Chicago is the Midwest mecca for restaurant innovation. The city is home to the Alinea Group, whose restaurants offer some of the best experiential dining establishments in the country. The craft cocktail business is thriving, with a history of infamous bars and lounges dating back to Prohibition. But the Midwest is truly known for its unique blend of casual and couture, as displayed by one of America’s top chefs Stephanie Izard, who offers upscale dining experiences with a retro diner theme. Chicago’s got a little bit of everything, and the city’s diverse restaurant designers, in turn, are prepared to offer a wide range of styles. The firms listed here have elevated the restaurant scene by designing spaces that embody their clients’ visions. They have been recognized by industry professionals and have won awards for their projects.

Top Architects

Heisler Hospitality

Matt Eisler
Kevin Heisner

Chicago Magazine Emerging Power Players,
StarChefs Rising Star Restaurateurs Award

2001 W Grand Avenue, Chicago, IL 60612

About Heisler Hospitality

Hospitality entrepreneur Matt Eisler teamed up with designer Kevin Heisner in 2006 to form Heisler Hospitality, a firm that creates some of the best concept-driven restaurants and drinking establishments in the city. With 10 establishments in their portfolio, the group works from concept and design to day-to-day operations and award-winning promotional efforts. The duo was named “Emerging Power Players” by Chicago Magazine, and Eisler was included in Crain’s Chicago Business’s “40 under 40” list in 2009. In 2015, they earned a StarChefs Rising Star Restaurateurs Award. Heisner is a graduate of the School of Art Institute and, beyond Heisler Hospitality’s projects, has also worked on well-known venues like The Publican, Violent Hour, and Big Star.

Featured Projects

Estereo won Time Out Chicago’s Best Bar Design in 2017. Estereo is an all-day bar in Logan Square that features cocktails made from Latin-American spirits. This triangular-shaped bar maintains its Latin-inspired themes with colorful tile and gold accents. Opened December 2013, Heisler’s Sportsman’s Club offers classic cocktails that change daily, as well as a global craft beer menu and complex wines. In honor of the original Sportsman’s Club bar, which served the neighborhood’s Polish immigrants, the renovated tavern has preserved pieces of the bar’s history, including the original art deco bar. The bar features exposed brick, wood, and leather wall-lined booths, and metal-grated open shelving. Sportsman’s Club was a runner up for Bar of the Year in Time Out Chicago’s 2017 Bar Awards.

Rugo / Raff Ltd. Architects

Steven Rugo
Dennis Raffensperger

20 W Hubbard Street, Floor #5, Chicago, IL 60654

About Rugo / Raff Ltd. Architects

The multidisciplinary practice designs single-family residences, restaurants, private clubs, and institutional projects. Before starting his own practice, principal and founder Steven Rugo, AIA, worked with the prominent Chicago firm Booth Hansen. His co-founder Dennis Raffensperger relocated in 1996 and is no longer active with the firm. The firm’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Architectural Record, Architectural Digest, Interiors, Veranda, Traditional Home, and LUXE Magazine. They got their start in the restaurant industry by developing award-winning conceptual designs for the Flat Top Grill chain spread throughout the country. From there, the firm built up a relationship with the Alinea Group, working on designs of award-winning restaurants Aviary, Next, and Roister. Next up, Rugo / Raff is said to be teaming up with Heisler Hospitality’s Kevin Heisner to design the Prairie School, a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired cocktail bar in Fulton Market.

Featured Projects

Founded by the world-renowned chef Grant Achatz, Next Restaurant won a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in America. Next is a culinary experience that changes its menu every four months. The design needed to be simple to match the restaurant’s fluctuating moods. A highlight of the design is a private dining room featuring an LED backlit wall in bright pink and blues that serves as a high contrast for the rest of the restaurant’s dark earthy tones. Rugo / Raff designed Alinea and re-designed Alinea 10 years later. The restaurant became the first in Chicago to receive three Michelin stars in 2011. The firm was asked to re-conceptualize the space in 2015, for what became known as Alinea 2.0. The new concept imitates a Parisian hotel. It merges classic architectural elements with modern pieces, such as an LED chandelier imported from London underneath a grand, sweeping staircase.

D + K interiors, Architecture, and Management

Corey Dunnem
Paul Kozlowski

1147 W. Ohio, Suite 103, Chicago, IL 60642

About D + K interiors, Architecture, and Management

This full-service design, architecture, and interiors firm has made a name for itself due to its rich restaurant designs found around the country. One can find their work at a food and beverage outpost in the Times Square American Eagle store and at the Dolce Italian within Chicago’s Godfrey Hotel. Co-owner and Principal Corey Dunne focuses his designs around attention to detail and function, while fellow Co-owner and Principal Paul Kozlowski focuses on ecologically responsible designs and new smart building technology. Previously, Kozlowski worked with Antunovich Associates, Krueck and Sexton, and DeStefano and Partners. Alexandra Alcott is the firm’s director of interiors. She received dual BFAs in architecture and interior design from Savannah College of Art and Design. The firm stays intentionally small to best utilize each member’s individual talents.

Featured Projects

Chicago Architecture featured the lively Bar Takito, a tapas places inspired by all of Mexico and Central and South America. The design is all about the lighting, with back-lit recessed shelving, eclectic hanging Edison bulbs, and chandeliers. An exposed industrial ceiling supports suspended, giant, lighted marquee letters. The 130-seat restaurant also has a patio which seats 60 to 80. The firm’s design of the Backdoor Saloon has been nominated for the international Restaurant and Bar Design Award for Surface Interiors. The restaurant, which features locally sourced food and craft cocktails, is a completely immersive space with rich details from the architecture to the interior decorating. A tin-pressed ceiling, ornate wall-to-wall bar, and warm wood wainscoting help give the space its Victorian-era Wild West feel.

Woodhouse Tinucci Architects

David Woodhouse
Andy Tinucci

AIA Chicago Firm of the Year Award

230 W Superior, 6th Floor, Chicago, IL 60654

About Woodhouse Tinucci Architects

David Woodhouse, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA), started his own firm in 1987 after working with two prominent Chicago firms: Stanley Tigerman and Associates and Booth/Hansen and Associates. Woodhouse received the AIA Chicago Firm of the Year Award in 2007. In 2014, he was joined by Andy Tinucci, AIA, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Advanced Professional (LEED AP), whose work has received the Architectural Record Houses Award and AIA Chicago Distinguished Building Award. He has been internationally published in over 60 publications. The firm has received a number of awards, including several from AIA Chicago. The firm works on residential, commercial, and public projects. Their restaurant designs are simple, elegant, and award winning.

Featured Projects

The firm’s design of a couture cupcake boutique won two AIA Chicago small project awards. More Cupcakes found in the Gold Coast is only 550 square feet and had to be scrupulously planned for space split between the patrons, display and sales, and a full kitchen. The cupcakes sit on open-glass shelving. The butter cream-colored backlighting is broken up by custom-designed white swirling lights, made to resemble frosting. The project was completed in 2010 and featured in Chicago Architect, Architect Magazine, and CS Interiors. Woodhouse Tinucci received an AIA Honor Award for their design of the West Loop Eastman Egg Company. Woodhouse utilized contrast to make the most of a once again tiny space. The restaurant occupies a total of 1,100 square feet. Black, charred cypress boards create a tunnel toward the brightly lit, white-walled ordering station. The walls also contrast the light, custom-oak butcher block table that runs along the center of the space.

Burns and Beyerl Architects

Gary Beyerl
Edward Twohey

1010 S Wabash, Chicago, IL 60605

About Burns and Beyerl Architects

The firm specializes in high-end, single-family residences and restaurants, with a focus on sustainable practices. Gary Beyerl, AIA, co-founded the firm in 1993 with his now retired partner Steven Burns. He was joined by Edward Twohey, AIA, in 1994, who was named principal five years later. The firm staffs five additional AIA associates, including Senior Associate Monika Hemm, ALA, AIA, LEED AP, who also assists the firm in their sustainable practices. Twohey leads the firm’s hospitality and restaurant projects, including multiple Jamaican resorts and a number of Chicago eateries. Among them, the firm designed both of Top Chef runner-up Dale Levitski’s Chicago-based restaurants.

Featured Projects

Blues legend Buddy Guy contracted Burns and Beyerl to design his club, Buddy Guy’s Legends, which has become one of downtown’s go-to blues venues. It was built in the style of old-school blues venues with a retro look, oversized white and blue tile floors, and a backlit brick bar. The two-story building totals 16k square feet with a main stage, billiard room, and private party facility. The second floor also houses the offices of Mr. Guy’s Checkerboard Productions and BG Artist Management companies. Burns and Beyerl also designed Pazzo’s, an Italian restaurant and bar, found in the historic O’Malley Place, owned by DePaul University and a Chicago landmark. The restaurant takes up the first floor of the historic building and utilizes its stained-glass windows. An Italy-inspired comfortable and casual atmosphere is created by a brown, green, and gold palette; natural finish walnut; warm-colored stones; and patterned fabrics.

Summit Design and Build

Adam Miller

Engineering News-Record Midwest Top Contractor,
National Association for Industrial and Office Parks Award for Excellence

1032 W. Fulton Market, Suite 300, Chicago, IL 60607

About Summit Design and Build

This design and build firm located in the Fulton Market offers a full range of services from architecture and design to construction management. It serves a variety of commercial industries, as well as converting condominium and loft spaces. Since 2005, Summit’s completed projects have totaled more than 2.5M square feet of space. Among its many awards, Summit was named a 2015 and 2016 Engineering News-Record Midwest Top Contractor and received a 2015 National Association for Industrial and Office Parks Award for Excellence for Office and Mixed-Use Redevelopment of the Year. From gastropubs to mixed-use dining and retail spaces, Summit has worked on a variety of restaurant spaces around the Chicagoland area.

Featured Projects

Little Goat, which opened in 2013, is a retro diner offering all-day breakfast and upscale diner cuisine from Bravo’s Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard. Summit completely gutted and renovated the 10,500-square-foot space to house the dual restaurant and bake shop. The restaurant features a barista bar, boutique baker, and private eat-in-kitchen dining on the top floor. Summit also transformed a refrigerated food distribution warehouse into the City Winery. With a 5,000 square feet of new construction, the finished space totaled 33k square feet. This multifunctional space houses a winery and tasting room, restaurant with outdoor wine garden, concert hall, and private event space. The winery features tall exposed ceilings, reclaimed wood beams, and glass partitions that display the wine-making in progress. A 30-foot-high exterior glass curtain wall exposes the sleek contemporary space. The facility was honored with a 2013 Vision Award by Urban Land Institute Chicago for its adaptive reuse of the 100-year-old building.


Laura Cripe
Matt Nardella

Chicago Architecture Foundation’s 50 Designers, 50 Ideas, 50 Wards Exhibit

2855 West Diversey Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647

About Moss

Moss is a full-service architecture and design studio serving residential, retail, and commercial sectors. They assist clients from site selection and design through the permitting and construction process. Moss creates site-specific designs with an emphasis on integrating natural light and air, creating and protecting green spaces, and using sustainable materials. The firm was co-founded by Laura Cripe and Matt Nardella, AIA, LEED-AP. Cripe is a certified permaculturist and urban farmer and manages the firm’s business development. Graduate of the NewSchool of Architecture, Nardella returned to his hometown of Chicago to establish his own firm after spending a decade designing sustainable architecture in San Diego. Moss was selected to be part of Chicago Architecture Foundation’s 50 Designers, 50 Ideas, 50 Wards Exhibit. They’ve been featured in Chicago Architect Magazine and have made a number of appearances in CS Interiors.

Featured Projects

Eco-friendly restaurateurs turn to Moss to design attractive, green-friendly spaces. In 2015, Margy Nguyen Aregoni and Theresa Nguyen opened their second restaurant, Bang Chop, to serve casual BYOB Thai food in the growing West Loop neighborhood. Moss used warm wood paneling and screen-covered cabinets to create an inviting and clean space. A live-edge elm slab bar was harvested in the Chicago area. Above the bar, a custom-made pendant by Ted Harris Lamps serves as a focal point — a static point of contrast from the clear view of the busy kitchen. Moss designed a dual space for the Pastoral company as well. The Andersonville space, previously occupied by a small grocery store, became a restaurant and wine and cheese shop. Opened in January of 2016, Appellation quickly became one of Andersonville’s premier go-to restaurants and wine bars. The cozy, sexy space centers around a slab-wood bar accented by exposed brick around the far walls. The marketplace shows off a striking, pressed-tin ceiling. A custom wine rack separates the retail and restaurant spaces.

Bureau of Architecture and Design

James Gorski, Tom Nahabedian

AIA Chicago Small Project Award, ASLA Merit Award

20 W Hubbard Street, Chicago, IL 60654

About Bureau of Architecture and Design

This boutique architecture and design firm was founded in 2012 to work on residential, hospitality, institutional, and commercial projects. The firm is known for its sensitivity to detail, space planning, and sustainability. Founding Principal James Gorski holds a dual master’s degree in Architecture and Civil Engineering from University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign. His co-founder and Principal Tom Nahabedian received his Master of Architecture degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Together, the two have won several design awards including a Small Project Award from the American Institute of Architecture, Chicago, and an American Society of Landscape Architects Merit Award.

Featured Projects

Bureau has designed two high-end restaurants for Principal Tom Nahabedian’s restaurant entrepreneur cousin, Carrie Nahabedian. Their first, NAHA in River North, uses minimalist and spacious design with clean spare walls and ceiling set off by a curved bar. Leather-clad wall tiles behind the bar create a stunning visual. Michelin has given Naha a one-star rating since 2010. Brindille came next in 2013 and was voted one of Chicago’s sexiest restaurants by Zagat and winner of the “Stone Cold Stunner” award by Chicago Eater. The French bistro takes its theme from its name (Brindille means “little branch” in French), which Bureau reinforced with delicate branch-like glass and metal light fixtures. The Parisian-inspired space offers sophisticated, yellow-tinted lighting with clean, dark walls. The firm won the 2015 James Beard Foundation Outstanding Restaurant Design Award for Brindille.


William Harris, Greg Bradshaw, Kristina O’Neal, Adam Farmerie

James Beard Award, HA & D Award

224 Centre Street, 3rd Floor, New York City, NY 10013

About AvroKO

AvroKO is an architecture and interior design firm with a focus on concept-driven spaces. They have designed award-winning restaurant, bar, hotel, retail, and residential projects from New York to Hong Kong. Recognition has included The James Beard Award and HA & D Award. The suite of companies also includes a branding studio, an independent furniture line, and a hospitality group offering such services as food and beverage concept development. They have offices in New York, San Francisco, Bangkok and London, but the company has designed many of Chicago’s high-end restaurants. AvroKO is a favorite of the Boka Restaurant Group, which runs 14 of the highest-rated restaurants in the city.

Featured Projects

From its food to its design, Momotaro is a winner. It was No. 5 in the Tribune’s Top 50 Best Restaurants in Chicago, as well as winner of the Chicago Eater’s So Hot Right Now award. The design was nominated for a James Beard Award and won a Jean Banchet Award for Best Restaurant Design, as well as being a finalist for a Hospitality Design Award from Upscale Restaurant Magazine. The 11.5k-square-foot space centers on post-World War II era Japan, when Japanese and Western styles merged. A key design feature is the two-story pendant lighting. The space is filled with strong vertical lines, representing the Japanese attention to form and order. In 2015, the firm managed the interiors, custom furniture, and lighting and graphics for Swift and Sons, named one of the best new steakhouses in Chicago by Time Out Chicago and in the U.S. by Zagat. The steakhouse is designed to invoke 19th century Chicago at the height of the city’s cattle trade business. The design won Hospitality Design’s Best Upscale Restaurant award, as well as an honorable mention in Fast Co. Design’s Innovation by Design Awards.

555 International

Karen Herold

Bon Appetit Magazine’s 50 Best New Restaurants

4501 S Western Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60609

About 555 International

The 30-year-old global design, development, and fabrication firm with over 130 employees operates out of a 300k-square-foot studio in the Back of the Yards industrial district. The firm stays busy designing spaces and making cool custom products for many of Chicago’s hottest retailers and restaurants, including Girl and the Goat and GT Fish and Oyster. Its founder and president James Geier is internationally recognized, having worked on spaces for such a diverse span of clients as the Green Bay Packers and Gucci. Karen Herold, partner and vice president of design, has worked on the Playboy Club at the Palms Casino Resort and the VIP lounge for the Dallas Cowboys Stadium

Featured Projects

Last year Roister, located in the Fulton Market, was one of four Chicago restaurants to be listed in Bon Appetit Magazine’s 50 best new restaurants in the nation. 555 took the meal preparation process into account for this open space design, in which the diners have family-style, open views of the kitchen. From custom-designed wood ceiling beams with inlaid copper to an open wood fireplace at the heart of the kitchen, the design team fulfilled the owner’s desires for a casual but elegant atmosphere. Coda di Volpe, a high-end pizzeria from veteran restaurateurs Billy Lawless and Ryan O’Donnell, opened in mid-2016 in Lakeview. 555 used a 1950s and 1960s Italian aesthetic with brass and bronze details. The space centers around the marble top bar set off by illuminated walnut shelves with brass trim.