If you head over to Danny Trejo's IMDB page, you'll see that the actor has accumulated a ton of acting credits... some 400 to be exact.
Whenever a casting director needs a tough guy who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty, chances are they're already reaching out to Danny's representation. While he's best known as a thug, he was an excellent leading action star in the Machete films, but he also has another successful venture: restaurants.
Danny Trejo's prison time gave him a new respect for the "taco guy."
To talk about the man's restaurants without discussing how he got into the business would be a tragedy. The actor doesn't just play a hard-looking dude in his films: he came up hard himself. Originally from Echo Park, Calif., Danny found himself in trouble at a young age, which would eventually get him prison time.
In an article he penned for Bon Appetit, Danny talked about how important food was to him and how he became a restaurateur.
He calls eating a hard shell taco at the age of 4 or 5 a "rite of passage" because he was able to chew the same food that grown-ups did. Fast forward years later when he was locked up, and he vividly recalls a "gangster cholo" chef that would serve up tacos, burritos, and hot dogs. Even though the guy was "just a cook," Danny remembers a veiled threat from the cook after he had no money to buy taquitos.
"The first time I got to the joint, he comes by. 'Taquitos! Taquitos!' I whistle: 'How much are they, homie?' He tells me in Spanish and I say, 'You know what, I just got out of the hole, homes. I ain’t got no money.' And in unbelievable, perfect English, he goes, 'Oh, you don’t plan on leaving us soon, do you?' I almost died. Because what he’s saying is, 'Look, if you don't pay me later, I’ll kill you,'" the Machete star recalled.
He continued, "I’ll never forget that: You might not pay anybody, but the taco guy is the guy you always pay, because you always want to eat."
After getting out of the slammer, Danny ended up becoming a drug counselor, a role he still performs today when he isn't filming or running his restaurants. He started as a sponsor for someone who worked on a set, then he helped train actors to box, then he began joining the cast in films.
His love for clean eating started in his days as a "struggling actor" when he would bring his kids to the McDonald's play place so he could go over his lines and study. His son came home from school one day and admonished his father for feeding them "junk food," so he began seeking out organic meals. To this day, he's a notoriously picky eater, and that pickiness was noticed by producer Ash Shah, who suggested he start his own restaurant.
Trejo's Tacos started off as a joke between Danny and Ash.
"Ash said, 'Danny, why don’t you start a restaurant?' And jokingly, I said, 'Trejo's Tacos.' And that’s how we got the name. Two movies later he brought me a business plan. Now we’ve got seven taquerias and one donut and coffee shop."
Danny's desire to give back the community is reflected in the way he runs his businesses, too: "We employ second chances at our restaurants— kids who’ve gotten in trouble. People need a job and a chance, that’s all," Danny said.
Danny's seven taquerias have become so successful that he wrote a cookbook named after his restaurant chain. He's released his own beer too, even though he doesn't drink. He also launched his own line of coffee, and he also plans on starting an acting school.
The secret of his restaurant success has less to do with his acting exploits and more to do with his excellent taco recipe, according to Danny.
"The best taco in the world right now, and I challenge anybody, is the carnitas tacos guacamole at Trejo’s Cantina. I'm telling you, man. It’s so tender. We got secret ninja sauce that nobody knows. Remember that show Get Smart? Remember all the doors he used to have to go through? That’s the way you got to get to our kitchen. You got 12 doors to go through, different locks, combinations."
Tons of positive reviews from satisfied customers seem to support Danny's bold claim.
You can find Trejo's tacos and the actor's coffee and donut shop through the LA area, and the actor has several future appearances in films that have yet to be released or go into production, like Machete Kills in Space.