Overview

Los Angeles has a history of giving rise to fast food chains like In-N-Out, California Pizza Kitchen, and Orange Julius, which hasn’t gotten in the way of its reputation for upscale dining at spots like Spago and The Palm. In the city’s culinary scene, celebrity chefs present themselves through their unique restaurants the way big screen stars reach audiences in their films. The two industries often collide, with many Los Angeles spots gaining popularity by making regulars out of A-Listers. Our top 10 L.A. restaurant architects thrive on the pressure to create a distinctive dining experience in a competitive market.

Top Architects

AERO Collective

Architects:
Andrew Crane, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP

Address:
209 S Market St, Inglewood, CA 90301

About AERO Collective

Make is a collaborative design firm that produces architecture as well as furniture and graphics for clients. Each design practice informs the others in this multidisciplinary studio. Founded in 2000 by Jess Mullen-Carey and Bill Beauter, the company focuses on site- and client-specific design solutions. Make has won AIA Los Angeles juried and people’s choice awards for restaurant design. Make’s projects have drawn attention from Dwell, Hospitality Design, The Architect’s Newspaper, GQ, Los Angeles Times, and more.

Featured Projects

Los Angeles-native Chef Ray Garcia commissioned AERO Collective to create his twin restaurants Broken Spanish and B.S. Taqueria. Listed in the 2019 Michelin Guide-California, Broken Spanish is a formal dining restaurant with an open design. Immense glass sliding doors open the area to the public street where there’s street-side seating providing a full al fresco dining experience. B.S. Taqueria is its casual counterpart, serving down-to-earth food in a warm space filled with traditional Mexican woods and textures. AERO also designed a timeless hangout on Sunset Boulevard—award-winning Bar Henry. The compact cocktail place boasts a darkly-toned room, with its deep green booths, herringbone wood floor, and a perfectly mismatched array of framed images along one wall. It won an AIA|LA Restaurant Design Award in 2019.

Oonagh Ryan Architects

Architects:
Oonagh Ryan

Address:
923 East 3rd Street #105, Los Angeles, CA 90013

About Oonagh Ryan Architects

Founded in 2013, ORA is an award-winning practice known for creative, contemporary, and sustainable design with a hands-on approach. Its exemplary work on Los Angeles restaurants has been featured on Architect, Architectural Digest, and the Los Angeles Times. Its diverse portfolio features residential, commercial, hospitality, and institutional work. The firm is based in the Arts District and was founded by Oonagh Ryan. It is also a certified LA Green Business.

Featured Projects

Michelin Star chef Eric Bost hired ORA to be the architect and designer of his Melrose Avenue restaurant, Auburn. The firm extensively remodeled the space that once housed the late Michel Richard’s iconic Citrus restaurant. The rustic and homey 5,600-square-foot fine dining restaurant can accommodate up to 105 people and features an open-concept kitchen. The design is distinctly Californian, with an effortless and casual space that seamlessly transitions between the indoor and outdoor spaces. A warm, neutral palette of concrete, stone, wood, and plaster keeps it laidback and inviting. The project earned a Restaurant Honor Design Award from AIA|LA and is a nominee for a 2020 James Beard Foundation Award. In contrast, ORA has worked on playful colors and textures for Santa Monica restaurant, Talulla’s. Inspired by SoCal’s surf culture and the informality of Tulum’s beach shacks, this fun and eclectic space references traditional Spanish haciendas and the modern work of Mexican architect Luis Barragán. Festive colors like hot pink, sunshine yellow, turquoise, cerulean, and orange serve as the backdrop of dark wood-paneled ceilings, rustic columns, and ornate Hawaiian Koa wood banquettes. The casual, modern Mexican spot has been profiled by Eater LA, Gayot, and Zagat.

Make Architecture

Architects:
William Beauter, AIA, LEED AP

Awards:
AIA LA Restaurant Design Award Jury Selection

Address:
2664 Lacy St Los Angeles CA 90031

About Make Architecture

Make is a collaborative design firm that produces architecture as well as furniture and graphics for clients. Each design practice informs the others in this multidisciplinary studio. Founded in 2000 by Jess Mullen-Carey and Bill Beauter, the company focuses on site- and client-specific design solutions. Make has won AIA Los Angeles juried and people’s choice awards for restaurant design. Make’s projects have drawn attention from Dwell, Hospitality Design, The Architect’s Newspaper, GQ, Los Angeles Times, and more.

Featured Projects

Make Architecture designed two spaces for Beer Belly, a craft beer chain owned by couple Jimmy and Yume Han. The 1,500 square-foot space in Koreatown doesn’t give away its past as a dated Chinese restaurant. Dark, medium, and light stained mahogany boards interlock across the ceiling, walls, and integrated banquette seating. The pattern also wraps around the bar where specially trained “beertenders” serve up a rotating roster of 12 local brews. The exterior draws a crowd with street art-style graphics by local artist MR44. At the AIA LA Restaurant Design award-winning Long Beach location, wood also climbs the walls and ceilings, but this time in slats of Douglas fir that allow daylight into the space, and criss-cross in the center of the room to form bench backs. The matte black bar and bar back, formed with crystalline facets, add an organic yet urban touch.

Studio MAI

Architects:
Milo Garcia

Awards:
Short list of specific awards

Address:
304 S Broadway Studio 400 Los Angeles CA 90013

About Studio MAI

A boutique design company, Studio MAI develops residential and hospitality projects out of their office in the heart of Los Angeles.Through their product design firm, MAI Lab, founder Milo Garcia and his team have developed an intimate knowledge of materials, enabling them to create interiors that surpass a client’s expectations and push the industry forward. The staff also draws on their diverse backgrounds, from fine art to industrial design. Studio MAI designs encourage interaction and lingering, advantages noticed by Los Angeles’ celebrity chef community. Studio MAI projects in the U.S. and abroad have drawn attention from AIA Los Angeles, Surface Magazine, L.A. Weekly, L.A. Mag, and CBS News.

Featured Projects

When Verve Coffee Roasters moved to expand outside of their home base in Santa Cruz, they collaborated with Studio MAI on Verve Cafe, the company’s first Los Angeles outpost. Verve shares a 1,600-foot space with Juice Served Here, so the space had to reflect and complement both brands. Both nod to organic ingredients and nature, so Studio MAI dressed the patio in vertical gardens and redwood furniture. Inside, the service counter’s mirrored base makes the space feel bigger, while the custom floor pattern, based on an amplifier grill, adds a personal touch and another focal point for guests while they wait for their fresh press and espresso. Studio Mai also helmed the design for Inko Nito, a hip new Japanese-Korean restaurant in the Arts District as well as its sister branch in London. The space was created with communal seating in mind, including several long stretches of white oak tabletops and casual barstools. The rest of the 124-seat room is filled with two- and four-tops, plus bar seating, while an outdoor patio area offers greenery galore, including a living green wall.

SFJones Architects

Architects:
Stephen Francis Jones, AIA

Awards:
AIA Los Angeles Restaurant Design Awards

Address:
4218 Glencoe Ave Studio 2 Marina del Rey CA 90292

About SFJones Architects

Anisette, La Brea Bakery, Spago. SFJones Architects has designed several of L.A.’s most beloved restaurants. Among the firm’s high-profile Los Angeles projects are the Century Plaza Hotel and Lucky Strike Lanes in Hollywood. Outside of the U.S., the firm has designed restaurants in Japan and Kenya. The firm has been recognized by AIA Los Angeles, and their work has appeared in LA Daily News, Los Angeles Times, and Interior Design.

Stephen Francis Jones was once the in-house architect for Wolfgang Puck Food Company, an icon in the Los Angeles food scene. With his experience at WPFC and architecture degrees from University of Florida and UCLA, Jones struck out with his own firm in 1996, but was quickly lured back into the Puck fold with an invitation to design Spago Beverly Hills. Since, the firm has designed Wolfgang Puck eateries around the world.

Featured Projects

SFJones sought impact and drama in the original design of Spago Beverly Hills. One of its standout features was a sloped roof with exposed hardwood beams in purple. The main dining room opened to a herringbone tile patio, sliding etched-glass doors separating the spaces. In 2014, SFJones helped La Brea Bakery to modernize their flagship café without losing their clout. The new bakery is a 4,750 square-foot brick and glass space. The patterned wood plank floor draws customers into the sit-down dining room, with teal wood banquettes, and the takeaway area. In the latter, bread and pastries take center stage in a 35-foot lighted display case seated on a waterfall marble counter. The two zones are divided by a wood-burning stove positioned proudly under the business’s new logo. Clean and elegant, Hamasaku in West Hollywood draws in hungry celebrities with a casually refined menu and atmosphere. The design utilizes blond wood panels set at various angles to create a dynamic, visually stimulating space without appearing busy. Black ceiling beams and flooring create vertical depth. A gravel and wood sitting area adds the open feeling of the outdoors to the dining room.

Montalba Architects

Architects:
David Montalba, FAIA, SIA, LEED AP

Awards:
AIA Los Angeles Restaurant Design Awards, AIA National Young Architect Award, AIA Institute Honor Award

Address:
2525 Michigan Ave Bldg T4 Santa Monica CA 90404

About Montalba Architects

Montalba Architecture has produced humanistic designs for architecture projects in the U.S. and abroad. Their design philosophy is in line with the restaurant market, with a focus on social environments with conceptual intent. Several magazines have covered the firm’s work, including Wallpaper, Montage, Modern Luxury, Surface, and Architectural Digest. The company has earned several AIA design awards, including six for restaurant design since 2007.

David Montalba founded Montalba Architects in 2004, and he continues to lead the firm as Principal. The work he has produced over his 25-year career has garnered honors such as the 2008 AIA National Young Architect Award and a 2011 AIA Institute Honor Award. Headquartered in Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station Arts Complex, the firm also has a satellite office in Lausanne, Switzerland. The site, where more than 40 employees work on designs for their diverse portfolio, enhances the collaborative and creative atmosphere the firm has sought to develop. Montalba Architects pursues progressive design solutions by investing in their staff with educational stipends.

Featured Projects

Chef Bryant Ng’s restaurant Cassia is a 4,800 square-foot indoor/outdoor space in a 1937 Art Deco building in Santa Monica. Its historical character influenced Montalba Architects’ design for the restaurant, which has a main dining room, three bars, and a private dining room. Original exposed concrete is offset by blackened-steel framing between the restaurant’s various zones. Calacatta marble and bleached walnut recall vintage finishes of the 1930s. Cassia routinely lands on lists of L.A.’s top restaurants, and the design earned Montalba Architects a 2017 AIA Los Angeles Restaurant Design Award. The firm used similar finishes to a totally different effect at Nobu Malibu. The beachfront outpost of the celebrity favorite restaurant takes advantage of panoramic ocean views. At this site, bleached wood, concrete, and stone are arranged in a deep-set horizontal terrace that emphasizes both the open-air West coast aesthetic, and the Japanese emphasis on integration with the surrounding environment. The deceptively simple structure won an AIA Los Angeles Restaurant Design Award in 2013.

Belzberg Architects

Architects:
Hagy Belzberg, FAIA, OAA

Awards:
AIA Restaurant Design Honor Award, AIA Los Angeles Merit Award

Address:
2321 Main St Santa Monica CA 90405

About Belzberg Architects

Hagy Belzberg established his Santa Monica firm in 1997, and over the last 20 years, has developed a reputation as an intensively involved restaurant designer. Belzberg Architects’ body of work has drawn coverage from over 200 national and international publications, including Interior Design, Architectural Record, and the New York Times, and garnered more than 50 national and local awards. The American Institute of Architects has recognized the firm’s work with more than 20 honors.

Featured Projects

Belzberg Architects transformed a former Brentwood Village medical office into romantic lounge Bar Toscana. Exposed brick and steel-framed windows add to the cool industrial atmosphere. A dark bar top that seats 12, and dark wood floors, glow with light from a backlit bottle display. West Hollywood Prova Pizzeria displays how Belzberg designers are capable of reimagining the ordinary to create individualized designs. The 2,000 square-foot tenant improvement was a finalist for an AIA LA Restaurant Design Award. Belzberg utilized graphics and hand-finished details to elevate simple wood and concrete. Traditional shiplap-style walls retain their comfortable charm, but take on a much younger tone dressed in three different stains and washed-out painted white honeycombs. The honeycomb pattern is repeated in a two-tone, forward-thinking take on a cobblestone floor. An open white subway tile kitchen with marble countertops complete the modernized yet warm pizza shop.

Kelly Architects, Inc.

Architects:
George W. Kelly, AIA

Awards:
AIA People’s Choice Award

Address:
2404 Wilshire Blvd 1E Los Angeles, CA 90057

About Kelly Architects, Inc.

Trends come and go, especially in L.A., so instead of going with whatever style is of the moment, Kelly Architects designs restaurants that play to the qualities that have made their clients successful restaurateurs. The strategy has paid off, with multiple AIA People’s Choice and Restaurant Design awards. Founded in 2003 by George W. Kelly, AIA, the company has built a reputation for dynamic, responsive design that makes the best use of classic elements, while bringing out each venue’s individual character. Kelly Architects’ portfolio of over 250 Southern California venues includes popular spots such as Osteria Mozza, Public School 310, The Falls, Hotel Shangri-La and The Edison.

Featured Projects

AIA People’s Choice award-winner Osteria Mozza is one of L.A.’s most talked about—and most expensive—restaurants. Chef Nancy Silverman worked with Kelly Architects to design a Melrose location worthy of the neighborhood and the award-winning Italian cuisine. The atmosphere reflects the simple but refined menu. Beveled stone bar and tabletops pop against the wooden, black floors and back bar. Subtle touches, like marble kickboards beneath the bar, and matching black molding on wood cabinetry, elevate the experience. Plush finishes, gold accents, and tall ceilings—all of these give an avant-garde allure to Mama Lion, a bold restaurant at a corner lot at Koreatown. Gem-toned materials and textures paired with a symphony of lighting and reflective surfaces make the supper club a topnotch dining setting. LA Eater, Gayot, and ABC7 have all profiled the restaurant as one of LA’s new dining hotspots.

Knibb Design

Architects:
Sean Knibb

Address:
822 Lincoln Blvd Venice California CA 90291

About Knibb Design

Sean Knibb opened his design-build firm at just 23, and has led his team to become a sought-after designer for commercial and residential projects. California Home & Design, Boutique Design, The Los Angeles Times, and several other digital and print outlets have sung the praises of Knibb’s work, from a number of spots for notable Chef Roy Choi to boutique hotel, The Line, in Koreatown. Knibb Design focuses on environmental design, working at a range of scales, from gardens to hotels to restaurants. The studio enhances the environment and works with existing elements to weave comfort and drama into a client’s vision.

Featured Projects

Celebrity chef and restaurateur Roy Choi’s Culver City A-Frame serves up Hawaiian-inspired soul food in a space that feels like an upscale seaside shack. Knibb Designs, Choi’s frequent collaborator, adapted what was previously an IHOP. The ceiling is, indeed, an A-frame of knotty pine planks. Walls of the same wood rise halfway up the structure and curve in toward diners, like the crest of a wave. The cozy dining room is bathed in light from multi-sized windows at one end of the “A.” Another Knibb and Choi venture, Commissary at the Line Hotel, utilizes a different set of materials to create a similarly elevated beach aesthetic. Resembling an oversized greenhouse, the vegetable-focused restaurant sits atop the hotel roof next to an inviting pool. Potted shrubs and hanging plants, along with assorted table shapes, and even a garden hose at one end of the bar, create a backyard environment.

Tag Front

Architects:
Mehdi Rafaty, and Mandi Rafaty

Awards:
AIA Design Award, AIA Jury Excellence Award

Address:
1117 N Sherbourne Dr West Hollywood CA

About Tag Front

Tag Front architecture firm opened in Orange County in 1989 and moved to Los Angeles ten years later. Today, their designs have reached beyond Southern California to Europe and Asia. Founders Mehdi Rafaty and Mandi Rafaty are selective when it comes to new projects and clients. Their personalized approach to commercial, residential, and retail designs thrives on a mutual understanding of the brand’s intent and generally displays their modern aesthetic. One of their repeat clients, Boa Restaurant Group, is known for spots that draw A-listers like Scarlett Johansson, Sharon Stone, and Ryan Seacrest. It is also the architect behind the restaurants of Wolfgang Puck from Disneyland to Shanghai. Where celebrities go, the press follows. Hospitality Design, World Hyper Interiors, and Surface Magazine have taken notice of Tag Front’s AIA award-winning work.

Featured Projects

Boa West Hollywood has a sophisticated and fun atmosphere worthy of its celebrity patronage. Graphic columns radiate from within with warm light, which bounces off of a luxurious gold-panel back wall. More light passes between the laser-cut wood waves that separate wine storage from the main dining room. Still, the light comes across as just enough of a glow to add energy to the venue, without taking away from its mystique. Round banquettes offer intimacy in what is actually an open setting. Named as one of the most romantic restaurants in Los Angeles by Zagat, 71above offers sky-high dining, drinking, and lounging amid geometric-chic design and panoramic city views. Sitting atop the US Bank Building, it’s the highest restaurant west of the Mississippi. Tag Front designed the room to be contemporary but timeless, technologically advanced but endlessly comfortable. White oak runs through most of the room including the tables and is highlighted by golden touches on the floor and edges. 360-degree views of Los Angeles are courtesy of its wraparound electronically tinted windows.

Studio Unltd.

Architects:
Greg Bleier

Awards:
AIA Restaurant Design Awards, Los Angeles Business Council Architectural Awards

Address:
1920 Violet St #201 Los Angeles CA 90021

About Studio Unltd

Variety, Eater, and Hospitality Design magazine have all published glowing reviews of Studio Unltd.’s clients, some of L.A.’s most popular restaurants. Greg Bleier established the firm less than a decade ago, but with his background in interior design, experience with major architectural firms in New York and L.A., and a dedicated team of Los Angeles’ young design talent, the company has become synonymous with the city’s hottest eateries and culinary celebrities. The studio orients designs around a client’s brand and finds success when they have realized a client’s vision with an expressive space.

Featured Projects

Studio Unltd. transformed a mall parking structure into Simbal, Chef Shawn Pham’s former spot in Little Tokyo. Designs for the Eater L.A.’s Stone Cold Stunner winner made use of exposed concrete and American Ashwood in different finishes to create a beautiful dining room and bar without competing with the bones of the utilitarian building. Simple, black overhead light fixtures dangle among matching exposed ductwork. The black comes back again at the bar wrapping around a massive open kitchen. Stainless steel appliances and workspaces bounce light from retractable windows along the street. Located at the Arts District, Bavel draws from its Middle Eastern roots in both cuisine and design. With a base of white in a rather worn brick warehouse, pops of color in tile, plaster, and furnishings are reminiscent of Casa Blanca. Clerestory windows and sawtooth skylights bring in natural light into the space and the centerpiece of the design—an extensive raceway of planters and vine-like greenery that spills from above. The LA Times named Bavel its 2019 Restaurant of the Year while the IIDA SoCal gave it a Calibre Design Award for Hospitality Design.

Preen, Inc.

Architects:
Alexis Readinger, Assoc. AIA

Awards:
AIA Restaurant Design Award

Address:
931 Chung King Rd Los Angeles CA 90012

About Preen, Inc.

In just over ten years, Preen, Inc. has worked on over 100 projects in the Los Angeles area and abroad. The firm works with hoteliers and chefs to produce progressive and provocative designs. Among their clients, Preen, Inc. counts in-demand brands, such as Howlin’ Rays and Umami. Architectural Digest, Los Angeles Times, Bon Appetit, and Elle Decor are among the print and digital outlets that have covered Preen, Inc.’s work.

Texas-native Alexis Readinger received her Master’s degree in Architecture from UCLA in 1999. Six years later she opened her own hospitality design firm, Preen, Inc. A LEED-certified Green Building Advisor, Readinger is committed to the neighborhood the firm calls home. She serves on the boards of the Chinatown Business Council and the Chung King Road Association. Preen, Inc. and their clients have accumulated nearly 20 design honors and #1 restaurant rankings.

Featured Projects

In Santa Monica, The Heroic Deli and Wine Bar plays on neutral tones, super-imposition, and mirroring. The end grain maple block begins at the floor and sweeps up a tall door while a blood-red light hangs from a heavy 3” tube steel, beginning in the upper deli dining, arching down to crown the server taking orders on the main floor. The eccentric and tasteful design won a Best Casual Restaurant Design at the 2019 Gold Key Awards for Excellence in Hospitality Design and 2019 Best Cafe Design from the AIA|LA. Voted the most beautiful restaurant in LA by Eater readers, Tesse delivers sleek European sensibilities in West Hollywood. Tesse was created as a sister brand to LA’s iconic Fred Segal and Preen designed the space with striking and modern palettes, clean lines, and warm touches. The restaurant façade features thickened pink terra concrete blocks and lush greenery walls. It was an AIA|LA Best Restaurant Design finalist, two-time Hospitality Design Awards Finalist, and part of the shortlist for America’s Restaurant of the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards UK.