Dining With Denise Neil

Wichita restaurant owner returns to scene where he was shot

The last time Ruben Acosta was in his restaurant, he was being taken out by ambulance, having been shot twice by an armed robber.

That was more than six weeks ago.

On Thursday, he finally returned to the restaurant and was greeted by applause from a dining room crowded with friends and customers.

“Thank you guys,” Acosta said as he slowly made his way into the front door of the restaurant, leaning on a walker. “Thank you for coming here.”

Acosta, the owner of Ruben’s Mexican Grill at 915 W. Douglas, was released from the hospital a week ago. He’d been there since June 9, a Friday, when a robber walked into the restaurant and demanded money while an employee was taking the trash out. The robber fired his gun, which hit Acosta, 58, twice. Acosta, who had a gun, returned fire.

In the weeks following, Acosta had at least six surgeries. His wife, Anita, reopened the restaurant after a week – and after friends and family members repaired bullet-hole damaged drywall. Ever since, relatives have been filling in for Acosta, who has always been a fixture at the restaurant he opened more than 20 years ago.

On Thursday, Acosta sat at a table, smiling widely, as supporter after supporter approached him for a hug or to give him a kiss on the cheek.

Acosta has months of physical therapy ahead of him, and doctors have told him his recovery will be slow. But he says he’ll come in whenever he can to show support to his staff.

“As soon as I walk in, I see all my people and all the support I’ve been given, it’s giving me more strength,” he said.