Dining With Denise Neil

Restaurant reopens after shooting to serve friends, supporters

Ruben’s Mexican Grill is reopening today, more than a week after its owner was shot during a robbery.
Ruben’s Mexican Grill is reopening today, more than a week after its owner was shot during a robbery. The Wichita Eagle

It took a week for friends and employees of Ruben’s Mexican Grill at 915 W. Douglas to repair the physical damage to the restaurant that occurred when an armed robber forced his way in on June 9, shooting owner Ruben Acosta twice before Acosta returned fire, injuring him.

That included replacing and repainting dry wall that had been damaged by flying bullets.

But at lunchtime on Monday, the restaurant was back in business, and several old and new fans of the restaurant, which has been in operation since 1998, came to eat and to show their support.

Among them was Ken Hamilton, who had never dined at Ruben’s before but was compelled to visit after hearing about the robbery.

“I just want to support him,” said Hamilton, who was eating with his friend, Dean Albert, and dining on a beef enchilada. “I hear he’s still in pretty bad shape, and it’s just sad.”

Acosta, 58, is still in the hospital and his condition hasn’t changed much, said his wife, Anita. He was scheduled for a sixth surgery on Monday.

“Ruben is hanging in there,” Anita posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page over the weekend. “I want to thank you all for your support and flowers and cards and so much more... I hope you will give me the chance see you Monday. Ruben would want me to do this for him.”

The restaurant had been closed since Acosta was shot twice during a robbery at the restaurant. That night, police said, a robber 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.

The 26-year-old man man thought to be responsible for the shooting, Reginald Kane, was later found, and after he was released from the hospital on Wednesday, he was booked into jail and is being held on suspicion of first-degree attempted murder, aggravated robbery, criminal possession of a firearm and three counts of aggravated assault.

Employees of the restaurant told Anita that they wanted it to reopen, and she was determined to do it with the help of her granddaughter and brother-in-law, Luis Acosta. Though both have other jobs, they are taking turns filling in at the restaurant.

“We want to help as much as we can,” he said.

Over the weekend, Tanya’s Soup Kitchen put on a fundraiser for the Acosta family, offering up all of the proceeds from the sale of its special on Friday and Saturday to the family. According to the restaurant’s Facebook page, it ran out of the special quickly on Saturday, selling 60 orders in 30 minutes. For the rest of the evening, it sold Reuben sandwiches and donated those proceeds, too.

Also dining at Ruben’s on Monday was Lance Minor, who owns the nearby Aero Plains Brewing, 117 N. Handley.

Minor said that he wanted to show support for his Delano neighbor and has decided to brew a special Mexican lager that he’ll name for Acosta. He’ll donate $2 of every glass sold to the Acosta family, he said, and he hopes to have the beer ready in a week or so.

Also, a page on YouCaring.com has set a goal of raising $9,000 to help the family. As of this morning, more than $1,000 had been raised.