Danny Trejo's Advice to Aspiring Restaurateurs: Don't Half-Ass It

Danny Trejo's Advice to Aspiring Restaurateurs: Don't Half-Ass It (2)EXPAND
Susan Hornik

He may be a badass onscreen, but offscreen Danny Trejo is a pussycat, especially when it comes to his culinary talents. The veteran actor and La Brea Boulevard restaurateur just launched a new food truck and will be opening a second Trejo’s Tacos in Hollywood later this month.

The Hollywood location will seat more and will be open late at night, for the clubgoing crowd. “We want to expand the menu eventually but do it slowly. People start restaurants with a huge menu and then they get overwhelmed,” Trejo said.

A native Angeleno, Trejo loves his city. “I am a guy who grew up and was raised here, in the 1950s. I know the ins and outs of the city and I know what works and what doesn’t work. Like when you look at old Hollywood-style restaurants like the Pantry, it’s been here since 1924. Why? Because their food is good. And it’s not really expensive. It’s the best $18 steak you can get. Or Musso & Frank Grill, they’ve been open since 1919. When I was a kid, we used to go there when we had some money. To this day, I still go to both places. Why? Because it’s delicious food. Both have become tourist attractions.”

And now, Trejo’s Tacos is becoming a destination as well. “Nowadays, if you have a family of four, somebody is allergic to gluten or is a vegetarian and someone eats meat. We’ve actually had families tell us, ‘This is the only place we can go where we can all eat.’ Here we cover all bases by offering something for everyone.”

With the new taco truck, Trejo can go everywhere. “I love it, I can’t wait to get in it.” Road trips to San Antonio, Seattle, Las Vegas and San Diego are being planned.

Ask him about his entrepreneurial success or any other subject, and the Machete star remains humble, as Trejo feels he is just fulfilling a culinary destiny his mom would have been proud of.

“My mom was a great cook and she always wanted to create a restaurant. But every time she would talk about her dream, my dad would not encourage her — he was the Mexican Archie Bunker! One day, when I was working on the film Badass, the producer said to me, ‘Why don’t you start a restaurant?' I just jokingly said, ‘Trejo’s Tacos.’ Two movies later, he came to me with a great business plan and I showed it to my agent and secretary and they thought it was a good, fair deal. That’s how the restaurant got started.”

While Trejo thinks L.A. is “absolutely” a good place to start a restaurant/food truck business, he has one vital proviso: It has to be good.

“It’s not a good place to come in half-assed. You'd better be on the ball. I always say the competition is unbelievable. But there is competition in everything in L.A., even if you want to be a plumber! So if you want to start a food truck or a restaurant, you'd better do it well. And we are doing really, really well. We got voted one of the 20 best restaurants in L.A. by The Hollywood Reporter. That was awesome. People like the food. If you start seeing a lot of old people in your restaurant, nine times out of 10, the food is good, it’s easy to digest and it’s healthy.”

Trejo added: “This is America. It’s a great time to do anything you want to do. I would rather shoot for the moon and miss than aim for the gutter and make it. And this is L.A. — you have to shoot for the moon.”

Fun facts:
Trejo loves Musso & Frank on Thursdays. His family tradition is to have the chicken pot pie there.

Trejo's favorite items on his own menu: the brisket and the street corn.

1048 S. La Brea Ave., Mid-Wilshire, (323) 938-8226, trejostacos.com.

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