Drug Lord-Themed LA Restaurant Sparks Controversy

By McCarton Ackerman 05/13/16

The drug cartel and mob-themed restaurant has local residents up in arms over its "tasteless" theme and glamorization of drug traffickers.  

Drug Lord-Themed LA Restaurant Sparks Controversy
Photo via YouTube/Univision Noticias

A drug-lord themed taqueria that recently opened up just outside of the City of Angels has been sparking plenty of conversation among the locals.

The menu at Tacos Los Desvelados pays homage to some of the most infamous drug lords in history. Customers can order "El Chapo" tacos, a burrito named after Pablo Escobar, and nachos named after Sinaloa Cartel leader, Ignacio Coronel "Nacho" Villarreal. 

Going along with the theme, the taqueria, which opened October 2015 in the city of Maywood, is decked out with drug cartel and mob-themed decor. The tables and walls are adorned with images of the famous drug lords, and gangsters like Al Capone, Vito Corleone from The Godfather and Tony Montana from Scarface.

The restaurant also had a small shrine of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman—the former head of the Sinaloa Cartel, and once the world's most wanted drug lord—but took it down after it attracted too much attention, according to the LA Times. Guzman is currently in police custody after he was caught on the lam in January, after he escaped from a Mexican prison last year. This week, a judge ruled that El Chapo may be extradited to the United States to face a slew of charges including drug trafficking and murder.

The tacky theme of the new restaurant isn't sitting too well with some locals, though. “They're trying to make drug cartels look cool and I don’t think it’s right,” a local, Stephanie Lopez, told the Times. “It's offensive to me. When we talk about drug traffickers, we’re talking about millions of people who have died,” said another, Maria Medina, a native of Mexico.

But its customers believe the cartel theme is simply good business, telling the Times that they came to the restaurant after seeing it on the local news. And according to the owner, Fabricio Ramirez, the restaurant has attracted a diverse customer base since it opened.

Robert Thompson, who teaches pop culture at Syracuse University, said the wide appeal of the restaurant shows that people understand it isn’t trying to glorify drug cartels. "When you call a pizza chain Goodfellas, it doesn't mean you're advocating mafia rule," he told the Times. "It means you're referring to a large and compelling ... almost mythology that includes the great narratives of the mafia and organized crime."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.