Ashley and Aaron Okura have done extensive work to get Sisters Saloon ready for an April 1 opening. photo by Jim Cornelius
Ashley and Aaron Okura have done extensive work to get Sisters Saloon ready for an April 1 opening. photo by Jim Cornelius

For the past several months, Aaron and Ashley Okura have been working to bring the iconic Hotel Sisters into the 21st century - and back to its historic 1912 roots.

Sisters Saloon & Ranch Grill will celebrate its grand opening on Friday, April 1, putting on a fine spread for the Sisters community.

Extensive restaurant experience and design expertise have come together to create a contemporary menu that will be served up in a setting that even in the details hearkens back to the turn of the 20th century.

"We have modernized the menu a little bit," Aaron explained. "It's still cowboy grub, but we're using fresh ingredients and doing more from scratch."

First-class burgers are a priority, and Sisters Saloon & Ranch Grill will serve them up with Sisters-raised grass-fed beef. The steaks, too, will be Oregon-raised beef, and the produce is fresh and locally sourced wherever possible. There will be vegetarian and gluten-free options as well.

"We've got a couple of really good fish dishes," Aaron said. "The scratch cooking is so full of flavor. I'm so excited about it."

Ashley Okura turned her interior design background to making the 1912 building resonate with its heritage in every way.

All the woodwork has been restored and refreshed.

"On all the walls we did a hand-troweled plaster, which is what would have been done in the early 1900s," she said. "I chose a color palette that actually is from the early 1900s."

Even the bathrooms have an authentic touch: the men's room features a sink that is a replica of one from 1910.

The famous, ornate backbar that Bill Reed, John Keenan, and John Tehan found in a bar in Bend decades ago, originally came around Cape Horn.

The Okuras stripped and repainted the tin ceiling in the bar, which hadn't been restored since smoking indoors was outlawed in Oregon.

"There was probably 25 years of tobacco smoke up there," Aaron said.

It's now a bright copper that matches the new bar top.

All of the restoration work has been especially meaningful to Ashley, since the Reed family owns the historic building.

"It's been so much fun," she said. "The most stress I've ever felt in my life - but so fun."

The restoration and enhancement is functional as well as aesthetic. Aaron notes that all the bar equipment is new, as is some of the kitchen equipment. New beer lines and taps ensure that the beer will be exceptionally fresh. The wine and liquor selections have been significantly expanded. And there will be food served in the bar till midnight.

"It will be a very smooth-running, sanitary operation," he said.

Aaron and Ashley were poised to move to Denver when the opportunity to take on a new restaurant in Sisters presented itself. Aaron had been managing a steakhouse in Salt Lake City and had just received a promotion within the restaurant organization.

But the pull of Sisters was strong. It's Ashley's hometown and where they've always really wanted to be.

"We kind of thought, 'Wow, the perfect opportunity to move back to Sisters like we've always wanted to,'" Aaron said. "It's kind of a dream come true to be here with Ashley working on it, coming back to live."

Aaron is a musician and very excited about integrating Sisters Saloon & Ranch Grill into the thriving Sisters music scene. He's put up a stage inside the hotel and there will be one in the outside courtyard, too.

At this writing, there are 42 full- and part-time staff.

All of this work has been observed with anticipation by a community that is excited to have the iconic landmark back in action.

"There's been an extremely positive reaction from the community," Aaron said.

Sisters Saloon & Ranch Grill is located at 190 E. Cascade Ave.