Celebrate Dia de los Muertos this weekend with LA events and restaurants

By Evan Kleiman

The Mexican celebration of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, goes beyond trick-or-treat to honor those who passed, and remind us of what they loved and why we loved them. It’s a perfect opportunity to process loss by creating your own ofrenda or altar, or to participate in one of the many events happening all over the greater Los Angeles area over the next two weeks. The altars have photographs and possessions of loved ones, as well as some of their favorite foods, flowers, sugar skulls (calaveras), and skeleton figures (calacas).  Two events with a lot of history are happening at Hollywood Forever Cemetery and at Self Help Graphics and Art in East LA.

In addition to large-scale events, you can support a small bakery or restaurant or make traditional treats yourself. 

Hollywood Forever Cemetary
Saturday, October 30 

Over the years, the celebration of Day of the Dead at this iconic cemetery has become one of the largest gatherings in LA. Separate daytime (9 a.m. - 3 p.m.) and nighttime (5 p.m. - 12 p.m.) ticketed events on the theme of The Return of Quetzalcoatl will be explored through dance, art, altars, and lots of food from our favorite taqueros and restaurants. And our own KCRW DJ Raul Campos will be there! Food vendors include Carnitas El Artista, Coni’Seafood, Don Cuco, Pablito’s Taco, Pez Cantina, Evil Cooks, Macheen Tacos.

Self Help Graphics and Art
Saturday, October 30

It’s the 48th year of marking the Day of the Dead at this famed East LA center for arts engagement, education, and community outreach. It’s the oldest public celebration of the holiday in Los Angeles. The event will include workshops, processions, craft vendors, music and food. Self Help Graphics is working with street vendor group Vendedores en Acción (VEA) about whom they made a documentary earlier this year. 

Vendors include Santa Huerte (ceviche & empanadas), Don Faustino (bolis, which are like otter pops and chocolate-covered bananas), Juan Ponce/Ivan Ponce, Esmeralda (aguas and champurrado), Caridad Vazquez (quesadillas), Maria T. Garcia (pupusas), Yolanda Granados (tamales and esquites). Also on-site but not part of VEA will be Chanos Tacos (elotes, tacos, tacos dorados, and burritos).

Gusto Bread is making skull cookies for Day of the Dead. Photo courtesy of Gusto Bread.

Gusto Bread
Long Beach

Not an event, but Arturo Enciso’s organic panaderia specializing in traditional European and Mexican breads, including pan dulce, is worth the drive to Long Beach. They’ll be making pan de muerto for the holiday.

Highland Park

On Tuesday, November 2 the restaurant hosts guided tequila or mezcal flights that accompany pan de muerto, tamales and a painting workshop.

Pan de Muerto is a traditional sweet bread made for the holiday accompanied by a mug of champurrado. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

If you want to try making pan de muerto, the traditional pan dulce or sweet bread of the holiday yourself, here's a recipe that Chef Carlos Salgado of Taco Maria shared with us.

Another traditional Day of the Dead sweet is candied pumpkin. One of my favorite YouTube and Tiktok cooks is Ana Regalado, who goes by the name Salty Cocina. Her recipe is easy to follow, although it does take 24 hours. That’s because the peeled squash soaks in hydrated lime water, which keeps the candied squash from breaking down during cooking.