Halloween and Day of the Dead celebrations are just getting started as Houston celebrates the many incarnations of All Saints Day. Bars and restaurants are hosting celebrations and serving special cocktails and food to commemorate the two fall holidays. While many people in Houston are familiar with Halloween (October 31) and the Day of the Dead (November 1 through 2), also known as Día de los Muertos, some may be less familiar with the latter’s rich history and cultural significance. A lot of the specials are named for the customs, ceremonies and beliefs that honor the dead, so it’s helpful to know a careta from a calaca.
The tradition of Dia de los Muertos mixes Mesoamerican culture with Catholicism in a jarrito — little cauldron — of tradition. It is celebrated throughout Mexico, especially in Oaxaca, and in parts of Central America as the time when the dead visit the living and the living honor the dead. Though there are earlier ceremonies that take place in some areas, the Noche de Duelo — the night of mourning — is the first major event on November 1.
The evening is marked by candlelight processions to cemeteries where the iIluminación — the lighting— takes place. It is presumed that the dead need help finding their way back, so the living set up a runway of lights to land them safely. Cempazuchitl — marigolds — decorate the graves of ancestors. The flowers’ brilliant orange color and pungent smell steer the ancestors in the right direction. Papel picado — the colorful paper cutouts that banner the streets — also guide the dead as the paper crinkles in the wind. Ofrendas — altars — are meant to attract and entertain the departed with gifts of candles, incense and calaveras de azucar (sugar skulls decorated with icing), pan de muerto (a sweet, round bread decorated with bone-shaped strips) and golletes (a doughnut-shaped sweet bread). Obviously, the dead love sweets. There are also photographs of the ones we’ve lost, a few of their favorite things and figurines of calacas, or skeletons, doing things the dead loved to do while they were alive.
At midnight on November 1, the angelitos — which means little angels, referring to children who have died — visit the living and stay for the day. Their altars typically display toys and games. Then on November 2, the adult dead may be lured to their altars. Once the dead crossover, they only get a vague sense of life on this side, and that is why it is important to be fully alive when they come. To commune with the dead is to feast and dance so the dead can experience life vicariously through the living.
To encourage this partying, parades with comparsas — parade dancers — and mojiganga — giant skeleton puppets — will revel throughout the night. Feasting is encouraged in the form of the traditional foods of Fall. Dark moles are popular as are tamales and calabaza en tacha —candied pumpkin. Hot chocolate, sometimes spiced with chiles, helps warm revelers’ bones, as does atole, a warm, sweet, vanilla-and-corn masa drink. At the end of the ceremonies, caretas — masks — are worn to scare the souls back to the land of the dead.
This year on November 6, Houston is hosting its first ever Dia de los Muertos parade. The day of festivities starts at 2 p.m. and the illuminated procession will float through downtown Houston starting at 6 p.m., ending at City Hall.
There are many public ofrendas available throughout Houston (see below for more details) where you can bring framed photographs of those you’ve lost and maybe a small token of something they enjoyed. The people who built the altars will have already placed the marigolds and pan de muerto. It’s up to you to kick up a little noise so the dead can hear you. Paint your face, eat some mole and dance a little. Do it for them. After all, they only get to wake up once a year, while you can enjoy life’s pleasures every day.
Palace Social, 4191 Bellaire: On October 30, vamp it up in your best costume for a chance to bite into $100 in Palace Social Play cards. On October 31, trick-or-treaters are invited to score candy throughout the lair. Costume contests are taking place at 2 and 6 p.m. Go batty over the Witch’s Brew and the Pumpkin Spice White Russian seasonal cocktails.
Dario’s Steakhouse and Seafood, 14315 Cypress Rosehill, Cypress: During October, indulge the creature comforts with a green Monster Mash cocktail made with Stoli vodka, green apple liqueur and vanilla.
Galiana’s Tex Mex and Agave Bar, 24110 Northwest Freeway, Cypress: During October, conjure up some Practical Magic with this lavender, lemon and raspberry-flavored Maestro Dobel silver tequila concoction. It is garnished with a mini Reese’s, and the glass rim is dipped in black and orange sugar.
Marvino’s Italian Steakhouse, 24002 Northwest Freeway, Cypress: All of October, creep it real with Dead Of The Night, a simple cocktail made with Hendricks Gin, lemon, creme de cassis (a black currant liqueur, which gives the drink a grave color) and topped with a rim of black sugar.
Downtown Aquarium, 410 Bagby: On Sunday, October 31, mummies can take their children to the zombi-fying 500,000 gallon aquarium — especially since kids can eat for just 99 cents. In addition, children in costume receive half-price tickets to the Aquarium Exhibit with the purchase of an adult ticket. The exhibit has eight areas to explore, including a Louisiana swamp, underwater shipwreck, tropical rainforest, sunken temple, offshore rig and Maharaja’s temple. This offer is also valid at the Kemah location. Get tickets on the website.
Bayou & Bottle at Four Seasons Houston, 1300 Lamar: Through Tuesday, November 2, arouse your spirit with a marigold-inspired cocktail, the Flor de Muertos Margarita, made with Patron silver tequila, lime, agave and passion fruit. “We’ve chosen the marigold as the way we’re telling the story of Día de los Muertos this year, as it’s symbolically used during the holiday and it is believed that the color and smell help guide one’s ancestors,” said chef Richard Sandoval.
C. Baldwin Hotel, 400 Dallas: On November 6, Houston celebrates Dia de los Muertos with its first-ever night-time parade, and C. Baldwin is in a wicked spot to enjoy the festivities. It’s situated candy-cornered to Sam Houston Park where a festival with food entertainment and family activities will take place. The hotel is offering seating with a dead-center view to the parade for $35 which includes cocktail service and a VIP after-party. Stay the night for $375 and get a package for two with seat tickets, welcome cocktails, upscale snacks and breakfast in the morning. Buy tickets or the package at Eventbrite.
Xochi, 1777 Walker: From October 29 to November 1, bury yourself in a four-course prix fixe menu. Plot to try either the Angus steak, sauteed shrimp or Tetela de Platano, a plantain and mole amarillo tamale. Wake from the dead with the Calabera de Chocolate for dessert, a chocolate skull filled with chocolate mousse, mole cake and chocolate soil. Enjoy the menu before it passes away.
8th Wonder Brewery, 2202 Dallas: On October 30 and 31: It would be a grave mistake to miss Kawaii Zombie — a free family event with over 30 food vendors. Prepare for the apocalypse with Black Box Pasta’s freshly made dishes, or the Korean-style Seoulside Wings — just to name a few of the food trucks and vendors that plan to arrive alive. You can also survive the horde with dozens of beers from the 8th Wonder Brewery. There will be plenty of parking, live entertainment and trick-or-treating for all. The brains in charge will judge a costume contest for the “Kawaii Zombie” theme. Bring cash!
Caracol, 2200 Post Oak: From October 29 to November 2, the four-course prix fixe dinner at this restaurant from Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught will make you scream. Place photos of your missed loved ones at the ofrenda, then decide “witch” entrée to choose, such as the Arroz Negro con Camarones (black rice with shrimp), a nod to the dark holiday. Peruse the menu for yourself online.
URBE, 1101 Uptown Park: On November 2, Hugo Ortega’s and Tracy Vaught’s newest restaurant will masquerade as a Mexican street, complete with street food and interactive stations. Life music will have you doing the Monster Mash, and there will also be a face painter and costume contest with prizes. Patrón is setting up a tequila tasting station that will serve frozen and classic tequila drinks.
Heights House Hotel, 100 West Cavalcade: On October 30, beasts will invade the hotel between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m for A Dogpop Halloween featuring three different dog costume contests with cash and product prizes. Local pet product vendors, brunch and a patio big enough for a pack of werewolves will have you howling. For details, visit the website. At 7 p.m., Noche de los Muertos arises with a curated market from 7 to 11 p.m. Space Cowboy is bringing the music and all the food and drinks it can brew, and the evening will be topped off with best female, male and couples costume contests. Winners will also take home cash and prizes. The party goes until 2 a.m.
Safina and The Naturalist Café and Lounge at the Intercontinental Hotel, 6750 Main: Through October 31, the special menu includes decorated deviled eggs with caviar. For an equally devilish shot, The Chainsaw is a harrowing mixture of chilled tequila, Tabasco and a pinch of black pepper that will make you scream — but will anyone hear you?
Doris Metropolitan, 2815 South Shepherd: On October 28, costumers will be dying to get into the annual Halloween Bash that sells out each year. Dress as you aren’t, and enjoy a night of cocktail specials, giveaways, a DJ and costume contest. The party starts at 9 p.m. and reservations are encouraged.
Eighteen 36, 2221 West Alabama: Zombie Brains are just what the witch-doctor ordered, but if rum drinks make you groan, try a Houston Hellfire made with cinnamon whiskey.
Hugo’s, 1600 Westheimer: From October 29 to November 2, you will be possessed by the choices on the prix fixe Day of the Dead menu. Choices such as the Costillas De Res, or slow- braised short ribs with mole poblano, will have you hovering over the menu. Bring a photo for the ofrenda.
Traveler’s Table, 520 Westheimer: From October 29 through 31, Pick Your Poison at Traveler’s Table. Dress up and get a free Pumpkin Pie Shot complete with a graham cracker rim. More jack-o’-lantern-inspired drinks include the Pumpkin Patch Martini made with vodka, Licor 43 and a pumpkin slice or the bourbon based Smashing Pumpkin Cocktail.
Monkey’s Tail, 5802 Fulton: Through November 2, you will become enchanted with the cantaritos, pozole and mariachis at this lively haunt. Starting on October 25, guests can bring photos of their loved ones for the ofrenda. On October 30, brunch with DJ BeatSicarios will stir your soul while mariachi musicians rattle your bones at the cantarito bar on back patio. There’s also a costume contest. On October 31, DJ Andy Savage will rip it up during brunch, and the cantarito bar will be on the back patio.
a’Bouzy, 2300 Westheimer: On October 30, knock on a’Bouzy’s door for Champagne treats with a Veuve Clicquot Yelloween brunch. Wear a costume and enjoy discounted bottles that won’t trick your wallet.
Pier 6 Seafood & Oyster House, 113 6th, San Leon: On October 30, the All Hallow’s Eve and one-year anniversary carnival will haunts the docks with an electrifying DJ dance party, terrifying haunted house, ghostly aerial artists and a photo booth that may steal your soul. Food, drink specials and candy will bring you to life, and a costume contest with prizes will have you shrieking. The DJ starts at 5 p.m., and the party runs from until 9 p.m. All ages are welcome.
Spring / Far Northwest Houston
Bibimbox Asian Grill and Teabar, 10111 Louetta: Pumpkin-flavored teas and frappes will give them pumpkin to talk about. Darken your plate with the squid ink rice option while the little monsters eat free with the purchase of an adult meal.
City Place,1250 Lake Plaza: City Place is scaring-up several events for the season, all of which take place at City Place Plaza adjacent to the City Place Marriott.
will be served on the Plaza. The event will feature supernatural chefs
of Mexico and
of Houston (and forthcoming restaurant The Lymbar at The Ion ) who have concocted a four-course meal with wine pairings. There will be an ofrenda, complimentary floral crowns, Catrina face painting, and photo-opportunity areas. The seated dinner starts at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $150
Día De Los Muertos Calacas and Cocktails Happy Hour
stirs the dead from 5 to 9 p.m. with live music, complimentary Catrina face painting, floral crowns, access to the Día De Los Muertos altar, margaritas and beverages for sale. Insta-grim opportunity areas and a
with mojigangas to the traditional altar will excite beings both the corporal and otherwise. You may also upgrade to a VIP ticket for the Candlelight Procession with a special gathering in the Houston CityPlace Marriott Canopy Room Salon from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tickets include a welcome drink, Catrina face painting, a candle kit, and floral crowns. The Candlelight Procession starts at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $35.
October 30: The Mercado will showcase a variety of Mexican folk-art vendors and artisans selling an assortment of upscale accessories, art, jewelry, clothing, handcrafted ornaments and more. Traditional music and DJs will make you jump, and other fun things to do include face painting, photo opportunities and kids’ activities. In the evening, honor the dead by joining the candlelight procession to the traditional altar alongside mojigangas at 8 p.m. The event is free for all souls.
- October 31: Family Movie Night
will be horribly fun with a screening of the Pixar movie
CoCo. The gathering starts
at 6 p.m. on The Plaza and the film starts at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free. To RSVP, send an email with the subject line, “Remember Me.” The event includes complimentary face painting and activities for kids.
Feges BBQ Spring Branch, 8217 Long Point, October 30: The Saturday Spooktacular from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. will mystify with its spooky maze, Cupcake’s Haunted House, and a screening of “Hocus Pocus.” Dress for the costume contests and try the Halloween cocktails and dinner specials.
Ember & Greens, 9403 Katy Freeway: On October 30 and 31, gremlins under 12 who wear a costume can dine for free from the restaurant’s children’s menu and visit the Halloween table for more treats. Adults accompanying costumed children can enjoy a cocktail and strangled prices on drinks and snacks. Adults without costumed children can do the same by chanting the words “Halloween Happy Hour” when ordering.
Arnaldo Richard’s Picos, 3601 Kirby: Now through November 2, chef/owner Arnaldo Richards’ daughter and Picos’ chief marketing officer, Monica Richards, has incanted two potions: the La Ofrenda and El Miedo. El Miedo (The Fear) is a blend of Bombay Sapphire gin and orange agave nectar. La Ofrenda features Cazadores silver and fresh grapefruit juice served in a prayer glass.
Dessert Gallery, 3600 Kirby: They’ll be goblin up these colorful Halloween and Day of the Dead treats from Dessert Gallery. Also grab a DIY Cookie Decorating Survival Kit to keep little beasts busy, or bite into professionally decorated cookies, cupcakes and petit-fours. Find out what to devour next by checking out the menu.
Pinstripes, 3300 Kirby: This bistro and bowling destination will squash your hunger with its Halloween specials. The Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie and specialty drink, the Lil Pumpkin Chai Cocktail, are ahead of the carve. Dress in gourd-eous costumes when visiting Pinstripes on October 30 and 31 for a spice-ial surprise.
Pondicheri, 2800 Kirby: The gluten-free Bat Cake is a familiar favorite.It is a chocolate cake made using almond flour and Valrhona cocoa powder, layered with chocolate ganache and topped with shadowy, housemade chocolate bats. Pre-order cakes from the catering page, since missing out on one could suck the life right out of you.
Washington Avenue / Rice Military
B & B Butcher, 1814 Washington: On Saturday, October 30, get your spirits shaking with mariachis and DJ G-Funk at this Day of the Dead brunch. Mexico City-inspired brunch dishes and Código 1530 tequila specialty cocktails will be there, as well as face painters. Feel free to wear a costume. For more information, visit the event page.
Cadillac Bar, 1802 Shepherd: On October 31 and November 1, Bring the ghoul-friend for the Fajita and Margarita Combo for $59 which comes with a pitcher for two. Margarita pitchers, tequila shots and beer prices will all be slashed for the weekend. Get your face painted on Monday from 4 to 10 p.m. or try the new signature Day of the Dead cocktail. For more information or to make a reservation, visit the Cadillac Bar website.
Hungry Like the Wolf, 920 Studemont: On October 30, shake your bones at this inaugural Halloween Dance Party with legendary ’80s club DJ Andy Kogut. The costume contests, games and photo ops will be spine-tingling fun. Tibia honest, the food and drink specials, including late-night fright bites and devilish shots and cocktails will keep you in a humerus mood. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door, and include a hip glass of Champagne. If you kneed, you can reserve a table for $200, including ticket entry for six and a bottle of Champagne. The event is 21-and-up.
Back Table Kitchen & Bar, 2301 North Millbend, The Woodlands: Through October 31, if the broom fits, order a Witches’ Cauldron Martini perched beneath orange whipped cream and a sugar skull, and fatten up the children with the non-alcoholic Skeleton Shake adorned with white chocolate skeleton hands.
Como Social Club, 2 Waterway Square Place, The Woodlands: Until October 31, order the Cantarito cocktail and watch the eerie concoction bubble and boil in clay calavera mugs. The flavors offer a Paloma-like pop thanks to the inclusion of Don Julio Reposado tequila and Squirt grapefruit soda.
The Woodlands Resort, 2301 North Millbend, The Woodlands: On October 29 and 30, spend the night if you dare as overnight guests will have frightful fun. Drown yourself in poolside games, pumpkin decorating and two movie nights featuring the Corpse Bride on October 29 and Coco on October 30. The resort’s Spooky Bash Brunch is offered on Sunday, October 31 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Prices are $35 per adult and $16 for kids 12 and under. Jack-O’-Lantern Pork Belly Bao, Devil Street Tacos and other wicked menu items will be featured.
Alicia’s Mexican Grille, multiple locations: Now until Tuesday, November 2, you’ll scream for the La Llorona — a cocktail named for a crying woman who haunts the waterfronts. It is made with Maestro Dobel reposado tequila, strawberries and black sugar.