By Hungry Hungry Harris
Back in March I had the privilege of visiting Trejo’s Tacos during its soft opening and was treated to a feast of tacos, beans, fresh salsas and aguas frescas. Well, Danny Trejo had my curiosity then, but now he has my complete attention with his Trejo’s Cantina.
Ryan Kolbe, Trejo’s Cantina beer guy, hosted a beer and taco tasting at the brand new Trejo’s Cantina on Cahuenga Blvd in Hollywood. The cantina is situated in what could possibly be the best foodie corner in LA, tucked in between Big Wangs, Smoke’s Poutinerie and Stout. I had the pleasure of sampling Trejo’s Cantina’s extensive beer list paired with his amazing street tacos.
Trejo’s vast list of beers includes offering from breweries like 21st Amendment, Eagle Rock Brewing, Three Weavers, El Segundo Brewing, Ale Smith, Sierra Nevada and Stone. Machete even has a couple of his own Mexican Style and Amber lagers brewed by Boomtown Brewery.
Accompanying the excellent beer options, Trejo’s Cantina is serving up the same menu everyone has fallen in love with from his taqueria on La Brea. The cantina serves up tacos full of quality meat and fresh veggies. One thing Ryan emphasized is how fresh the food is, everything is made to order.
Trejo’s sets itself apart from all of the established eateries on that corner by offering beer that isn’t available everywhere and pairing them with delicious Mexican food. We started the night off with Figueroa Mountain Brewing’s Mosaic, a tropical pale ale, and a healthy serving of Danny Trejo’s signature guacamole topped with crushed pistachios. After scooping as much guacamole onto one chip as I could I was presented with a Trejo’s popper. The popper is a beer battered yellow chili or “chile guerito” garnished with corn, shallots, garlic, cashew cream and pico de gallo. In order to get all of the flavors as I think the chef intended I took one big bite of the whole chile and made sure it was covered with the accompanying garnishes. The flavor was intense and the chili had a perfect crunch. Ryan paired the Trejo Popper with The Bruery’s Humulus Lager. The lager is an aromatic, hoppy beer, with citrus, pine and intense herbal characteristics. According to their website, they promised they would never brew an IPA, but this is the closest they’ve come to breaking that promise. If you’ve read any of my other beer articles than you know how I feel about IPAs. It’s good to see that The Bruery agrees with me.
On to the main course, Ryan brought out just about every taco that Trejo’s Cantina offers. All of which I am very familiar with after visiting Trejo’s Tacos a handful of times since they’ve opened. The first serving of tacos included a carnitas, rainbow cauliflower and black pepper tofu. The carnitas taco was absolute perfection. It’s topped with red onion, cilantro, charred pineapple and fermented red chile sauce. Pineapples aren’t only for Al Pastor anymore. The combination of the salty pork and the sweet pineapple left my mouth watering and wanting about ten more tacos. The black pepper tofu became one of my favorites back when I first tried Trejo’s back in March. It was actually my first time trying tofu. The tufo taco is garnished with caramelized shallots, serrano chiles, pickled onions, scallions and cilantro. The caramelized shallots brought a sweet flavor to the pretty spicy black pepper tofu. The tofu has a slight crunch almost reminiscent of a beer battered fish taco. The Rainbow cauliflower taco was the surprise of the night. I consider myself an alpha carnivore, but damn the cauliflower was a hit with my taste buds. The beautifully colored cauliflower was topped with corn, cashew cream, pickled onion and micro cilantro. The cauliflower had a perfect texture, cooked all the through but still had a nice crunch.
Our bartender, Ryan, brought out a few samples of beer with our taco plate. His recommendations included Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale, Made West Pale Ale and Energen’s Valkyrie German Amber
The second round consisted of a grilled and fried Jidori chicken and the beef brisket tacos. Trejo’s fried Jidori chicken is actually one of the best pieces of fried chicken I have ever eaten. The chicken is perfectly seasoned and breaded for the perfect amount of crunch. This taco is served in a butter lettuce cup and topped with slaw, chipotle cream and pico de gallo. Just writing about this taco is bringing a tear to my eye. Ryan explained that the chicken is served on lettuce because the chef felt that adding a tortilla would make the taco too heavy and “bready.” In Trejo’s Tacos chef I trust!
After thinking that my night could not get any better, the dessert portion was brought out with the most delicious accompanying beers. We were treated to Cool Haus ice cream sandwiches and a chocolate hazelnut bar. The ice cream sandwiches included a vanilla ice cream with chocolate chip cookies, strawberry ice cream in between two snickerdoodle cookies and a cookies and cream ice cream sandwiched in between two mint chocolate cookies. These ice cream sandwiches were absolutely divine. Divine? You might ask. Yes, divine because that is the only word that does them any justice.
The deserts were paired with a pair of milk stouts, Stone’s Xocoveza (pronounced Choco-veza) and Firestone Walker’s Nitro Merlin. The Xocoveza was the stuff that dreams are made of. It was a Mexican hot chocolate except it was cold and it gets you drunk. Stouts aren’t my go to beer because they’re usually heavy but the Xocoveza was surprisingly light but packed with cinnamon and bitter chocolate flavor. I feel like this beer will be my white whale this holiday season. Now that I know how delicious it is I won’t be able to find because that’s just the way life is. If you get a chance to try it, you should definitely drink a lot of it.
I want to thank Ryan and the good folks at Trejo’s Cantina for having me out there. It was definitely awesome that you guys have combined two of my favorite things, tacos and craft beer. I can’t wait to visit again. Be sure to check out Trejo’s Tacos on LA Brea, Trejo’s Cantina and Trejo’s Taco Truck.