¡Oba! Restaurante y Refresqueria opened in Portland, Oregon in October 1997. Owner Steve McLain, who had spent the 1980s managing and owning restaurants in high-profile markets such as the Bay Area and Los Angeles, had already completed a successful purchase and turnaround of Hall Street Grill in a Portland suburb — a restaurant that continues to thrive under his ownership today.
Eager to open a second venture in a more urban setting, McLain chose the heart of the Pearl District. At the time, this gritty, industrial area near downtown was on the verge of an impressive revitalization. ¡Oba! was among the first of the restaurants to arrive in what eventually became a thriving arts, retail and residential district — and the restaurant was an instant hit with diners. In its 13 years of business, ¡Oba!’s inventive cuisine, stunning design, hand-crafted cocktails and commitment to excellent guest service have sustained a solid following and a trademark buzz that a food writer once described as a “life-of-the party energy.”