In the early 1950s, Jose Guadalupe Robles Rangel, otherwise known as Joe R. Rangel, boarded a bus in Corpus Christi, Texas, thinking he was headed to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where a friend had lined up a job for him. Instead, a misunderstanding at the ticketing booth led Rangel to arrive in Indianapolis rather than Minneapolis. He decided to stay and convinced a friend to loan him money to purchase an old diner at 342 North Illinois Street in 1960.

Standing in front of the restaurant, Joe Rangel wears a cook's cap and apron and is flanked by two people who are presenting him an award.
Joe Rangel of Acapulco Joe’s, 1982 Credit: Indiana University Indianapolis View Source

Joe’s Fine Food seated 50 patrons and offered standard diner fare peppered with occasional select Mexican dishes. It became known also for a daily noon broadcast of Kate Smith’s recording of “God Bless America.”.

After becoming a U.S. citizen on September 1, 1970, Rangel changed his restaurant’s name to Acapulco Joe’s, his well-known nickname at the time. He immediately changed the menu from diner fare to Mexican food. Changing the name and the menu secured the restaurant’s status as Indianapolis’ first major Mexican restaurant.

In April 1983, Rangel announced the reopening of Acapulco Joe’s at a new larger location at 365 North Illinois Street, across the street from its original spot on what became AUL Tower. Rangel operated the restaurant until he died in 1988.

Acapulco Joe’s continued to operate under a series of different owners, who altered the menu offerings. The restaurant finally closed in 2019.  

Revised May 2023

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