2004_10_food_SugarSkullMound.jpgMissed Halloween but still feeling spooky? Never fear, you can continue the creepy vibe by celebrating the Mexican Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos. Observed on November 1st and 2nd, this holiday celebrates and honors the lives of the deceased and welcomes them to the new stage in their lives that commences upon death. Several Mexican restaurants across the city are joining in the celebration -- here's where to go and what to eat:

Mercadito/Mercadito Grove: both spots will offer a special tasting menu through November 5th featuring traditional Mexican dishes and seasonal ingredients. Dishes include guacamole con semilla de calabaza (pumpkin seed guacamole), sopa de calabaza (pumpkin-butternut squash soup, huitlacoche croutons), assorted tacos and tamalitos, tacos de cochinita (banana leaf steamed pork, pickled habanero & red onions tomatillo salsa) and flan de calabaza (pumpkin flan) for dessert. The menu is $30 per person (not including beverages, tax and gratuity). For reservations for Mercadito Avenue B (179 Avenue B) call 212-529-6490 or Mercadito Grove (100 Seventh Avenue South) call 212-647-0830.

Toloache: Chef-owner Julian Medina is channeling the spirit of his grandfather by re-creating meals that he used to prepare for the family to celebrate the holiday. He'll offer five a la carte dinner specials including Empanadas de Picadillo (Brick oven baked picadillo empanadas, cherry tomato salad, chile de arbol-cilantro salsa), Tarta de Calabaza (Kabocha squash and Mexican ricotta tart, rock shrimp, chile ancho salsa), and Bacalao con Castanas (Cranberry and habanero glazed black cod, chanterelle, chestnut-chile de arbol salsa) from Friday, November 2nd through Friday, November 9th. In addition, there will be a ceremonial altar placed between the first and second floors (in Mexico, families put up altars in their homes during the holiday to honor deceased relatives) and distribute traditional Dia de los Muertos Mexican candy treats such as wedding cookies, candied sweet potato, and crystallized peanuts to patrons who order any of the dishes. 251 West 50th Street, near Broadway, 212-581-1818.


Maya/Pampano: In celebration of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, the traditional Mexican holiday honoring the deceased, Rosa Mexicano will host a cooking demonstration and luncheon on November 3 and Oaxacan-inspired six course dinner tasting menu from November 1 through November 4. The tasting menu, which is available at all locations, features dishes such as Tamales de Frijoles con Calabaza en Dulce (Sweet squash tamal filled with spicy black bean purée), and Pollo de Mole Negro Oaxaqueño (Half chicken served in a classic mole Negro with traditional Oaxacan-style rice with sweet plantains, mint, and onion) is $45 per person and includes tax and gratuity. On Saturday, November 3rd at 10:00am at the Lincoln Center location, when Chefs David Suarez and Joe Quintana will lead a cooking demonstration followed by a 3-course luncheon that will feature traditional Oaxacan dishes including Crema de Chayote (cream of Mexican squash soup) and Chuleta de Puerco con Enchiladas Oaxaqueñas (center cut pork chop served with traditional Oaxacan enchiladas, topped with Coloradito mole sauce). $55 per person including tax and gratuity. For reservations, contact Sasha Katanic, 212-397-0666 ext. 27. Maya, 1191 First Avenue, 212-585-1818; Pampano, 209 East 49th Street, 212-751-4545.

Counter: This vegetarian spot will feature "a week of mastication and libation" through November 4th, offering grilled cactus with a drunken salsa, pumpkin-stuffed chiles with a fiery mole, guacamole studded with pomegranate, and a trio of sorbets: margarita, "the world's hottest chile" and guacamole granedera. 105 First Avenue, 212-982-5870.

Los Dados: Chef Sue Torres is offering a Day of the Dead Celebration Menu including a five chile-rubbed pork chop, white chanterelle, trumpet royal, epazote and Oaxacan cheese quesadillas, agave-seared venison and extra-special margaritas. 73 Gansevoort St, at Washington Street, 646-810-7290.