay’s Ortega 120, who The L.A. Weekly recently named as having 2009’s “Best Margarita,” is running a $30 menu for Dia de los Muertos that includes one cocktail, either a “pumpkin head” or blood orange margarita. Called the Menu of Huesos (bones), it offers three dishes, including slow braised “sterling silver” beef ribs in an agave chipotle glaze. The full menu is below and served through Tuesday. Reservations can be made at (310) 792-4120.

Wherever you spend your time celebrating the departed during this Dia de los Muertos, you can rest in peace, assured you won’t die of hunger. Check out the menus to Ortega 120 and Rosa Mexicano below.

Ortega 120
Menu de Huesos
Friday, Oct 30 through Monday, Nov 2 (actual “Day of the Dead” holiday) from 5pm - closing
Price: $30 (including one cocktail)
(310) 792-4120

Pollitos con Mole Oaxaoqueno (appetizer)
Frenched drummettes of chicken, mole, seasame seeds, cilantro

Costillas del Cemetario (entrée)
Slow braised sterling silver beef ribs in agave chipotle glaze

Bleeding Chocolate Cake with Blood Orange (dessert)

Pumpkin Head Margarita
Hornitos Repisado Tequila, pumpkin spice preserves in chilled martini with whip cream on top
Blood Orange Margarita
Milagro Silver Tequila, blood orange puree, and agave nectar with orange “flesh”

Día de Los Muertos at Rosa Mexicano
Menu available October 28 - November 22

Tamal de Calabaza
Pumpkin Tamal
Roasted pumpkin and spicy red bean tamal filled with smoked chicken. Served with goat cheese and pumpkin seed crema.

Panzanella de Calabaza con Hongos
Chopped Bread Salad with Pumpkin and Mushrooms
Chopped salad comprised of diced “Pan de Muerto” (Day of the Dead bread), pumpkin, dried shiitake mushrooms, queso fresco, watercress and radicchio tossed in a pumpkin seed dressing topped with edible flowers.

Estofado de Pato
Baked Mexican “Cassoulet”
Slow cooked stew of duck leg, chorizo, cured duck, red beans, roasted pumpkin, pomegranate and guajillo chile, topped with toasted pumpkin bread crumbs

Bistec con Mantequilla de Chile Serrano
Blank Angus Rib Eye with Serrano Chile Butter
Grilled 18 oz Black Angus rib eye topped with serrano chile butter served over wilted greens with pumpkin-potato flautas.

Pescado con Sopa Seca Mexicana
Pan-Roasted Halibut with Mexican “Dry Soup”
Pan roasted filet of halibut served over traditional Mexican “dry soup” of long grain rice, pumpkin, prunes, pine nuts, chilies and swiss chard. Served with pistachio mole.

Budín Pegajoso de Calabaza
Sticky Pumpkin Cake
Sticky Pumpkin Cake soaked in pumpkin-piloncillo sauce, topped pumpkin mole swirl ice cream and cranberry salsa.

Pumpkin-Rum Spiced Cocktail

How to Eat Better Than the Dead for Dia de los Muertos