San Francisco is one of the country’s most vibrant and diverse food scenes. You will find a little bit of everything in the Bay Area—barbecue joints, exclusive wine tasting lounges, upscale French restaurants, and even the most eco-friendly cafe in the city. Alongside changing menus and trending lifestyles, consumers expect the atmosphere of a restaurant to enhance the dining experience. So it is only fitting that these restaurants have top-notch designs. Luckily, the city has a handful of architects who specialize in restaurant design, with portfolios of award-winning bars, lounges, and restaurants. Included in this list are 3 James Beard Award winners, AIA recognized architects, and the firm that designed what Thrillist named the best-designed restaurant in the country.
Aidlan Darling Design
Joshua Aidlin and David Darlin
James Beard Award,Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum National Design Award
Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Awards
500 Third St. Suite #410, San Francisco, CA 94107
About AIDLIN DARLING DESIGN
Aidlin Darling Design is a San Francisco-based firm with over 200 regional, national, and international awards, including the prestigious James Beard Award. Principals Joshua Aidlin and David Darling founded Aidlin Darling Design in 1998. Before founding his own firm, David Darling was the Vice President at BraytonHughes Design Studios and a project architect at Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects. Darling and Aidlin both earned their degrees at the University of Cincinnati. Aidlin Darling Design has a long list of accomplishments, including the 2020 Contract Magazine Designer of the Year, 2020 Architectural Record, and the 2020 San Francisco Design Week Awards among others.
The firm offers a collaborative and unconventional design approach and creates truly unique spaces. The firm’s philosophy is to “bridge the demands of artistic endeavor, environmental responsibility, functional pragmatics, and financial considerations.” Their approach has turned its studio into a sort of creative hub for their large network of designers, engineers, builders, artists, and chefs. The firm’s designs are as artistic as they are practical, and also have a heavy dose of sustainability. One of its most recent restaurant designs—Bar Agricole—received a LEED Platinum Certification. The firm designs a wide range of buildings, including institutional, academic, commercial, and residential.
Bar Agricole is a 1,400 square-foot restaurant and bar in a former SoMa warehouse. Aidlin Darling Design worked with local artisans to design an interior that matched the restaurant’s sustainable, locally sourced menu. It has a cool, beautiful, and sleek urban feel. The space features glass sculptures designed by local sculpture Nikolas Weinstein hanging by the skylights, booths made of concrete throughout the space, and a bar made of old barn beams, topped in resin. Hanging from the tall ceilings are reconstructed strips of whiskey-barrel oak. There is also an outdoor courtyard and an organic garden. The design won an AIA National award and achieved a LEED Platinum certification. Aidlin Darling Design is also responsible for the design of In Situ, SFMOMA’s sleek restaurant. This design received an American Architecture Award from the Chicago Athenaeum and European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies, a 2017 Merit Award from the International Interior Design Association, and a Best of Year award from Interior Design Magazine. In addition to their restaurant work, Aidlin Darling Design.
Hospitality Architecture + Design Award for Best Restaurant Design,
James Beard for Best Restaurant Design
531 Bryant St., San Francisco, CA 94107
AvroKO is an internationally-recognized firm with offices in New York City, San Francisco, London, and Bangkok. The visionary design firm AvroKO is currently working in 14 countries and 25 cities around the world. The firm is run by four partners, William Harris, Greg Bradshaw, Kristina O’Neal, and Adam Farmerie. Its team of architects and interior designers produce intriguing concept-driven spaces for their clients. The firm’s works are mainly in the hospitality sector including restaurants, bars, and hotels, but also have experience in residential and retail. The practice characterizes their style as a “unique convergence between the ideals of the past and an off-beat, forward-looking sensibility.”
The firm aims to bring thought-provoking ideas and to create a transformative experience through the environments they have designed. AvroKO’s designs have been recognized with James Beard Awards, Hospitality Design Awards, and Hospitality Architecture + Design Awards for their architecture and interior design. The design practice has award-winning restaurants on multiple continents and is behind some of the most anticipated new restaurants in cities across the USA.
Ninebark is a nearly 5,000 square foot space in Napa Valley created for chef Matthew Lightner. AvroKO designed the entire interior and also custom furniture and lighting. The 3-story restaurant with a rooftop bar has a modern, but casual feel to it, and each floor is ‘decorated’ with a rotation of herbs, products, branches, and even flora that are used in the kitchen. Ninebark was named the Best New Restaurant by California Home + Design, a Top 100 Wine Restaurant by Wine Enthusiast, and a Top 100 Restaurant in the Bay Area by San Francisco Chronicle. AvroKO also designed RN74 on the corner of Mission and Fremont. For this upscale urban French wine bar and restaurant, AvroKO even created custom furniture and lighting. The restaurant’s name is derived from the main highway connecting the wineries of Burgundy. AvroKO used this inspiration in the design, channeling the early railways that linked Burgundy to the rest of the country. The space features red-leather booths, a station-style board featuring its extensive wine list, and even the pendant lights that recall train signals. RN74 was a James Beard finalist for Best New Restaurant and was named one of the 10 Best Designed Restaurants in the U.S. by Dwell.
Hans Baldauf and Chris von Eckartsberg
AIA Medal Award
1527 Stockton St. 4th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94133
About BCV Architects
Hans Baldauf, AIA and Chris von Eckartsberg, AIA founded BCV Architects in 1997 serving San Francisco and New York’s diverse industry sectors. Baldauf is a strong advocate for a broad vision of sustainability and likens sustainable architecture to the Slow Food Movement. He has taught architecture at Yale University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Notre Dame. Meanwhile, von Eckartsberg has a particular passion for projects that celebrate the intersection of food, wine, and sustainable lifestyle designs. As a USGBC and LEED Accredited firm, the team specializes in creating forward-thinking designs centered on sustainability. Its processes incorporate sustainability efforts in both the community and the environment. BCV Architects has designed restaurants and cafes across the city of San Francisco, including the upscale wine tasting room the Press Club, and a number in the works at SFO. The practice designs houses, hospitality, commercial, and community architecture, but has achieved particular success with restaurants. Its approach is to help build and sustain communities and culture, and they consider the ethical, cultural, social, economic, and historical implications of their projects. BCV Architects’ aesthetic remains simple, elegant, and timeless.
BCV Architects designed Belecampo Meat Co. in Larkspur, CA, which was nominated by the AIA for a Restaurant Design People’s Choice Award in 2013. Their unique farmhouse style design reinvented the traditional butcher shop by seamlessly weaving the shop into a restructured cafe. The butcher counter transforms into the restaurant cook line and counter bar. The design creatively combines ceramic and concrete tiles, natural stone, and wood paneling with the bright orange colors of the surrounding market. And Von Eckarsberg is behind the firm’s award-winning design for the upscale wine tasting room Press Club. The 9,000 square foot space is an urban lounge that nods to the aesthetics of Wine Country, mixing warm, sustainably-sourced wood with exposed structural elements. BCV Architects also designed M.Y. China for celebrity chef Martin Yan, the German beer hall Schroeder’s in the Financial District, and is also designing several cafes and retail marketplace concepts for SFO.
Cass Calder Smith
Cass Calder Smith
IDA Northern California Chapter Honor Award,
Hospitality Design Award,
International Interior Design Association Award
44 McLea Ct., San Francisco, CA 94103
About Cass Calder Smith
Cass Calder Smith was founded in 1990 in San Francisco and opened a New York office in 2005. Although the 30-person firm has designed a range of public and private buildings, the firm is most known for its restaurant projects. Since designing his first restaurant, the landmark 1990’s San Francisco Restaurant Lulu—which was nominated for a James Beard award for Best New Design—Smith and his practice have been sought after to design iconic restaurants around the country. The practice has a clean, modernist design aesthetic, which balances creativity and innovation with practicality.
Cass Calder Smith and his firm, Cass Calder Smith, are at the top of the restaurant design game, known for creating some of the most stunning restaurants in San Francisco and New York City. Its genius designs have won numerous awards and been featured in national publications including The New York Times, Architectural Record, Metropolitan Home, Metropolis, Dwell, and Interior Design and Abitare. Smith was appointed to the San Francisco Arts Commission in 2008. He earned his Bachelor and Master of Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.
Perhaps Cass Calder Smith’s most recognized restaurant is Twenty-Five Lusk in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood. Built in a converted meat-packing plant, this exquisite space features exposed brick and crisscrossing wooden beams, stainless steel, laminated glass, and mirrors. Smith broke up the large space into a series of rooms downstairs, including a lounge with hanging circular steel fireplaces, and a large balcony dining room, under the soaring ceiling. Twenty-Five Lusk was named by Thrillist as the best-designed restaurant in the country and was featured in Architectural Digest. Not only did Cass Calder Smith create perhaps the best-designed restaurant in the city, but they also designed perhaps the most sustainable. The Plant: Cafe Organic is easily one of the greenest restaurants in San Francisco. The cafe, in two historic Pier 3 buildings, is powered by rooftop solar panels and has a water Electrolyzer to convert tap water into cleaning fluid. The design preserved the 18-foot exposed wood ceiling and 16-foot casement windows looking out to the Bay. It also incorporates reclaimed wood, recycled tiles, a floor made of coconut shells, stainless steel and zinc, and a living wall of plants designed by Flora Grubb. Cass Calder Smith also designed Barrel House Tavern, which won an IDA Northern California Chapter Honor Award and a Hospitality Design Award, La Mar Cebicheraria Peruana, on the Embarcadero, Terzo and Lettüs, both in Cow Hollow, Perbacco, in the Financial District, Rose Pistola, in North Beach, OneUP in the Grand Hyatt on Union Square, Cupola Pizzeria, and Delica at the Ferry Building, which won an International Interior Design Association Award. You can view more of their work at casscaldersmith.com
735 Market St. 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103
About Handel Architects
Since 1994, Handel Architects has committed to designing spaces that enhance the lives of the people and the community it participates in. With offices in New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Hong Kong, the firm employs over 200 skilled architects and designers who create ground-breaking designs for well-known companies. Gary Handel, FAIA founded the firm and has led its team to design some of the country’s most notable architectural structures including the Essex at Essex Crossing, National September 11 Memorial, and the Dream Downtown Hotel among others. Its impeccable reputation and works have received recognitions including the 2020 AIANY Urban Design Merit, 2019 AIA NJ Merit Award, The Architect’s Newspaper Best of Design Awards, and more.
The firm’s recently completed project is the Verve Wine in San Francisco, completed in 2018. The wine shop is designed to have a warm, welcoming, and bright vibe. It focuses on a center table where customers can sit, taste, have conversations, and enjoy good wine. Handel Architects took inspiration from the wine tasting room at the Hotel de Tourrel in France. It is designed with an Old World feel, bringing a domestic sensibility to the design. It combines painted cabinets, marble, and brass giving the impression of a large farmhouse kitchen. This project has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Eater San Francisco.
ASLA NCC Honor Award,
AIA Redwood Empire Design Awards,
Architizer A+ Award,
Chicago Athenaeum Good Design Award
2620 Third St., San Francisco, CA 94107
About Lundberg Design
Lundberg Design produces its one-of-a-kind designs in its studio and fabrication shop located in an old 1933 mattress factory in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood. Olle Lundberg founded the firm in 1987 which now offers a range of expertise including residential, wineries, distilleries, and commercial properties. The firm describes its work as modernism inspired by nature; this is shown in its simple yet elegant designs. Lundberg Design’s team are as many artists as they are architects. Many of the firm’s sleek, modern, and exciting restaurant spaces can be found delicately interwoven into historic buildings across San Francisco. The firm commonly works with wood, stone, steel, and is known for its intricate handmade pieces from its fabrication shop. Lundberg Design’s approach is artistic and collaborative and at all times takes sustainability into consideration. Its green efforts aim to make a positive impact on the environment and create physically and culturally durable buildings. To achieve its environmentally responsible goal, the firm employs the latest building practices and technologies. Lundberg Design’s list of clientele includes Mourad, Twitter, Google, Ramey Winery which has been picked up by local and national publications like New York Times, Dwell, Architectural Digest, Architectural Record, and San Francisco Chronicle, among others.
One of Lundberg Design’s most impressive restaurants is Mourad, which was closely designed with acclaimed chef Mourad Lahlou in the historic 1920’s Pacific Telephone building. Lahlou and Lundberg even took a trip through Morocco together for inspiration for this space. The design highlights its iconic San Francisco location while bringing to mind traditional Moroccan design – albeit with a modern interpretation. Its sweeping ceilings create a grand feeling, while the details still make for an intimate experience. The careful combination of new and old features fabric ceilings, mosaic tilework, perforated metal, and a patchwork of reclaimed Moroccan carpets. The brick, granite, concrete, and steel of the original frame were left alone to show the historical aspects of the site. Lundberg Design also created Hardwater, an American Whiskey bar in a historic building on Pier 3. The exterior and interior of this space highlight the firm’s artistic skills in fabrication. The bright, modern space won an AIA Constructed Realities Citation Award and was featured in Interior Design, San Francisco Chronicle, and Boutique Magazine.
111 Maiden Lane, 4th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94108
About RAPT STUDIO
Rapt Studio is an award-winning design and strategy studio that helps leading brands navigate the complex challenges of this ever-changing world. With locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York — and with clients spanning the globe — Rapt brings fresh thinking and a highly customized approach to each and every partnership. Their interdisciplinary teams blend architecture, interior design, graphic design, branding, and strategic thinking into holistic solutions that further their client’s missions. Their agile approach earned them the distinction of being named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies.
Since its founding in 2011, Rapt has gained international acclaim for its work with brands such as Google, Twitter, Dropbox, Vans, HBO, LinkedIn, Turner, Adobe, goop, PayPal and GE. A thought leader in the creative field, the studio has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Architectural Digest, Interior Design Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes and many more.
Rapt’s portfolio is filled with award-winning projects, from workspaces to restaurants. One of its designs includes the Basalt restaurant in California, which serves fresh, seasonal cuisine. It features a lively bar as well as indoor and outdoor seating, offering locals and tourists the chance to enjoy Napa’s scenery. Warm, neutral tones create an atmosphere of harmony, while bold accents provided a pop. Rapt sourced 80% of its furniture and lighting pieces from local artisans in the Napa area, with most of the rest coming from other parts of the U.S. and Mexico. Other Rapt projects include Coffee Movement in San Francisco’s historic Chinatown neighborhood and J. Dawgs in Salt Lake City.
Chief Creative Officer and Partner
1118 Grant Ave. Suite #103, San Francisco, CA 94133
About RoseBernard Studio
San Francisco-headquartered RoseBernard Studio was co-founded by Robert Polacek and Justin Colombik. The firm is named after Justin’s grandmother, Rose, and Rob’s grandfather, Bernard. Although RoseBernard Studio was previously known as Puccini Group, its designs remain impeccable. Polacek, Partner + Creative Director, is responsible for overseeing the interior architecture, design, and brand identity practice of the firm. He is known for his ability to create aesthetically pleasing spaces for guests and highly-functional chef-tailored restaurants. Meanwhile, Colombik is a Partner+ Design Director of RoseBernard Studio. He leads the interior design of the firm’s restaurant and hotel projects. As a LEED AP ID+C, Colombik is known for balancing aesthetics with sustainability. RoseBernard Studio employs an interdisciplinary approach to design which results in a uniquely designed, functional, and high-quality work.
The firm’s work can be seen adorning the Bay Area, Chicago, Florida, Malaysia, and Macau. One of its stunning works in San Francisco includes the Tratto restaurant. RoseBernard Studio designed the restaurant to pay homage to the experience of the artist and the imagination as seen through the unified motifs of the restaurant related to drawing. Brushstrokes and line sketches characterize the experiences that celebrate the creative impulses each person possesses. The restaurant is named after the Italian word, Trattoria, which means a restaurant serving simple and delicious food. Other projects in its portfolio include the Columbus Tap in Chicago, Grand Hyatt SFO, Cha Bei in Macau, Kempinski in Kulala Lumpur, and Kempinski in Abu Dhabi.
AIA Citation of Excellence in Urban Design,
AIA California Council Lifetime Achievement Award
1501 Mariposa St. Suite #328, San Francisco, CA 94107
About Stanton Architecture
Stanton Architecture is a nationally-recognized architectural firm in San Francisco founded by Michael Stanton. Listed under Stanton’s portfolio are different leadership previously served as the President of the national AIA, is a leader in the hospitality design business. For over 30 years, Stanton Architecture has designed buildings and interiors for Fortune 500 companies, local businesses, municipalities, NGOs, and most famously – the hospitality industry. Founded by Michael Stanton, the practice has designed some of San Francisco’s most trendy new restaurants. Stanton, FAIA, has held positions of responsibility and leadership at all levels of the AIA. The practice recently completed what Bon Appetit called the ‘Best Designed Restaurant’ of 2016. Their creatively designed restaurants can be seen across the country, from San Francisco to DC to New York City.
Stanton Architecture recently completed Leo’s Oyster Bar in downtown San Francisco, which was named the Best Designed Restaurant of 2016 by Bon Appetit magazine and featured in Architectural Digest. Leo’s Oyster Bar has a nostalgic, 1950’s retro feeling with a large dash of luxury, and features accents of brass and polished marble. The firm also designed the cocktail and wine lounge and restaurant Dirty Habit SF, located on the fifth floor a building in SoMa near Union Square. The space features a fully heated, year-round patio, named by Thrillist as one of the best in the city. The design created an intimate atmosphere with a dramatic ‘film noir’ feel through a combination of straight lines and geometric patterns with steel on the walls and ceiling, and old school carpeting and artwork. The firm also designed Marlowe, in San Francisco’s SoMa, with a sleek and clean design, featuring a black, white, and silver color palette. The walls of the patio grow herbs and plants and the bar is covered in eye-catching diamond-imprinted metal.
Pictures for this section had been redacted as per the Architect’s request.
2169 Folsom Street #S106, San Francisco, CA 94110
About Studio BANAA
San Francisco native Dane Bunton and Northern Iran-born Nastaran Mousavi design spaces that represent both familiarity and a rediscovery of the San Francisco landscape. The two met at the California College of the Arts while each pursuing their master’s in Architecture and have since shared a love for art, design, and craft. Bunton has worked with other firms in the state and carries a vision for what future cities will look like. Mousavi’s career began back in Iran, and she has also taught in her alma mater. She continues to study communities and the structures that preserve their way of life, coming into play in biomimicry and ecological architecture. They lead a diverse team of architects and interior designers at Studio BANAA.
Studio BANAA designed Voyager Craft Coffee’s “The Alameda” location to reflect a love of coffee and travel. Subtle nautical accents were incorporated into the space: sailboat-patterned tiles, ladder-like shelf frames, a hull-shaped coffee counter. The different seating areas are also arranged like separate continents, accommodating varying seating needs for both smaller groups and bigger parties. This is Studio BANAA’s third project with the coffee brand in the Bay Area. Featured photo is taken by Mikiko Kikuyama.
WIESBACH architecture | design
2325 3rd St. Suite #343, San Francisco, CA 94107
About WEISBACH architecture | design
WEISBACH architecture | design’s impeccable design standards have left a lasting impression on San Francisco’s restaurant scene. The firm was founded by Levi Weisbach in 2010. Weisbach’s wealth of industry experience includes working with Gensler and Cass Calder Smith in designing some of the country’s top restaurants. The experiences he gained allowed him to lead his own firm to its success. WEISBACH architecture | design’s works range from residential and retail to conference halls and hospitality designs. However, the firm’s biggest success is in restaurant designs. Its team is well-equipped in using cutting-edge technology partnered with its great passion for art to create unique spaces for each client. Weisbach’s work has been exhibited and featured in many top publications and been the recipient of many design awards.
WEISBACH architecture | design was founded in 2010 by Lev Weisbach, a 20+ year veteran San Francisco architect. The firm’s current work spans the range of residential and retail to conference halls and furniture. However, Weisbach’s greatest successes have been with restaurant design. The practice uses cutting-edge technology and a great passion for art to create inspirational and unique spaces for their clients. Prior to founding his own firm, Weisbach was a partner at Cass Calder Smith. There, he helped Cass Calder Smith become one of the country’s top restaurant design firms. He was the project principal on many iconic San Francisco restaurants, such as Twenty-Five Lux, Barbacco En Trattoria, and La Mar, among countless others. Weisbach’s work has been exhibited and featured in many top publications and been the recipient of many design awards. He received his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of California at Berkeley and Master of Architecture from Columbia University.
WEISBACH architecture | design collaborated closely with the owner of Trabocco to create a stunning final space. The team was inspired by traditional rural Italian architecture and symbols from Abruzzo, Italy, where the restaurant operator Giuseppe Naccarelli is from. The resulting design features soft wood paneling and geometric patterns, creating an enthusiastic, warm, and beautiful environment. The architectural practice also designed the Best Lil’ Porkhouse in Alameda, California. The space carefully balances a big city feel with down home country imagery. The barbecue joint has huge industrial ceilings that feature classic signs with flashy bulbs, carefully blending a big city feel with a down home country vibe. The overall effect is a funky, fun atmosphere.