Longtime downtown Mexican eatery Acapulco Joe’s changes ownership

A 59-year-old downtown eatery regarded as Indianapolis’ first Mexican restaurant is changing ownership.

Acapulco Joe’s, 365 N. Illinois St., has been acquired by Ezequiel Fuentes, who owns or co-owns nine other Mexican restaurants in the region, including El Toro Bravo in Zionsville.

Grant Redmond, who has owned the restaurant since 2013, sold the business to Fuentes. Terms were not disclosed.

The sale was finalized Monday, the new owners announced. The restaurant will be closed for two weeks for renovations before reopening.

Fuentes said he plans to continue using Acapulco Joe’s recipes, including the one for the restaurant’s unique salsa, which is served in squirt bottles.

The new owner purchased all of the food at the restaurant and will donate it to hunger relief agency Second Helpings.

Fuentes started his career working in the food industry in Chicago. He became a U.S. citizen in 1998 and started his first U.S. restaurant in Champaign, Illinois, that same year with his late wife, Norma, his brother Victor and his uncle.

In addition to El Toro Bravo of Zionsville, Fuentes owns Fiesta Charra Mexican Restaurant in Oxford, Ohio; El Toro of Cincinnati; El Toro Bravo of Walton, Kentucky; and Mi Tierra in Chicago.

Mi Tierra is a well-known Mexican eatery in Chicago housed in a 22,000-square-foot building that looks like a hacienda and seats 560.

Fuentes and his brother also share ownership in four El Toro locations in the Champaign area.

Acapulco Joe’s was founded in 1960 by Joe Rangel, a Mexican immigrant who died in 1989. After Rangel’s death, the restaurant was owned by his longtime cook, Raymond “Butch” Phillips, former Indianapolis policeman Bob McNeil, Marsha and Mark Lasiter, and Redmond.

Redmond, who did not say why he was selling the restaurant, was critically injured in March 2018 when he was attacked by a man who left the restaurant after trying to pay his $40 bill with a stolen credit card.

Maurice Dunlap, a habitual offender, was sentenced to nearly 25 years for battery and theft for the crime, which left Redmond with a brain injury.

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13 thoughts on “Longtime downtown Mexican eatery Acapulco Joe’s changes ownership

  1. I’ve been going to Joe’s since the 1970’s. Back then they were across the street (long ago demolished) and Joe was large and in charge. Outrageous velvet paintings of topless mermaids on the wall, the playing of God Bless America at noon, and Joe tricking unsuspecting customers with his Mexican Mongoose gag. Still love their tacos and salsa. Hopefully, the new owner doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel.

  2. After reading the above 2 comments, it’s obvious that Marshall is used to the Americanized Mexican food we have here in the states and not true Mexican food with Mexican recipes. I also remember going to Joe’s back when they were in the little building across the street, with lines out the door of people waiting to get the amazing food. And definitely the best salsa ever! Glad to see that the new owner will be keeping the recipes the same and that amazing salsa!

    1. LOL, Gloria, you have GOT to be kidding. My opinion of Mexican food is based upon eating ACTUAL Mexican food, you know, from MEXICO (and also the 10 years I spent living in southern California). I have no idea what Joe’s was like back in the 70’s (because I wasn’t alive then) but anyone who think’s that what they serve there now is anything close to “authentic” Mexican food has zero credibility with me. No offense.

    2. Also, there are a good number of what I’d actually describe as authentic (non-Americanized) Mexican restaurants in town these days (mostly on the west, northwest and far east sides of town). Joe’s, in it’s current incarnation, would have no place on that list. Not even close.

    3. Well Marshall, I guess we are going to agree to disagree. I think Joe’s food is amazing, and I will continue to go there. There are countless times that I have stood in line just to get in and be seated for lunch. That tells me that someone must like the food, right? Everyone has a right to disagree, though.

    4. Actually, it wouldnt be agreeing to disagree. If you originally stated that you thought the food was amazing, then well, thats subjective – shoot for the moon. But you disparaged his opinion, and others, on the grounds that they were essentially culturally-ignorant and not worthy of attention, because in your, ill-informed I may add, opinion, they had not had real authentic Mexican food. What constitutes authentic Mexican food is objective. It either is or is not. That was not the basis of your original comment.

  3. You could describe Acapulco Joe’s as a lot of things, but authentic is the very last word I would use to describe it. As a Mexican-American who has been to Mexico many many times, I’ve never tasted filth like what is served at this restaurant.

    Hopefully the new owner turns it around. Downtown could really use a good Mexican spot, because it certainly has not had one in at least the last 20 years, and I suspect longer than that.

    1. Agreed—as a former Southern Californian and a one time honeymooner in Oaxaca I can attest to the general lack of authentic Mexican food downtown, although we love Festiva.

  4. Let’s not get confused here. Cheap does NOT equal Authentic. You don’t serve that kind of food for 59 years without cutting a few corners to stay in business and keep the lights on. Have I eaten there? Yes. Have I enjoyed it? Yes. Is it “Authentic”, NO. That being said I look forward to what the new owner does with the place and I look forward to visiting again. A good cleaning would do wonders for the place!

  5. Joe’s restaurant is about the taste and the recipes that he created. If you like traditional Mexican, then there are plenty of restaurants in town for that; however, I’ll continue to love what Joe Rangel created, and hope his restaurant and its menu lives on for many years!!

  6. Friends of mine who still eat there had mentioned frequent turnover of servers and cooks. Apparently the woman who seated people and ran the register had to triple as cook when someone didn’t show up in the morning. The place had, in my opinion, an unclean feel to it with what looked like deferred maintenance. I remember hearing about a customer who actually bought and provided a replacement for the cracked toilet seat in the men’s bathroom. It can only get better from here.