Guest Post by Brandie Kajino of SpoonAndSaucer.com
Editor Note: Oba is not a 100% GF restaurant, cross contamination is a risk.
This little restaurant is in the heart of the Pearl District. I don’t live there, but holy shmoly I sure want to. There are so many options to eat there, and lots of happy hour menus to choose from.
I rounded up the gal pals, including a friend who was visiting from Chicago, and headed out for happy hour in their “nuevo Latino” style. Oba (as we locals call it) has a full restaurant in the back, and a bar and seasonal outside seating. The decorating is thoughtfully sparse, and the atmosphere is lively without feeling like a meet market. (You know what I mean, right?)
One of the best things about Oba’s happy hour offering is the pitcher of margaritas. The Oregon marionberry margarita pitcher is not to be missed. For $27 you can have enough drinks for 4+ people, likely two for each. The pitcher has zero ice in it (ice is the glasses only) so it really feels like you’re getting a great deal. And a little bit of a buzz.
Is it gluten-free?
I’m going to be honest, it wasn’t terribly clear what was and wasn’t gluten-free on the main menu. The dinner menu had some indications that several of the dinner items were gluten-free, but it wasn’t clear this translated to the happy hour menu. Until….
… Wait! There’s a special menu!
There’s a “special” menu with dairy free, vegetarian, gluten-free and another section called “Colin’s Menu”, which is a list of recommended dishes from a local trainer and physical therapist. Confession: I wasn’t aware of this menu until after we left. I’d highly recommend getting it. Luckily, everything we got was gluten-free (as I breathe a sigh of relief.) The chef is happy to accommodate any concerns, so be smarter than me and ask for the special menu. Thankfully there is a lot to choose from!
Allllll the choices.
We ordered numerous things off the menu, and I took the liberty of straying from my dairy-free ways for the afternoon. It was girls’ night out afterall! We made a pretty good dent in the happy hour menu, I must say. Most everything was delicious, as usual.
And the service?
Honest constructive criticism: The service is ok, but a bit inconsistent for my taste over the past handful of times I’ve been to Oba. For example: I asked for coffee, which never came, and wasn’t ever mentioned. The good news? It wasn’t on the bill. Our waitress also kinda vaporized, and we didn’t see her much after we ordered. The bar was maybe half full, so it wasn’t due to being slammed with customers. I’m just hopeful it was a bad night for them. I wouldn’t say we had bad service, we just felt a little forgotten (even being seated in the middle of the bar.)
We started with the Fire-Roasted Sweet Corn Dip. This is my bestie’s favorite app at this place, and I have to agree it’s creamy and delicious. I don’t know what they do to it, but I clearly didn’t ask questions as I shoveled it into my face. One of the other favorite dishes at our table were the Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Jalapenos. It’s worth ordering the larger portion and sharing. You might want more. Yeah, they are that good, and not as spicy as you might think. Unless you get a live one!
A dinner side show.
One of the gals had the Chicken Fajita Tacos, I inhaled the Fish Tacos, and we shared a side of guacamole and chips. I must stop here to tell you that at least once, you must try their “Tableside Guacamole” (which we opted not get this time.) It’s divine, and it’s really about the experience of it being made right in front of you. It’s worth the price, and might be the best guacamole you’ll ever eat. It is a large portion, so there may be leftovers… unless you dip into it on the way home (not that I have ever done such a thing.)
One other honorable mention is the Queso Fundido. This is a stringy cheesy bowl of bliss. If you really want to go over the top, add the chorizo (which I believe is gluten-free, but it would be worth asking.) You may be eating smoothies to detox for the day after, but it’s an occasional treat that’s worth it.
A sweet, sweet ending.
While we’re on the indulgent train, I’d like to recommend one of the Semifreddo. It’s one of those desserts that will make you “need a minute”. You know the ones, where you can’t really verbalize how good it truly is, and frankly don’t even want to talk. It’s that good. Oh, and it comes with a silky caramel sauce in case it wasn’t over the top enough on its own.
If you’re looking for a place to meet for drinks and happy hour, Oba has lots of options. Be sure to get one of the margaritas, or share a pitcher with a friend or three. You can’t go wrong with most anything on the menu, so try whatever suits you (remember to ask for the special menu!) And, if the weather allows, sit outside and enjoy the views of the Pearl District. I’ll see you there. Sometime.
Brandie uses humor & eye-blinding enthusiasm to connect, teach & guide others. She can be found trying new recipes, lusting after copper cookware, frolicking through farmers’ markets and sipping hot beverages at a local coffee shop. She writes about her fab finds, simple recipes and “it’s easier than you think” tips on her site,