Sun Shine: Café Reyes serves up an evolution in recovery

A modestly situated eatery and its unique mission received a flurry of media attention shortly after its early March addition to the Shrewsbury Street culinary scene. Eight months later, the experiment to put Latino men in recovery back to work has blossomed into a model program on the verge of expansion. The Sun takes a closer look at the success stories, the challenges and the future of the men and women behind Café Reyes.

Sun Shine: Café Reyes serves up an evolution in recovery

It was precisely a year ago, in Lawrence, when the moment arrived. Reyman Ortiz was getting high, the only constant in a tumultuous 25-year war with substance abuse and impulsivity.

“I was sitting on a bench doing a blast” of heroin, he recalled early last week. “Then I looked up to the sky and said, ‘God, if this is going to be my life, take me.’ ”

Two years earlier in Framingham, Louis Torres’ pivot point was more secular but no less of an epiphany. “It was when, for the first time, I took cash from my mother” to buy heroin, part of a two-decades-long drug dependency he used as a temporary salve for internal anger. “I never had been at that low a point but when I did it, I said, ‘I have a problem. I have to look for help.’ ”

Ortiz and Torres have stayed clean and sober since their respective reckonings. They’ve also emerged as twin pillars of a building success story at Worcester’s Café Reyes, the spirited Cuban-style restaurant at 421 Shrewsbury St. staffed by Latino men in recovery.