Food & Drink

Hollywood hardman Danny Trejo on the enduring appeal of tacos

Danny Trejo has swapped the big screen for taco joints – and he’s bringing his latest outpost to the UK. By Prudence Wade.

Danny Trejo set up his first taco joint back in 2016 – and now he’s coming to London
Danny Trejo Danny Trejo set up his first taco joint back in 2016 – and now he’s coming to London

Danny Trejo has spent his career playing machete-wielding hardmen on screen, belying a gentler personality behind-the-scenes.

He talks about his childhood in Los Angeles with warmth – particularly the way food brought everyone together.

“You know what, it was my mum’s house. It didn’t matter what time we came home – food was like the peacemaker, you walked in and she fed everybody,” Trejo, 79, remembers.

“It calmed everybody down. My house was the place where we had all the family parties and all the family get-togethers. One time I had a party – it was high school – and my mum and dad stole the show because they could dance, do the swing and stuff.”

Trejo adds with his signature braying laugh that he managed to stuff “like 300 kids” into the alley at the back of their house – with everyone flocking there for a good time and, of course, good food.

Trejo’s early life of crime is well documented, resulting in various stints in prison, before he made his way into Hollywood in the 1980s. What started as bit parts and roles as an extra soon morphed into a full-blown career: playing Isador ‘Machete’ Cortez in Spy Kids and the Machete franchise, as well as appearing in films like Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn and Con Air.

Off-screen, Trejo says he’s “always been health conscious” – particularly when working.

Danny Trejo

He recounts how appearing in low-budget films meant he always brought his own meals and snacks, because all that would be provided was fast food.

“I don’t eat processed food – I wanna cook my own hamburger!” he says.

“This producer called Ash [Shah] – who is now one of my business partners – he was the one that saw me eating my little tuna salad or chicken salad when everybody else was eating Mickey D’s. He was like, ‘Trejo – you eat good’.

“I was like, ‘I’m 70 years old, I better!’ And he said – ‘Why don’t you open a restaurant?’ Joking, I said: ‘Trejo’s Tacos’.”

What started as a joke soon turned into a full-blown business plan – Trejo said when he first saw the pitch for his own line of restaurants: “I opened it, and there were no killings or mayhem on the first page. Not my remit.”

But it obviously struck a chord – and in 2016, the first LA outpost was established and “killed it”, Trejo says. Now, he’s opening his first international joint – in London.

“Mexican food, tacos – they’re the easiest thing. It’s so funny, everybody has a special way they want their tacos – but they’re so simple and they’re so good. It’s really hard to make a bad taco. You have to really not like somebody to make a bad taco.”

Many of the recipes at Trejo’s Tacos were taken from his mother, but with a fundamental change.

“In the 50s and 60s, Latinos cooked with lard. So we had to take that out – everything that wasn’t healthy, we changed it for everything that was healthy,” Trejo explains.

Danny Trejo

There are plenty of vegan options on the menu, too – including tacos made from jackfruit and cauliflower.

“People think you have to be on some kind of diet – you don’t! Let me have some jackfruit, let me have some cauliflower, it helps clean out your system.”

There are also gluten-free options – not least because Trejo is allergic to gluten himself.

“I didn’t know that I was allergic to gluten – I would just eat and go do whatever I had to do, but it gives you acid reflux – and that’s what it did for me. When I found out I was allergic to gluten, I stopped – and no more acid reflux.”

Trejo celebrated 55 years of sobriety last year, and he says being teetotal has helped him appreciate food even more.

Danny Trejo

“People don’t understand with liquor – first of all, you’re putting three spoons of sugar on every bite. That’s what booze is made from, sugar. I know – I used to make pruno,” he says, referring to what’s often called ‘prison wine’, an alcoholic beverage largely made from fermented fruit.

“It’s the same thing when you drink a soda with food, it’s like you’re taking [away] the taste of the food. I love the taste of food – if I didn’t work out, we’d be doing an Overeaters Anonymous commercial right now.”

In his 70s, Trejo says walking keeps him fit – and the mental benefits definitely help. “You get to burn off the calories and the anxieties walking.”

Trejo’s Tacos will open at 299-301 Portobello Road from February 27. To subscribe to the mailing list for and for bookings visit trejostacos.co.uk