Dining With Denise Neil

Wife of Ruben’s Mexican Grill owner asks for prayers after shooting

Ruben Acosta has run his Mexican restaurant in Wichita since 1998. He was shot during a robbery on Friday night and is in the hospital recovering from multiple surgeries.
Ruben Acosta has run his Mexican restaurant in Wichita since 1998. He was shot during a robbery on Friday night and is in the hospital recovering from multiple surgeries. Courtesy

The owner of Ruben’s Mexican Grill in Delano is still in the hospital after being shot twice during a robbery at the restaurant on Friday night, and his wife is asking for prayers.

Ruben Acosta has already undergone four surgeries for gunshot wounds and has another one scheduled for Wednesday, said his wife of 32 years, Anita Acosta. But his color was better on Monday, and he was responsive to doctors.

“I just want to tell people thank you for your prayers, but please give us time,” she said.

Ruben’s Mexican Grill, where the shooting happened, is closed today and will remain closed for at least a week as family members and employees clean up and decide how to move forward, she said.

On Monday morning, a sign on the door read, “Due to recent events, Ruben’s will be closed until further notice. Thank you to our customer, suppliers and many friends for all of your support. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.”

According to police, an emergency call came in just after 10:10 p.m. from the restaurant in the popular Delano district. A robber had walked in to the restaurant and demanded money while an employee was taking trash out. The robber fired his gun and hit Acosta, 58, who was carrying a gun and returned fire. Two other employees were in the restaurant at the time of the shooting, said Acosta’s granddaughter, Jessica Demieville.

Not long after, dispatchers sent officers to a reported shooting in the 1000 block of East Eighth St., where they found a man, 26, who matched the description of the robber and had a gunshot wound. Police said Monday he is still being treated in the hospital. According to a police report, the suspect will face charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Anita Acosta did not want to discuss the details of the crime on Monday, she said. She said that employees of the restaurant had all come to the hospital on Sunday, and several relatives –including two of Ruben’s sisters from Mexico – had come to show their support.

Anita said that the restaurant was Ruben’s area of strength. He had a rapport with people and was more social than she is.

But with the help of Ruben’s brother and her granddaughter, she plans to get the restaurant open again. It’s what Ruben would want and what all the employees say they want, she said.

Ruben and Anita Acosta got their start in the food business in 1996, selling homemade tacos from a stand at the Old Town Farm & Art Market building. Two years later, they opened Ruben and Anita’s Tacos, a 12-table restaurant inside the Farm & Art Market building.

They were there until 2003, when Ruben & Anita’s was one of many businesses evicted from the building as the owners moved away from retail. They moved that same year to the corner of Douglas and McLean, where they changed the name to Ruben’s Mexican Grill. The Acostas operated the restaurant there until 2013, when they moved to the current location at 915 W. Douglas.

Jen Ray, who owns The Monarch several blocks to the east of Ruben’s, said she was upset to hear about her neighbor. The Delano area has grown during recent years into a near-downtown destination with restaurants and bars on every block of West Douglas.

Ray said her guidelines don’t allow employees to close alone, and she plans to talk about the incident with her staff and review security procedures this week.

Though she feels safe at her restaurant, her security cameras frequently catch people poking around the back in the overnight hours, she said.

Still, the shooting was a shock.

“Stuff like that doesn’t happen in Delano,” she said.