Dia De Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a far better Mexican holiday for drinking than the ubiquitous and boring Cinco de Mayo. We've all lost loved ones, and on the Day of the Dead, the Latin American holiday that coincides with All Souls Day (Nov. 2), we raise our glasses to them. Should you want to celebrate the holiday with people who actually know what it is, there are an increasing number of bars owned by and catering to Hispanics in Baltimore. We stopped into Asa Luna (500 S. Lehigh St.) in the spot that was once the Charm City Inn and more recently the Tequilazo Tavern. Asa Luna is not immediately inviting. When you first open the door, it has the same cheap perfume plus antiseptic smell as strip clubs. The women sitting around in low-cut evening gowns and the very large bouncer who searched us added to the impression. We thought it would be a one-and-done visit. But, after we got searched and settled in, it turned out to be one of the best bars we'd visited in a while.
In the back, people shot pool and danced to the DJ playing Reggaeton, while at the bar about half a dozen people sat around drinking $3 Mexican beers or $5 shots, especially of rose-colored tequila, and talking with the gregarious and mustachioed owner Jose Luna (at Happy Hour the beers are $2). Ishmael, who sat beside us, insisted on buying us a round, which led to several more. The dancing and the music were as contagious as the Modelos and it was a long time before we managed to leave, having made friends with the entire bar. It's where we'll be on Dia De Los Muertos, or any time we're in Highlandtown.