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Tacos at Café El Presidente
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Here's your perfect Day of the Dead weekend

By Rheanna O'Neil Bellomo
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Mexican cuisine is definitely having a moment: In the last few weeks, highly anticipated cocinas like Cosme, Empellón al Pastor and Tijuana Picnic have cropped up across the city. To celebrate Dia de los Muertos—the centuries-old Latin American tradition of commemorating the spirits of the departed—this weekend, many of Gotham's best Mexican restaurants will be slinging tequila, hosting day-long happy hours, leading cooking demonstrations and serving holiday menus with tons of tacos. Here’s a day-by-day guide to the essentials: 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Day of the Dead celebrations

FRIDAY

Sons of Essex
The old New York-style restaurant is transforming into a haunted cantina on Halloween, offering Mexican plates like carnitas with pico de gallo and creamy queso fresco and loaded Nachos Locos. One-time-only cocktails include Jack the Tippler (Jack Daniels, pumpkin puree, maple syrup) and the Harvest Spiced Cider (rum, apple cider, pumpkin puree). Get bonus points—and a free shot of tequila—if you dress up in themed garb like calaveras (sugar skull) masks.  

SATURDAY

Café el Presidente
Get your hands on the buzzy book, Mexico: The Cookbook and meet author Margarita Carillo Arronte during this tasting event at the Mexican-style market. From 7–10pm, nosh on small plates created by Arronte and Tacombi chef Jason DeBriere, throw back Casa Noble tequila cocktails and Negra Modelo suds and listen to live jazz performances by Cristina Kaminis. Tickets are $60, which includes a copy of the book, so snag one before they're sold out.  

Dos Caminos
Though the Mexican chain is rolling out a menu of themed cocktails (black currant margaritas) and platters (mole beef short ribs, walnut-and-cherry ice cream with ancho chile brittle) for the entire weekend, there’s an exclusive cooking class with Dos Caminos chef Ivy Stark on Saturday from 11:30am–2:30pm at the Park Avenue location. The hands-on course will set you back $75, but it includes a full demonstration and sampling of lunch dishes (guacamole, tamales, beef short ribs, mole) as well as candied pumpkin sundaes, Mexican sugar skulls and freshly shaken cocktails, plus a signed copy of the chef’s cookbook, Dos Caminos Tacos.

FRIDAY, SATURDAY AND SUNDAY

Café Frida
This stucco-walled locale is honoring a 3,000-year-old tradition of setting up an ofrenda with its own altar de muertos and a themed menu divided into three categories: To Die For, Redemption and Straight Way to Heaven. Highlights from the extensive list are a chile-guero cream soup sprinkled in toasted almonds, turkey barbacoa atop griddled masa patties and guava cheesecake coated with a sweet, crabapple-like tejocote sauce.

Rosa Mexicano
In addition to the 40-plus margaritas already on the menu, special holiday items are hitting this cocina’s docket including guacamole studded with pomegranate and pumpkin seeds, enchiladas stuffed with shredded chicken and drenched in mole and, for dessert, deep-fried vanilla ice cream powdered in cinnamon-sugar and drizzled in raspberry-guajillo pepper sauce. Wash it all down with a heat-packing arbol chile and smoky mescal quaff, the Flor de Mezcal.

WEDNESDAY

Fonda
Keep the festivities going through next week with a five-course dinner at this East Village haunt plastered in art from Mexico City. For $70, you’ll get mescal or wine with each dish crafted by Fany Gerson (La Newyorkina). Expect creative plates like velvety black bean soup bobbing with epazote-corn dumplings, chipotle-rubbed shrimp in blue corn tortillas and panela-cheese–baked squash capped with crèma ice cream.

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