May 28, 2024 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

An Interview With the Owners of Tito’s Tacos, Lynne Davidson and Wirt Morton

New Menu Items, This Year’s Fiesta Mexicana and a New Documentary

By Dolores Quintana

With the new chicken burrito slated to be added on May 5, I spoke with Tito’s Tacos owners Lynne Davidson and Wirt Morton about the burrito, their dedication to bringing quality tacos and burritos to their customers, and the restaurant’s plans for this year’s Fiesta Mexicana.

There are many new exciting things going on in the world of Tito’s Tacos, including a new behind-the-scenes documentary about the Fiesta. It was a pleasure to speak with Lynne and Wirt about their restaurant, their connection to their employees, and many other topics. There may be some inside information about the new menu item that we are all looking forward to. 

Dolores Quintana: Lynne, you are the granddaughter of the original owner of Tito’s Tacos, correct?

Lynne Davidson: Yes, Ben Davidson. Then my dad, Norman Davidson, came into the business in the early 60s when my grandfather was getting sick. He worked here and was semi-retired in the mid-eighties, and I’ve been here ever since. 

Dolores Quintana: So Tito’s Tacos is a family tradition for you. Let’s start with the big announcement. Tito’s Tacos will be adding a new menu item starting on Cinco de Mayo: a chicken burrito, correct? That is something that is very exciting for Tito’s fans. Could you tell me a little about the burrito?

Wirt Morton: Everyone was rather shocked a couple of months ago when my wife announced in a manager’s meeting that the chicken burrito would be added to the menu. We were all aghast. She said that there were a couple of reasons why. She said that there have been people, over the decades who wanted chicken and that some prefer chicken to beef. The other reason is that in these economic times, we’re going through, it provides a burrito that is about a dollar cheaper.

Lynne Davidson: I can offer customers a less expensive protein, and the prices are so high everywhere.

Wirt Morton: Tito’s has opportunities constantly to downgrade the quality of the ingredients. Lynne tells me stories about people who would attempt to sell old tomatoes. 

Dolores Quintana: Tito’s is definitely known for their quality and the high standards of their ingredients. It’s not just the meat, but also how it is prepared. Can you give me some details about the new burrito?

Lynne Davidson: This new chicken burrito is half white meat and half thigh meat, and it’s slow-cooked for about two to two and a half hours on the stove. 

Wirt Morton: The burritos are cooked with Tito’s Mexican spice blend. 

Lynne Davidson: It fits right in with the other items on the menu. It’s really good, and you’ll like it. 

Wirt Morton: The tortilla that Tito’s burritos are wrapped in is something my wife was very much involved with bringing to Tito’s. The tortillas are specially made flour tortillas, and that’s why they taste so good. 

Lynne Davidson: The tortillas are custom-made for us. 

Dolores Quintana: Nice. You can taste the quality of the tortillas as well. How is Tito’s Tacos doing?

Lynne Davidson: Things are going well. Just chugging along. We do our thing here. It’s kind of the same thing every day. 

Wirt Morton: I laughed. But I mean, she’s now working six days a week. It used to be seven. 

Dolores Quintana: Oh. So you’re taking an extra day off.

Lynne Davidson: I tried

Dolores Quintana: How do you keep the passion going for the business? 

Lynne Davidson: Well, I just love the whole process, and I love dealing with the customers. It’s really fun to have people fill up their tummies and be happy. It’s really rewarding. It’s very nice. 

Dolores Quintana: That is very similar to other cooks and chefs I know. It makes them really happy to feed people and see people enjoy their food. 

Lynne Davidson: Yes, there is nothing better than that. Nothing better than that. 

Dolores Quintana: You are definitely one of those people who cares about making people happy. You care about your food. 

Lynne Davidson: Yes, it has to be right. People will come back.

Wirt Morton: She cares big time. I can vouch for that regarding the employees. This is like

A big family. There’s one man who has been here nearly 36 years. She hired him.

Lynne Davidson: Great guy. There’s another lady that’s working here, now part-time. But she started working here in 1985. We’ve been close friends, as well as colleagues. 

Dolores Quintana: You also have a big celebration every year, and last year, I got to listen to your employee, who had a great voice. 

Lynne Davidson: Samuel Escobar. He’s going to sing again this year. He got a promotion last year. 

Dolores Quintana: What does he do? 

Lynne Davidson: He is the head chef with the commissary.

Wirt Morton: He’s the director of operations over there, and he’s under 30. Our director of operations over here is also under 30. But what’s fun about Sam is that he grew up in the neighborhood. His mom would walk him by the restaurant, holding his hand while she walked her other son, her older son, to school down the road. So he’s always been coming here. 

Lynne Davidson: He went to La Ballona Elementary School. He walked by here every day, and then when he graduated high school, he got a job here. He’s just been a fabulous employee. He’s very dedicated, very motivated, and wants to learn new things all the time. Now he’s in a management position. 

Wirt Morton: He was integral to bringing the chicken burrito recipe together.

Lynne Davidson: Coming up with a new menu item is actually the most fun because we get to play around with the recipes and try different things. His idea won out over mine. It tasted better. 

I did have something pretty different in mind when I first thought of the chicken burrito. But then we got this recipe and It’s really good. 

Dolores Quintana: Wirt, what do you do at Tito’s?

Wirt Morton: I would say I’m sort of behind the scenes. I’m already involved with one of the biggest things we do each year: Tito’s Fiesta Mexicana. This year will be our seventh annual one on October 4th. We actually had a meeting here earlier in the week, with Tito’s Handmade Vodka and the charity, The Culver City Arts Foundation. It was our first meeting to get going towards this next year. We booked the talent already. We have Reinas De Los Angeles, who are all-female Mariachis. They play here almost every year. We also have Metalachi, a heavy metal Mariachi band. We have a youth Mariachi group and we have a great trio, and then, as you mentioned, Sam, and we’ll have traditional Mexican dancers. 

But this year is a little bit different too because, on June 20th, we will be having a screening of a short film made by a young filmmaker Anthony D’Eredita

He made a behind-the-scenes documentary of the fiesta, interviewing the pinata lady, the MC, and Metalachi. He was here with five cameras covering the event. He has the sound coming off the soundboard, and he’s in editorial right now on it. On June 20th, we will get to see the finished work. He came highly recommended by a guy named Tom Bland, who is the assistant dean of students at Cal Arts. 

We’re very excited, and that’s going to be the first step in putting on the fiesta for this year. Last year, about 1300 people attended.

Lynne Davidson: I think it was 1500. There were a lot of people here and it was fun. It was, it was a little hectic making sure everybody was fed without having to wait too long. Yeah, there were a couple of times that the line up longer than I would have liked,

Wirt Morton: But we’ve worked out a whole new program this year that’s streamlined the food. We’ve been lucky that from year one, we got it right. Uh, no. We’ve had to make a few adjustments, but from year one we got it right. It’s perfect and it’s right in the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month. 

Dolores Quintana: It is the perfect time.

Wirt Morton: It’s National Taco Day and National Vodka Day on October 4th. Which is what brought the two Titos together. They’re a pretty cool company by the way too. They do all

these charity things. The gentleman I was with here yesterday is responsible for thousands and thousands of these events, all different shapes and sizes. They give back to the community. 

Dolores Quintana: I just think it’s really perfect that it’s Tito’s and Tito’s

Wirt Morton: By the way, every year, all the proceeds, go to the charity. We cover the expenses, and Tito’s Handmade Vodka, covers all of the expenses. My wife has been on the board of the California Restaurant Association for years and was head of the LA County chapter for years. She  won one of the biggest awards, in Los Angeles County, the Elizabeth Burns Lifetime Achievement Award

Lynne Davidson: I’m still on the board of the LA County Chapter and an Emeritus member of the State Board. I was also appointed a few years back by Ricardo Lara, the insurance commissioner for the Worker’s Compensation Rating Bureau. That’s an interesting one.

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