When you have the perfect weather and gorgeous scenery, it calls for the next essential link — delicious food in a dynamic dining experience. With the best tacos, seafood, burgers, chicken wings, kid-friendly restaurants, craft breweries, and much much more, San Diego offers its residents and visitors some of the most mouthwatering food in the world and, as can be expected, is home to some of the best restaurants and restaurant architects in the business. This list includes restaurant architects and designers who have created interiors that ignite not only our appetites but our imaginations. They have created platforms where the ordinary act of refueling the machine can transform into a magnificent and memorable dining experience.
Awbrey Cook Rogers McGill Architects + Interiors
1045 14th Street, Suite 100, San Diego, CA 92101
About Awbrey Cook Rogers McGill Architects + Interiors
Founded in 2002, Awbrey Cook Rogers McGill Architects + Interiors is a San Diego-based architectural and interior design firm that recognizes a great restaurant is not just about the food but the overall dining experience. The firm is recognized for its ability to make the thoughtful transformation of spaces into elegant and unique properties that will offer value to their clients as patrons make lasting memories in the spaces they create. Their mission is to strive for design excellence and provide exceptional client service. Taking their clients from the beginning stages of design to the completed project, ACRM Architects + Interiors provides the best quality of service at every stage of the design process.
One of ACRM Architects + Interiors’ designs is for D-Bar restaurant, a concept created by Food Network’s celebrity chef Keegan Gerhard. The dessert-oriented dining space includes high ceilings, exposed masonry walls and woodwork, and large glass doors that open up the space to enjoy indoor-outdoor dining and take in the San Diego sunshine. Located in the Hillcrest community of San Diego, the 4,500-square-foot space also features a sidewalk café, oversized skylights, polished concrete floors, and field-constructed cable and wood trusses that give the space an industrial and modern feel. ACRM also designed the 12-story Pendry Hotel including its restaurant centerpiece, Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine. With two levels, the height of the ceiling opens up space. The wood, copper, and brass elements come together to make it feel warm and welcoming.
SDAF Orchids Award,
840 11th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101
About BASILE Studio
Paul Basile has been designing beautiful restaurant spaces for the past two decades and draws his inspiration from big markets like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. His is one of the most recognized and prolific names in Southern California design. In San Diego, he is responsible for some of the city’s finest restaurants, with the most unique designs that are true works of art. He is frequently referred to as the “brick and mortar guru” of San Diego. BASILE Studio has been featured in many publications, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, Architectural Digest, and Curbed. The studio has also received wide-ranging critical acclaim and multiple awards for interior design, transformative design, adaptive reuse, sustainability and divine details, from organizations such as the American Institute of Architects and San Diego Architectural Foundation.
After designing the multi-awarded high-end steakhouse, Born and Raised, Paul Basile enthusiastically tackled the next project of hospitality group CH Projects. Morning Glory is a new stunner in Little Italy that serves brunch against a backdrop of exquisite details. An electric pink starburst structure welcomes customers into the front room and opens them up into a more sophisticated version of a diner. Wrapped in gleaming shingles of polished copper, the second-level space has a set of 24 articulated windows that moves and undulates throughout the day and a floor of custom pink and black terrazzo. The main dining room features a luxurious open kitchen in 80s pink and green and a backlit, hand-etched mirrored ceiling. Eater San Diego gave the restaurant the Design of the Year Award in 2019. The firm is also the team behind the 2018 Design of the Year Award winner — Raised by Wolves. This boutique bottle shop and hidden cocktail bar in the Westfield UTC shopping mall in San Diego take patrons to Paris and London in the early 1900s with its opulence and elegance. Stained-glass, brass wolf heads, vintage street lanterns, and hand-painted French country murals fill the space. A library cocktail lounge sits under a massive stained-glass gazebo structure with LED lighting mimicking sunrise to sunset. The centerpiece is the 22-foot round African Gold marble bar surrounded by claw and ball bar stools imported from London.
H2 Hawkins + Hawkins Architects, Inc.
J David Hawkins
Golden Nugget Awards,
SDAF Orchids Award
726 9th Avenue, Suite 1, San Diego, CA 92101
About H2 Hawkins + Hawkins Architects, Inc.
H2 Hawkins + Hawkins Architects, Inc. is a successful client-focused San Diego architectural firm rooted in integrity, collaboration, and high quality design. It was founded by brothers David and Steven Hawkins, with over 30 years of experience between them. Led by LEED accredited project teams, the firm’s work focuses on transforming buildings into healthy, prosperous environments through the use of sustainable techniques, technology, and materials. H2 has received numerous design awards, including the 2014 San Diego Orchid and the 2014 Builder’s Choice/Custom Home Magazine Grand Award, nine Gold Nugget awards of Merit, and two Grand Gold Nugget Awards for outstanding design from the Pacific Coast Builders Conference. It has been featured in Sun Coast Architects & Builders Magazine, Best of American Remodeling Magazine, The Moscow Architectural Journal, the San Diego Union Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and the San Diego Daily Transcript.
The unique Caffe Pan Bon in the Little Italy district of San Diego is one of H2 Hawkins + Hawkins’ chic and modern restaurant designs. It is a 10.4k-square-foot space that features a dramatic main dining room, a two-story space with a 4,000-square-foot modern mezzanine, and a beautiful balcony lounge area. H2’s main goal with this space was to integrate the aesthetic and design concepts of Cierreesse Arredamenti from Italy into the restaurant’s overall feel, which they did while also creating a one-of-a-kind dining experience. Another of H2’s restaurant designs is the equally exquisite Olive & Rose in San Diego, with an edgy but welcoming interior. Space features a large wood beam accent spanning the length of the restaurant, offering both function and form. It is warmed by red brick walls. Tall ceilings are decorated with exposed piping, and large windows allow beautiful natural light to accentuate the restaurant’s earthy but industrial atmosphere.
T. Dustin Hauck
4888 Ronson Court, Suite F, San Diego, CA 92111
About Hauck Architecture
Hauck Architecture is a San Diego based, full-service architecture and interior design firm specializing in custom residential, hospitality, and craft beer projects. The firm is led by T. Dustin Hauck, who has over 20 years of architectural practice experience and takes pride in delivering an exceptional design to exceed his clients’ expectations. As principal of the firm, he takes responsibility and serves as the driving force behind anything the firm undertakes. And under his leadership, since 1996, the firm has been changing the restaurant design industry by offering their clients their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited and Green Building Professional-certified services. The firm is committed to pinpointing each and every green or sustainable design solution available to them that will increase efficiency and decrease their environmental impact.
One of the firm’s designs is the Sublime Alehouse, which features wood accents, exposed piping, and a pristine, white bar that wraps around the central serving station and contrasts with the otherwise rustic beauty of the space. The alehouse also features three large garage doors that open to expand the space and add an element of edgy, industrial beauty to the restaurant. The firm is also responsible for the design of the Elbowroom in San Diego — a restaurant and bar featuring warm brick wall and quintessential pub decor, with the unexpected touch of large crystal chandeliers that adorn the space with light and delicate grace. The mood lighting and a fire pit in the outdoor area have successfully helped the Elbowroom become a popular hangout in San Diego’s Kearny Mesa.
SDAF Orchids Award
3268 Governor Drive #141, San Diego, CA 92122
About Lahaina Architects
Lahaina Architects is a San Diego-based architectural firm established in 2007 by architect Philip Cudaback. The firm operates with the philosophy of providing creative designs in a relaxed but professional atmosphere. They are a group of passionate architects with over 30 years of combined experience, who strive to create beautiful designs while taking cost-efficient and forward-thinking measures that exceed their clients’ expectations. They have worked with a long list of clients that include local restaurant operators, local and national retailers, real estate investors, property owners, large corporations, developers, and public agencies. The team at Lahaina Architects has worked on a vast variety of projects and is licensed to practice in California, Colorado, and Nebraska.
One of Lahaina Architects’ designs was for the transformation of The Patio on Goldfinch, a 3,700-square-foot space that once housed an old classic TV repair shop in the Mission Hills area of San Diego. The striking transformation and beautiful design perfectly blend elements such as steel, wood, and glass with a modern and sophisticated feel. There are high ceilings, tall beams, and soft wood-paneled walls throughout, accented by beautiful crystal chandeliers and greenery. As the first LEED Gold award-winning restaurant in San Diego, The Patio on Goldfinch offers the ultimate indoor-outdoor dining experience with a design that is mindful of the importance of energy conservation. Lahaina Architects also did the architectural work for one of San Diego’s most Instagrammable spots — Holy Matcha. The 1,200-square-foot cafe is the first concept of its kind in San Diego solely dedicated to the chic superfood. The soft pink signature color starts in the façade and continues into the bright interior. Tropical greens are tastefully complemented by brass fixtures, quartz countertops, a velvet banquette, Parisian-style bistro seating, and custom neon sign.
Larson Design Services
3940 Hortensia Street, San Diego, CA 92110
About Larson Design Services
Denise Larson leads Larson Design Services with a strong love for architecture and a dedication to making the old new again. She established her own firm in 2014 after earning a Master’s Degree in Architecture, a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Marketing, and an Associate’s Degree in Architecture. This young firm has already worked on a large number of projects ranging from restaurants and bars to historic homes in areas including Hillcrest, Mission Hills, Old Town, Del Mar, and Ocean Beach, among others. The firm provides a complete range of services, including feasibility studies, programming and space planning, and architectural design services, among many others.
Tavern at The Beach is one of Larson Design’s incredible works. It is a remodel and second-floor addition that took a vast amount of research and strong efforts in historic preservation to transform the space from its original 1927 Spanish style to the modern but historic popular San Diego hotspot. The work involved the removal of dry wood ceilings to expose the beautiful inner structure. The team added two commercial kitchens and installed numerous roll-up doors to add the indoor-outdoor dining element. New skylights, which once were used as train cabooses, were also installed. The addition of a giant new bar, a back-lit keg room with windows, and tap lines all serve as the perfect elements for a San Diego beachside tavern. Barley Mash is another of Larson Designs architectural transformations, located at 5th and Market in San Diego. When the firm first took on the project, the historic structure from the late 1890s was in a very poor state. The ground was exposed and the entire building needed structural retrofitting. The transformation includes an expansive central bar with suspended wood beams, warm red brick walls, and exposed piping, which collectively create a space that is both modern and historic, warm and industrial, edgy and inviting. It is a testament to the firm’s ability to transform a failing structure into a new mod spot known for craft beer, bourbon, and flatbread pizzas that delight San Diego’s locals and visitors alike.
3817 Ray Street, San Diego, CA 92104
About OBR Architecture
Established in 2008, OBR Architecture was born from the desire to create lasting and meaningful relationships with their clients, projects, and the environment. As a small firm, they are dedicated to not only meeting but exceeding their client’s expectations. With the partners’ wide array of experience, the firm has the ability to take on a variety of project sizes and types and can adjust quickly to changes in programs, budgets, or designs. Over the years, they have developed an exceptional collaborative and artistic approach to every project, and their goal is to inspire their clients in achieving the clients’ dream designs.
Of their impressive list of restaurant designs, Saiko Sushi and its oversized round chandelier stand out. The design incorporates traditional Japanese themes — red, brown, and black colors — into a modern concrete and wooden world. There is a linear visual draw and a minimalist appeal that both fascinates and entertains the viewer. But at its core, it is a fun, modern sushi bar that focuses on drawing attention back to the sushi chefs, in order to bring the focus back to what’s most important here — the food! The firm also worked on the design for Bottlecraft Little Italy in a new mixed-use development in the Little Italy area of San Diego. There is a ColdBox and tasting mezzanine at the center of the space. A floor-to-ceiling palette wall allows glimpses of patrons heading to and from the mezzanine, and a baltic, birch bar-top wraps around the ColdBox, while sectional roll-up doors add the perfect accents to the front facade.
OCIO Design Group
1717 5th Ave., San Diego, CA 92101
OCIO Design Group is a full-service architectural and interior design firm specializing in restaurant, commercial, and office spaces. Since its establishment in 1992 by Rodolfo Ocio, its diverse portfolio has expanded to more than a thousand projects—both new construction and tenant improvement—ranging from corporate offices, retail spaces, medical labs, and biotech, to manufacturing facilities, restaurants, and nightclubs.
OCIO Design Group has worked on multiple projects for a notable hospitality group, RMD Group. Their collaborations have produced fan favorites in restaurant design and ambiances such as Rustic Root in San Diego and CabaRAE in Hawaii. One of their projects is Volcano Rabbit in the Gaslamp District. The restaurant and lounge boast downtown’s largest tequila selection and chic Mexican cuisine within a gorgeous cosmopolitan space. Space is a revamp from a previous restaurant and pays homage to the traditional Mexican hacienda with an added touch of elegance and whimsical flair. In La Jolla, chef and caterer Giuseppe Ciuffa returned to the location of his first restaurant and remodeled it with OCIO Design Group to open Candor, an “honest and straightforward culinary approach” inspired by his upbringing on his family’s farm in Italy. The restaurant features bistro seating both inside the building and in an enclosed patio, as well as a separate wine bar. The space is warm and contemporary with its wood-look floor tile and crisp white walls. High ceilings and exposed beams above perfectly contrast with Classic Carrara marble countertops and bright teal stools at the bar.
Orness Design Group
Greenbuild Editor’s Choice Honors
5955 Mira Mesa Boulevard, Suite H, San Diego, CA 92121
About Orness Design Group
The formation of Orness Design Group in 2005 by George Orness and Ken Relethford as a foodservice consulting and equipment company was born out of the founder’s desire to personally provide exceptional consulting and design services to their clients. With over 75 years of combined experience and talented staff that adds their brilliant and collaborative work to each project, Orness Design Group has become a premier design and contracting company in the San Diego area. For their efforts in keeping their work green, U.S. Builders Review recognized Orness Design Group as a Greenbuild Editor’s Choice 2016 Honoree.
Among their many restaurant designs is the Cucina Enoteca, a two-story, 8,500-square-foot wine shop and Italian restaurant located in Del Mar’s Flower Hill Promenade. The restaurant has an exposed central kitchen surrounded by bar seating. Arguably the most distinctive feature is the use of lighting — horn chandeliers hang in the expansive space and bring in the wild and wonderful natural world. Also as a nod to the location’s proximity to the polo fields and the nearby thoroughbred club, an “ode to the equestrian” is installed with over 400 toy horses strung in a unique installation along the staircase leading to the second floor. With its modern interior and eclectic design, this Del Mar restaurant has become a hot spot for Italian food lovers in the San Diego area. The firm is also responsible for the kitchen design of Stone Brewing Company, with its warm brown brick and steel interior. There is a sense of timelessness and elegance in this design, and the soft lighting adds comfort and ease to space.
K+BB Design Awards Merit Award,
AIA San Diego Citation and Young Architect of the Year Award,
AZ Chapter Design Excellence Award
1431 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
StudioAnderson’s goal as a firm is to use architecture as a tool to design and create extraordinary spaces that are reflections of their client’s dreams and aspirations. Led by their principal, Aaron Anderson, a San Diego-based architect, StudioAnderson is dedicated to paying keen attention to the details of a project. Its use of materials — like intricately cut steel, contrasting woods, and stylized glass — are always innovative and a pleasant surprise to their clients. The firm’s thoughtful designs have been awarded the K+BB Design Awards Merit Award, the American Institute of Architects San Diego Citation and Young Architect of the Year Award, and the AZ Chapter Design Excellence Award.
StudioAnderson’s restaurant projects include the Salt & Cleaver restaurant, which is a brilliant architectural design that incorporates wood, steel, brick, glass, and light into an amalgamation that’s visually exciting and modern. What resembles a suspended cage over the central bar feels industrial, the garage doors open the space with the indoor-outdoor appeal, and the use of warm brown brick juxtaposed against sleek wood and steel feels edgy but also surprisingly inviting and fresh.
The concept for a colorful and playful space for the Un Mundo Mexican Grill is also one of the studio’s designs. One of its main features is a geometrically inspired ceiling with soft blue and white designs, and a wall featuring a beautiful logo that takes center stage. The minimalist but artistically inspired design is a blend of color and contrasts. A large window opens, allowing bar seating to enjoy the fresh outdoor air, making for a memorable dining experience.
2731 B Street, San Diego, CA 92102
About Tecture Inc.
Founded by NewSchool of Architecture and Design alums David Michael, Kyle Preish, and Slade Fincher in 2012, Tecture is a young and progressive team of designers, artists, and builders. Even for a young firm, it has proven itself a force in the restaurant design industry, has garnered praise and awards from San Diego Magazine, Eater, Modern Luxury, and the San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF). It is the team behind seaside favorite George’s At The Cove and rooftop wonder Kettner Exchange. It has also worked on a variety of projects around San Diego, from contemporary residences to modern offices to forward-thinking installations and fabrications.
Tecture assumed the dual roles of builder and architect for Nolita Hall in Little Italy. From an old warehouse turned retail/office space, the company gave the space its third life as a community beer hall managed by Black Swan Hospitality. Exposed original redwood framing and concrete walls give an industrial feel while natural light floods the space through huge quad-fold doors and a skylight that cascades into a counter-weighted window. Communal tables and booth seating reinforce the sense of community among guests as well as its fireplace lounge and recreational and game-viewing zone. The restaurant is included in the 2019 Michelin Guide. For its design, it earned a 2018 Orchid for Interior Design from the SDAF and Design of the Year (People’s Poll) from Eater San Diego. The company also built and designed the new home for Blue Water Seafood Market & Grill. Run by longtime fishermen and brothers Judd and Matt Braun with local hospitality group Social Syndicate, the 2,500-square-foot restaurant in Ocean Beach features large booths, communal tables, and an ocean-view patio.