PILSEN — Statues and steak sandwiches will be aplenty at the new Vio Café and Grill, set to open next month at 18th and Damen.
Owner and artist Ruben Mandujano said he had long dreamed of opening an art gallery, but not everyone was on board with that idea.
“My wife was not willing to give me the funds,” Mandujano said, laughing.
But, now that the gallery has a cafe attached to it, Elvira Mandujano-Ruben's wife and the accountant for Vio-is handing the funds out freely.
The café, featuring a stage for musicians and an outdoor patio, will serve a mix of American and Mexican cuisine and will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Mandujano's art is mostly located on the second floor, where patrons will be surrounded by colorful paintings and tall metal sculptures as they dine.
Mandujano was not able to get a liquor license because of the café’s proximity to Orozco Elementary, but Vio will be BYOB.
Mandujano, originally from Mexico, moved to the west suburbs of Chicago in 1986. He makes a living fixing up cars at his auto shop, Ruben’s Auto Service, located right next door to Vio Café.
In his spare time, Mandujano writes poetry and and then uses the words as inspiration to paint and sculpt.
He usually doesn’t sell his work, but when he does, he donates the money to HOPE Worldwide, a charity that works with impoverished communities.
Mandujano said he can’t wait for the café’s debut.
“It’s been an adventure. I’m very excited about it,” he said.