Celebrating Day of the Dead at L.A. Restaurant Toca Madera
Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is a three-day long celebration of life and death where families commemorate their deceased loved ones. The tradition originates in Mexico, but the holiday is also observed in many Mexican-American communities — like Los Angeles.
Day of the Dead recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community. It is believed that on Day of the Dead, the dead are awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones.
When is it celebrated?
The three-day long celebration begins on October 31st and ends on November 2nd.
How is it celebrated?
While Halloween is commonly celebrated by dressing up as pop culture icons, going through haunted mazes, and carving pumpkins—people celebrate Day of the Dead by bringing offerings for their loved ones, participating in community festivals, and enjoying their favorite foods.
Gather a group of friends and celebrate the Day of the Dead with some traditional dishes. The most popular food is Pan de Muerto, “bread of the dead”, which is a sweet, brioche-like bread–usually shaped like a skull. Other popular foods include tamales (masa wrapped around fillings and steamed in a corn husk) and mole (a complex, flavorful sauce made with ground chiles, chocolate and numerous other ingredients).
Where can you celebrate?
There’s no shortage of places to celebrate Day of the Dead in Los Angeles. Events take place across the city, from L.A.’s oldest district to museums to a cemetery of Hollywood stars. Many LA restaurants and bars also offer Day of the Dead–themed food and drinks. But not many restaurants embrace Day of the Dead quite like Toca Madera.
The name translates to “knock on wood” because the wood they sourced (imported from a Oaxacan jungle) is thought to bring fortune and good luck. The interior architecture was designed with Day of the Dead in mind. Co-founder, Tosh Berman, envisioned an alluring and inviting space that showcased elements of the earth. The organic space features a color palette of gold and flame-inspired yellow. The earthy elements range from the custom-reclaimed ceiling planks, quartz stone, walnut-wood fixtures, and numerous fire details.
Customers can expect an intimate and captivating atmosphere: from the various photographs of Calavera Catrina dolls, to the amber glow from Edison bulb light fixtures, to the 100-foot long quartz bar, to the unique grid of skull sculptures. Toca Madera is full of eye-catching decor pieces, but the back wall of the dining room reveal individually lit skull sculptures installed in raw steel and wooden boxes.
Flaming wall and flaming drinks
Toca Madera’s menu highlights local farm-sourced ingredients, sustainable seafood with an emphasis on organic ingredients. If you want elevate your dining experience with a dose of theatrics, make sure to try the A La Roca—which is American Wagyu beef served on a sizzling hot stone and seared at your table. It comes with a plethora of sauces and spices (jus de vino mojo, diablo salsa, chipotle crema, and habanero salt) to add to the interactive element. Pair your dinner with their popular flaming cocktail, Ghost Rider—which comes with a flaming 151-soaked sugar skull candy garnish.
If you’re a restaurant owner, you can get in the spirit too by incorporating your own Day of the Dead decorations. Some examples of festive decor include bouquets of marigolds (a traditional flower displayed during this holiday), vibrant colored paper picado (tissue paper cut into different patterns), or Calavera Catrina doll figurines.