Danny Trejo: 'Machete' Star to Taco Baron & Beyond

“Life begins at 70!”

That’s what a proud Danny Trejo declared at the grand opening of his Trejo’s Cantina in Pasadena. Since March 2016, the Machete star whose resume includes nearly 300 films, including Heat, Con Air, Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn and Reindeer Games has morphed into quite the restaurateur with his Trejo’s Tacos, Trejo’s Cantina, Trejo’s taco truck (present at every Rams home game) and Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts.

“I’m 73 and every day I wake up and something more exciting is happening.”

Indeed, life likes good for the actor who started abusing drugs at 8-years-old, which led to shooting heroin by 12. Years later, stints at San Quentin and Soledad prisons followed.

Sober now for nearly 50 years, Trejo is always besieged by fans for photos or autographs. And he denies no one.

“I think God has blessed me with the ability to give people hope,” the actor confessed.

A senior with a menacing look and a smile that beams sweetheart, Trejo’s latest ventures showcase the other side of Danny Trejo—Mr. Nice Guy. And opening restaurants fulfills a lifelong dream.

“My mom always wanted a restaurant but my dad was the Mexican Archie Bunker so every time we talked about a restaurant he’d say, ‘I got a kitchen right there.’ We opened Trejo’s Tacos on La Brea and killed it, just killed it. Then we opened Trejo’s Cantina and did the same thing. Now we have Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts and here we are at Trejo’s Cantina in Pasadena.”

Hanging out with restaurateur Danny Trejo at the opening of Trejo’s Cantina in Pasadena.
Hanging out with restaurateur Danny Trejo at the opening of Trejo’s Cantina in Pasadena.

Soon another Trejo’s Tacos will follow at USC Village.

At his donut shop it’s all about the O.G. sweets with the Abuelita, Margarita, Café Con Leche, Low Rider and Coco Loco donuts. At Trejo’s Tacos, it’s all about “la familia” recipes, including the street corn courtesy of his agent Gloria.

“I use a lot of my mom’s ideas but our chefs, I’ll give them ideas and they just run with it. I love the brisket. It’s my favorite. My mom used to marinate brisket for eight hours and it’s the same thing here. And our Shrimp Diablo comes on a bed of cheese and potatoes and it’s unbelievable.”

For Trejo, who refuses to buy into the notion and trappings of Hollywood and “star,” staying humble and grounded is how he survives.

“I stop by and check in at every one of these places. Celebrities actually think they can do something and people will just show up because of their name. What are you talking about? When you look at all celebrities that open restaurants, they all die simply because they’re not watching the food. Here, it has to be up to standards. Everybody will come once to see the celebrity but after that, the food has to be good.”

An assortment of tacos at the new Trejo’s Cantina in Pasadena.
An assortment of tacos at the new Trejo’s Cantina in Pasadena.

Danny Trejo’s ventures, including Trejo’s Tacos, Trejo’s Cantina and Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts are located throughout Los Angeles.

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