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Ataula, Northwest Portland’s Essential Spanish Restaurant, Has Permanently Closed

Due largely to the pandemic, the lauded restaurant will not be reopening its doors

A wooden table bears a paella filled with rice and mussels. A plate with three croquettes sits near it.
Seafood paella at Ataula

Ataula will not reopen. Portland Monthly was the first to break the news that the beloved Spanish restaurant from José Chesa and Cristina Baez would not be opening its doors again—it’s largely due, like so many others, to the pandemic. A social media post from the restaurant also pointed to some health issues as another reason for closing. Regardless, the loss of Ataula is yet another blow to Portland’s already diminished hospitality community.

The cozy, buzzy Spanish restaurant opened in 2013 and quickly gained a steadfast following for its take on Spanish dining, with sizzling platters of paella, playful tapas, brandy cocktails, and European wines. Its patatas bravas became an icon on Instagram, and for good reason—as delicious as they were ostentatious, they were presented as dice-like cubes of crispy, delicate potato layers, each paper thin, sous vide-cooked and fried to a golden hue. Every night the restaurant presented a decadent time, with friends, family, and strangers sharing long communal tables covered in plates, platters, and wine glasses. The overall experience, all parts working in concert, earned it a longstanding spot on Eater Portland’s Essential 38 map.

Ataula’s team next opened Chesa in 2016. A sprawling tapas affair with an adjacent churro counter called 180 Xurros, the restaurant lasted just over a year but closed after the massive snowstorm of 2017; 180 stuck around with its crispy, chocolate dipped churros, though it is closed for the time being. Then in early 2020, Chesa and Baez opened Masia downtown in the Hyatt Centric. While the sprawling, multi-service restaurant had a strong opening, there was no way to predict that the following month the city would all but shut down due to the pandemic. In March of 2021 Chesa announced that, like almost every other downtown hotel restaurant, Masia would be closing permanently.

While Ataula at times provided some takeout options during the pandemic, that model, nor any other for the foreseeable future, would be sustainable, and the team made the announcement yesterday that the restaurant would close for good. The post immediately received an outpouring of sympathy and fond memories from regulars, food media, and restaurant workers from across the city and beyond. “We will forever remember the magic and buzz of our small but mighty dinning room... and we will carry it closely with us along with the community that lifted us up and showed so much love to an island girl, a Spaniard and the whole Ataula crew over the years,” the post reads.

As for the question of what happens next, Chesa told PoMo’s Karen Brooks that he and his family are going “Offline, airplane mode,” and that he had no idea when or where they might reemerge.