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The internationally renowned painter Frida Kahlo, a master of the self-portrait, is considered one of Mexico’s greatest artists.

Kahlo is the inspiration for Frida’s Cafe, a cafe and art gallery that just opened in the White Ripple Gallery in Hammond’s Hessville neighborhood. It joins Purdue University Northwest’s CHESS gallery as the second new gallery to open this year in a neighborhood that’s rapidly becoming one of Northwest Indiana’s hubs for the arts.

Frida’s Cafe employs 12 people, seats about 40, and plans to have many community events, including open mic nights every other Friday, painting classes, Mexican bingo and a Day of the Dead celebration with a mariachi band.

Owner Maria Cokys-Reyes, who hails from the Mexican state of Durango, said she wanted to expose people to Mexican food beyond the usual offerings of tacos and burritos. Chef Juan Arellano makes pastries, gourmet cupcakes and desserts like churros, crepes, and Mexican sweat bread.

“We want people to come in and experience traditional culture, music and art of Mexico,” Arellano said.

The cafe at 6725 Kennedy Avenue in Hammond serves many beverage options, including agua frescas, horchata, Bubble Tea, smoothies, Jarritos, Mexican Coke, and Cafe De Olla, traditional Mexican coffee with cinnamon and Piloncillo cane sugar. A unique food menu includes molletes bean and cheese bread, tres quesos Mexican grilled cheese sandwich in a telera roll, and guajalotas, a torta from Mexico City that stuffed two tamales and various toppings into a bolillo roll, which is like a baguette.

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Cokys-Reyes is a painter who’s family includes a famous sculptor and muralist. She designed the cafe’s interior and painted the floor and wall herself. The colorfully decorated interior includes many Day of the Dead skulls and replicas of Kahlo’s painting.

A wall displays works by local artists, and a gift shop includes Día de Muertos skulls, Mexican jewelry, handbags and other items imported from artisans in Mexico. Cokys-Reyes will also show her own work in the cafe on the first floor of the sprawling White Ripple Gallery complex, which includes several artists’ studios.

Cokys-Reyes had operated Frida’s Restaurant in downtown East Chicago, which closed three years ago. She had been looking for a better location, and is now close to the Purdue University Northwest Calumet campus.

“We want to invite students,” Arellano said. “We’re going to give them a discount if they bring their student IDs.”

Frida’s is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 219-554-3140 or find it on Facebook.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.