Actor Danny Trejo is expanding his taco empire with a new restaurant in Hollywood called Trejo’s Cantina. The restaurant, which opened Monday, is next to Big Wangs, at the corner of Selma Avenue and Cahuenga Boulevard.
This is the second restaurant for Trejo, film producer Ash Shah and Jeff Georgino. The trio opened Trejo’s Tacos on La Brea Avenue earlier this year, and launched a Trejo’s food truck a couple of weeks ago. The truck makes an appearance at every Rams home game.
Like the original Trejo’s Tacos, the cantina has plenty of tacos, including a rainbow cauliflower taco with cashew cream and a black pepper tofu taco with pickled onions. Trejo actually happens to be particularly fond of tofu. (There’s meat on the menu too).
“We’re trying to talk healthy,” said Trejo. “Me being the character I play on TV, you wouldn’t think I like tofu and kale, but I do. It’s really good for you.”
Chef John-Carlos Kuramoto, who has cooked at Michael’s in Santa Monica and Osteria Mozza and who became executive chef of Trejo’s restaurants four months ago, wanted to add larger entrées. New additions include a grilled spice-rubbed half Jidori chicken; marinated hanger steak and charred branzino. Each is served with tortillas made specifically for the restaurant by La Princesita in Boyle Heights and grilled vegetables.
“I wanted to expand the menu but stay true to our philosophy of keeping things simple,” said Kuramoto. “We’re making as much as possible in-house, including the hot sauce and salsas.”
There’s also a kale salad — Trejo loves kale too — with pomegranates, manchego cheese and a citrus vinaigrette, and a butter lettuce salad with charred tomato and summer squash.
Kuramoto said he’s also frequenting the Hollywood farmers market and plans to make use of the produce in some of the specials.
“I’m trying to get away from the idea of quick service and create a place where you can stay and just hang out,” said the chef.
With the larger location, which offers more seating than the restaurant on La Brea Avenue, there’s a full bar with cocktails by Mark Hendrix, including a michelada, a mezcal Negroni, spiked horchata and a margarita with a mango and serrano chile shrub, tequila, lime and agave. There are also 34 beers on tap, mostly from local breweries.
The two Trejo’s restaurants also have a beer made for them by Boomtown Brewery in the downtown L.A. Arts District. It’s a German-style lager with what partner Shah calls “Mexican elements” in the form of corn and flaked rice.
With two concepts complete, Shah isn’t ruling out the possibility of more Trejo’s restaurants.
“We didn’t want it to be a cookie-cutter thing,” said Shah. “For the next one, maybe a taqueria.”
Trejo’s Cantina is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Shah said they plan on extending the hours to 2 a.m. on the weekends, and may add a breakfast service as well.
1556 N. Cahuenga Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 461-TACO, www.trejostacos.com.
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