The pandemic has dealt another blow to Portland’s dining scene, this time taking out one of the city’s finest Spanish restaurants.
“When we closed our doors in March 2020 we never thought it would be the beginning of the end,” the post read. “We went through the motions, did to-go and gave it our all and we tried really hard to make it work under any circumstances while keeping our staff, community and ourselves safe. On top of so many things that continued to happen behind the scenes; but ultimately is just not an operation we can continue to sustain any longer and we haven’t been able to find a path to move forward that makes sense.”
The statement also cited “serious personal health complications” on top of COVID-19 dining restrictions as a factor that prompted the permanent closure.
Ataula regularly earned a spot in WW’s annual Restaurant Guides as one of the city’s top 50 places to dine. The menu was always a welcome tapas tour of Barcelona, Chesa’s hometown. Among the favorites were the crispy patatas bravas, milky-white liquid spheres of xeese and the montadito—crackerlike glass bread iced with a yogurt mascarpone and then layered in house-cured salmon—though the kitchen could also deliver stellar, more substantial platters that took longer to prepare, including paella and rossejat.
Right before the initial pandemic lockdown last year, Chesa and Baez opened a second restaurant, Masia, inside the Hyatt Centric hotel in the heart of downtown. The spacious location offered even more seating than Ataula, served three meals a day and featured a churro counter near the entrance. But being surrounded by largely empty office buildings and shuttered entertainment venues for an entire year prevented the restaurant from making a successful comeback. It quietly folded this spring.
In addition to giving takeout food a go at Ataula, Baez used the space to launch Aybendito, an online marketplace stocked with foods like chimichurri, flan, pollo guisado and pastelillos, a snack popular in her native Puerto Rico. The shop took a winter hiatus with the hope to reopen in spring, but for now there are no plans to try to restart in another location.
There is reason to remain optimistic—the pair has promised a return.
“This is the end of a chapter and yes, we are sad and heartbroken,” the Facebook post continued. “When the time comes someway, somehow we will be back. Taking so much we’ve learned over the years and pushing forward to making our industry better and begin a new chapter.”