20 Stunning Restaurant Spaces Around the U.S.

By Kelly Dobkin  |  September 4, 2013

You shouldn't judge a book by its cover. But a restaurant? We're not so sure. Of course, what ends up on your plate is always most important. But there's no doubt that eye-catching ambience can do wonders to enhance a meal. Check out these 20 stunners from 12 cities around the U.S. in the slide show.

  • Miami: The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel

    This Miami looker is home to the inventive and whismsical cuisine of chef Jose Andres. World-renowned designer Philippe Starck is behind the gorgeous digs which feature two distinct dining rooms and Bar Centro out on the back terrace. Presided over by a Spanish bull’s head draped in a Mexican wrestler’s mask created by Andrés’ friend and artist Mikel Urmeneta, Starck’s front Rojo dining room is like a Spanish cantina with deep red curtains and dark wood tables, mixing Spanish and Asian images and icons on the floor. Meanwhile the back Blanca dining room unfolds into an open, airy jumble of paintings, photographs, bookshelves and sculptures. Set against the backdrop of acid yellow walls that reach high into the lofty ceilings, artwork covers everything. But the real showstopper is the sexy deco-esque room dominated by a huge seashell-encrusted chandelier. 

  • Credit: Alden Gewirtz

    NYC: Corvo Bianco

    When you peer through the darkened doorway of Elizabeth Falkner's UWS stunner, you'll have no idea the dining room is one of the neighborhood's most beautiful. You have to go through the grey bar area that lies at the front of the eatery to the dining room to get the real wow factor. The tables all sit underneath an arched skylight that provides warm (and flattering) natural light for the ambiance. A wall of exposed white anchors the back of the room - a fitting backdrop for the chef's Coastal Italian fare. Worn wooden fixtures and plant life give the space a lived-in feel, and the decorations stay true to the venue's name - see if you can spot the single white crow that lends the space its moniker.

  • Credit: Mari Vanna

    Los Angeles: Mari Vanna

    The former Bastide is now a house of Russian delights, from the bubbe-chic decor and all of its tchotchkes to the house-cured herring and borscht, and its huge list of infused vodkas (dill vodka, anyone?). It almost looks like your grandmother should be serving tea and crumpets here, but it’s really some rowdy karaoke and vareniki (Ukrainian stuffed dumplings).

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Philadelphia: Talula's Garden

    Strolling through this Washington Square New American feels like you’re getting a tour of proprietor Aimee Olexy’s home - if she somehow was able to score a country mansion in the middle of the city. The stone-filled bar, the warm-walled dining room and the trellised patio full of flowers all exude enticing visual charm.

  • Credit: Warren Jagger

    Las Vegas: TAO

    The over-the-top opulence at the Vegas branch of TAO is as transporting as it is luxurious. Exotic century-old woods and stones line the interior, while design features like a 20-ft. Buddha statue floating in an infinity pool and a wall with 300 hand-carved monks and candles make this space like no other.

  • Credit: Bonjwing Lee

    Austin: Qui

    The small details at chef Paul Qui’s new fine-dining restaurant in East Austin add up to a big effect. A muted wallpaper from local graffiti artist Peelander Yellow graces one wall, and the airy interior with light-wood details becomes even more open when the floor-to-ceiling glass panels open at sunset. Other details offset the food beautifully, like wooden plates made from a tree that was in the middle of the old building, cups with bunny rabbit tails for the rabbit consommé, and an inspiration board with tags that show the flavor combinations Qui and his team are thinking about for the next menu.

  • Boston: OAK Long Bar + Kitchen

    The Fairmont Copley Plaza is one of Boston's most historical hotels and boasts one of its most quintessentially New England atmospheres. But last year's renovations to its restaurant and bar have created a space that still combines classic swank with contemporary swagger. Oak paneling (hence the name) and a big copper bar command attention, but generally updated style that synthesizes the best of "old" and "new" Boston is what really commands the boisterous crowds.

  • Washington, DC: Minibar

    Avant-garde cooking begets futuristic design at José Andrés' Minibar where Spanish architect Juli Capella conceived a killer kitchen setting, with gold-leafed domes like sailboat hulls and blackboard walls. And, in keeping with the things-are-seldom-what-they-seem cuisine, there are lots of trompe l'oeil touches.

  • Boston: The Beehive

    The always-buzzing South End hot spot lures swarms of young professionals and couples into its upstairs bar area and cool subterranean dining room. There, cabaret-style seating offers views of a performance stage, flanked by heavy red drapes, where jazz and other live music acts entertain nightly. The rest of the room offers exposed brick and adornments of assorted bric-a-brac that look culled from a French antique sale. It's vintage, boho-chic and beautiful. 

  • NYC: ABC Cocina

    Was there any doubt that the team behind ABC Kitchen would open a venue that was jaw-dropping in the design department? Jean Georges’ new eatery manages to work within the same cosmopolitan idiom as its sister restaurant in the ABC Carpet building without feeling redundant. Glittering chandeliers sparkle throughout the room, giving the space a unified vibe, and many of the design details were inspired by nature (check out those seashells on the wall); all of the decor is available to go. Shoppers can go hunting in the department store that lends the venue its name to find their favorite fixtures.

  • San Francisco: Hi Lo BBQ

    Never has a former retirement home been reborn with such a youthful glow. Charred wood walls and serene, beachy art pieces enhance the kicked-back and relaxed vibes.

  • Credit: Susan Goines Becerra

    Los Angeles: Acabar

    Once you walk in through the tall brass doors, you’re immediately transported to a world of Moroccan fantasy, albeit one with a Hollywood twist. The new restaurant from the people behind The Little Door and director Roland Emmerich reconfigured the former Dar Magreb into one open space with a gorgeous atrium and skylight surrounded by tall columns, colorful hand-painted wallpaper on beamed ceilings, and a swank lounge with flecks of light from pierced lanterns dancing on the ornate walls. Quite the place for things like “porn bread,” citrusy ceviche and flame-topped Zombies from the tap.

  • Credit: No Va

    Austin: No Va

    The very white, very modern-looking new restaurant on Rainey Street doesn’t exactly fit with the rest of the converted bungalows on the hottest street in Austin. But that’s so intentional it’s built into the name: “no va” means “no go” in Spanish and is a nod to the distinctness of the architecture. The original architect of the spot (before No Va existed) had already created an open design that chef Brad Sorenson and his team built on, and he has already been in for dinner and given the space his blessing. As Sorenson says, “Everything the guest touches is organic, from the mesquite wood to the leather.” Indeed, the organic juxtaposed against the industrial creates an interesting modern vibe.

  • Philadelphia: Sampan

    Michael Schulson’s Midtown Village Pan-Asian is almost as dazzling as the chef’s bright blue eyes. Changing-color-backlit walls make the interiors as sleek as Philly gets, while the outside graffiti bar has a grittier urban vibe, with enough colorful swirls on the walls to capture your gaze for a while.

  • Credit: Robert Miller

    Washington, DC: Rasika

    Striking design by Martin Vahtra backdrops modern Indian fare at this West End destination. References to Indian culture and shapes are found throughout the light-filled, plushly appointed space. Eyes are drawn to the molded wood ceiling that is a modern interpretation of a banyan tree, the resting place of the God Krishna.The tile and glass bar has mismatched shelves that reference the eight arms of the Hindu goddess Durga. Romantic canopy booths are inspired by the Palanquins (sedan chairs) used by royalty as well as weddings.

  • Aspen, CO: Chefs' Club by Food & Wine at the St. Regis

    The space was designed by award-winning designer Lauren Rotett and features an expansive bar with a Bar Menu, and an exhibition kitchen with its own bar, as well as a fireplace and a rotating-art exhibit.

  • Nashville, TN: The Catbird Seat

    The perpetually packed Catbird Seat from Strategic Hospitality Group showcases designer Landy Gardner’s expertise in styling small spaces, while Merchant’s Restaurant captures the long history and natural beauty of the building. Get a little history lesson on the building right here.

  • Dallas: FT33

    Designer Hatsumi Kuzuu and designer and architect Craig Beneke of Architecture and Fabrication collaborated on the space to create an industrial design aesthetic as the backdrop for chef Matt McCallister's season-inspired modern cuisine. A 100-year-old, 140-lb. Vulcan anvil greets diners upon entering. At the center of the dining room, diners can get front-row access to Chef McCallister and his culinary team at work if seated at table 33 – the chef’s table – located directly in front of a 9-ft.-long slab of brushed Nordic black granite.

  • San Francisco: Osso Steakhouse

    This Nob Hill newcomer is taking it back - way back. A chic color palette of black, white, green and wood tones transports diners to the Art Deco era. It provides a slice of retro elegance that is sorely missing in San Francisco.

  • Chicago: Trenchermen

    The uber-trendy Wicker Park eatery also boasts a unique design aesthetic full of global accents. The bi-level art deco- and steampunk-inspired space that once housed a bathhouse features two bars, antiques and terrariums, plus gargantuan stained-glass light fixtures dangling above suede banquettes.