Actor Danny Trejo is known for his gritty portrayals of grittier characters. But, with the opening of his first restaurant, Trejo’s Tacos on La Brea and Olympic (there’s another downtown location in the works), he’s quickly becoming known for something else: tasty Mexican food with a healthy, organic twist. We spoke with him about how his taqueria came to be, and whether Razor Charlie or Machete would have made better tacos.
Was owning a restaurant always part of your long-term career plan?
No, it wasn’t; It was actually my mother’s plan. My mom always had this dream of opening up a little restaurant—she was really a great cook—but that was the era when the man worked and the woman stayed at home. So every time she would start talking about this restaurant idea, my dad would always say, “Well why don’t you just cook at home?!” Man, the word macho in the dictionary has a picture of my dad’s face right next to it.
That’s funny, in my dictionary, it’s your face next to macho. So did your mom come up with most of the recipes?
A lot of the recipes are based on my mom’s, but you gotta remember there weren’t a lot of veggies in our kitchen growing up. I’m not sure, but I think it’s against the law for a Mexican to be vegetarian.
Yeah, speaking of which, you’ve become a somewhat of a vegan hero with your tofu taco.
I like vegan food! My kids’ mom took me to a restaurant in Culver City—it was on Centinela and Washington—and I ordered this steak salad. I ate it and it was delicious. Oh God, it was freaking great. And the waiter goes, “That was vegetarian, man!”
It seems like Trejo’s Tacos is covering a whole list of health trends. There’s organic, gluten-free—you guys even have kombucha.
Well, as an actor, when I go out with a crew of fellow actors, we’ll be looking for a restaurant, and, say we find a steakhouse, someone always goes, “Oh, well I’m a vegetarian, or I can’t eat gluten.” Actors are all wussies, you know? We started talking about the restaurant and we just decided, let’s try to make everybody happy. If you’re gluten free; we got it. Vegetarian? We got it.
If you had to eat one taco for the rest of your life, where would it be?
Even with me being a little healthy and stuff, I still like fried food. We have this fried chicken taco that’s in a lettuce wrap that’s unbelievably delicious. So it’s like half-healthy I guess.
I noticed the lettuce wrapped tacos are called Machete-style. Was Machete afraid of carbs? Was Machete on Atkins?
Well you know, Machete would sometimes have to eat cactus if he was in the desert, and there ain’t no carbs in cactus.
Which character that you’ve portrayed makes the best tacos?
I think probably Razor Charlie in From Dusk Till Dawn. Because he was already working at a bar in Mexico, and we all know that’s where the best tacos are.