In a word, Miami’s restaurant scene is vibrant, and the band of architects behind it is just as diverse as the eateries themselves. Each firm has its own MO. Edge of Architecture, Inc., tries to find a story in every project, while Zyscovich Architects is trying to build projects that have purpose and meaning. But most of Miami’s restaurant designers share a common goal: to create structures that are representative of a lively, colorful Miami.
10. Norberto Rosenstein
Featured Architects: Norberto Rosenstein, AIA, NCARB
Address: 126 S Federal Highway #202 Dania FL 33004
Norberto Rosenstein’s fingerprints are all over Miami’s restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. Specifically, his firm helped to develop Cold Stone Creamery’s 60 Florida locations, Sunset Mall’s Pasion del Cielo Coffee, Fat Rooster in Delray Beach. Rosenstein, AIA, NCARB, has been working in architecture since the early 1990s.
For his work on South Beach hotspot Quality Meats, Mr. Rosenstein was awarded the inaugural Miami Hospitality Design Merit Award of Excellence this year. The restaurant lives inside a historic hotel. The original check-in desk is now a butcher counter. The main dining room seats 120, and there’s room for 70 on the patio. Built into the space are private dining rooms for events, as well as a wine nook that comfortably fits eight guests.
Mr. Rosenstein also worked on the venue that boasts the title, “Miami’s first ice bar.” Drinkhouse Fire & Ice invites guests to visit the ice bar, where everything but the floor is made of ice, and then to spend some time in the fire lounge.
9. Studio Robert McKinley
Featured Designers: Robert McKinley
Address: 65 Bank St Courtyard Studio New York NY 10014
Although Studio Robert McKinley is based in New York, the firm’s designs have helped to enliven areas of the Miami restaurant scene. McKinley is an artist who has worked in fashion, for Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan, and the like. Each of his designs creates a unique environment, a callback to an earlier time. His designs have earned space in such publications as The New York Times, Elle Décor, Vanity Fair, and Vogue.
McKinley created Sant Ambroeus Palm Beach, an Italian restaurant whose design is reminiscent of the Gran Caffés of 1950s Italy. McKinley constructed the Milan-esque space of mahogany and Italian stone, bringing old-world warmth to the contemporary Miami heat. The color palette at Sant Ambroeus is almost exclusively warm — toasty browns, vibrant reds, golden yellows — with touches of cool blues and teals. The restaurant features a coffee bar and gelateria, cocktail and café tables, bringing to the space an indisputable air of the Italy of old.
McKinley hand-laid the stone floor of Miami’s Marion, a Mediterranean-inspired locale with hints of Asia and Paris. With much the same color palette as Sant Ambroeus, Marion is just as warm and fits right into the Brickell area. Coppers and tans and golds stand out against clean, white walls. The restaurant can welcome 307 people at a time in its six seating areas. The 2,169-square-foot main dining room holds 160 people; the private dining room, 600-square-feet large, holds 65 guests. The chef’s table’s 500-square-foot space can seat 22, and the 1,411-square-foot outdoor terrace invites 65. There is also an outdoor bar and terrace, a raw bar, and an alcoholic bar.
8. Shulman + Associates
Featured Architects: Allan Shulman, FAIA, LEED AP
Address: 100 NE 38th St Miami FL 33137
Miami-based design firm Shulman + Associates has been around since 1996, run by founder Allan Shulman. Shulman also teaches architecture as an associate professor at the University of Miami School of Architecture.
In the two decades since its founding, the firm has garnered more than six dozen design awards; in 2017 alone, the group won nine. Among the honors the firm has received are the 2017 AIA Florida Gold Medal and the 2017 AIA Florida Honor Award of Excellence. Shulman + Associates has won a handful of Dade Heritage Trust Awards, as well as an AIA Miami Award of Merit that dates all the way back to 1999.
Six of the nine awards Shulman + Associates won in 2017 were for the Betsy-Carlton Hotel—a South Beach hotel expansion that turned a historic hotel building into a taller, wider, more modern one. While the project is much more than a restaurant, it does include a cafe that serves to reinforce a walkway.
Shulman + Associates is also the firm behind Jugofresh juice bars in Wynwood, South Beach, and Coral Gables. Each location is different. The Wynwood location is neon-hued, overtaken by bright shades of green. And it’s functional: aside from being a place where customers can purchase juice, the Wynwood shop contains an open-air breezeway that connects the complex’s inner courtyard to the street.
7. William Lane Architect
Featured Architects: William Lane, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP
Address: 1480 Marseille Dr Miami Beach FL 33141
Founded in 1990, William Lane Architect specializes in contemporary design. The firm’s awards resume includes the 1997 and 2005 Excellence in Architecture awards from the Miami chapter of the American Institute of Architects, as well as the 2009 Excellence in Architecture award from the Florida/Caribbean chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Principal William Lane studied cinema at New York University, and went on to study art and architecture at Cooper Union and the Architectural Association in London. Before starting his own firm, Lane worked for New York group I.M. Pei and Partners. He opened his business in 1990, then moved it to Miami two years later. In addition to restaurants, Lane’s firm designs single- and multiple-family homes, hotels, parks, mass transportation infill components, office buildings, retail stores, and civic structures.
In 2007, the Miami Design District welcomed Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, a New American restaurant of Lane’s design. The space features a main dining room and courtyard that seat 110, as well as a bar room. The bar room accommodates 16 at tables, and 24 at a bar that serves both alcohol and raw seafood—local stone crabs, Cedar Key clams, oysters shipped in from the East and West coasts. Red accents in the space include a spiral staircase and lighting fixtures in the shape of rectangular prisms.
Also of Lane’s design is the cafe at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Museum Park on Biscayne Bay. The cafe space features geometric patterns—lots of hexagons and lines on the walls—as well as a wall mural. The sculptural work that hangs from the ceiling, the chairs, and parts of the walls are made of wood, in keeping with the earthy nature of the museum itself. The museum sometimes transitions the cafe into a cocktail lounge or dining space for events for a rental fee of $3,000.
6. Telesco Associates
Featured Architects: Tom Telesco Sr, AIA
Address: 1111 Kane Concourse Suite 301 Miami Beach FL 33154
Tom Telesco, Sr., leads a firm that takes pride in its accessibility, via a lax dress code and collaborative work process. A former club-owner himself, Telesco’s firm is known for its nightclub and restaurant designs, which dot not only the United States, but the Caribbean. Telesco’s nightclub designs include Miami’s Crobar.
Telesco, a member of the American Institute of Architects, started his firm in 1990, when he moved to Miami Beach from upstate New York. To this day, he reportedly starts each project that is in another city by visiting that city.
Touché Rooftop Lounge and Restaurant, a 7,100-square-foot rooftop space, features both indoor and outdoor dining options. With 360-degree views of Miami’s skyline, the venue seats just 50 inside—beside an open kitchen—and 225 outside, beneath a retractable roof. Also outdoors are samplings of the elements: a waterfall wall, fire pits. A communal table and bar outside foster and encourage socializing.
Also in Miami is Las Vacas Gordas, a 7,600-square-foot Argentine steakhouse whose name translates to The Fat Cows. With a wall that looks like a cow’s coat, it’s impossible for diners not to know what they’re in for. Wooden tables are just as straightforward. This is a steakhouse to its very core.
Featured Architects: Jorge Eduardo Gonzalez, AIA, LEED AP, and Fulvio Rottigni, ASID
Address: 2828 Coral Way Suite 204 Miami FL 33145
Archiquadra is run by Jorge Eduardo Gonzalez, AIA LEED AP, and Fulvio Rottigni, ASID. The two have been working together since their days running Vertical Design Studio, P.A., in the earlier 2000s. Together, the pair has more than two decades of experience. Gonzalez, who is LEED-accredited, hails from Chile and studied architecture at the graduate level at Florida International University. Rottigni comes from Venice, Italy, and is licensed to practice interior design in Florida.
Gonzalez and Rottigni’s work has helped to shape the Brickell/Downtown restaurant scene, and in their eight years of working as a team, they have designed over 35,000 square feet of executive office space and remodeled full condo units in Brickell and Key Biscayne.
Archiquadra has had its hands on such restaurants as thin-crust pizza destination Spris Pizzeria. The 1500-square-foot space in the Lincoln Road Mall includes a commercial kitchen, also of Archiquadra’s design, as well as an outdoor area. In its review of the restaurant, Thrillist claims that the space is great for people-watching.
The firm also designed the now-closed 9,500-square-foot Cooper Avenue Restaurant in downtown Miami. The 2012 project, with its modern, wood-and-metal interior design, resulted in a Biscayne Boulevard venue that seats approximately 400 diners.
4. Bigtime Design Studios
Featured Architects: Callin Fortis and Eddy Vazquez
Address: 8425 Biscayne Blvd Suite 2 Miami FL 33138
Bigtime Design Studios develops spaces that boast as much practicality as they do intrigue. Co-founder and Design Director Callin Fortis, named one of 944 Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in Nightlife in 2008, believes that design should react with the one who experiences it. Originally from Chicago and then San Francisco, he came to Miami in 1999 to work on the CAMEO Theatre.
The studio takes on the full spectrum of projects: hospitality, residential, nightclub, restaurant, commercial, and hotels. Bigtime’s awards resume includes inclusion on the 15/16 Restaurant & Bar Design Awards Shortlist for Boatyard Restaurant, the 2017 Sofhie Awards Best Hotel Design for the Washington Park Hotel in South Beach, and the 2017 Sofhie Awards Best Resort Design for the Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina.
Boatyard Restaurant’s furnishings stand within a wooden frame—a Post-and-Beam architectural style meant to resemble sturdy boat bones. The 10,000-square-foot space features a nineteen-foot-tall sculpture that hangs over the bar. Far from delicate, the pseudo-chandelier consists of salvaged crew oars on a steel frame. Hanging from the 30-foot ceiling, the contraption weighs just under a ton.
With just as much wood, but a very different vibe, bigtime also designed West Palm Beach spot Bobbi Sue BBQ. The project shows just how diverse a portfolio this firm has. Designed like a southern home, complete with taxidermy and a back porch, the space is warm and inviting. While the wood of Boatyard Restaurant communicates a rugged sophistication, the wood of Bobbi Sue’s communicates southern comfort.
3. Zyscovich Architects
Featured Architects: Bernard Zyscovich, FAIA
Address: 100 N Biscayne Blvd 27th Floor Miami FL 33132
Perhaps one of Zyscovich’s most playful restaurant designs is dinner-and-a-movie-theater combo CinéBistro in Doral, FL. Warm with golden and red hues, the venue is inviting and lavish. In the dining room, chairs and tables are stiff and sturdy, made of dark wood with gold-toned touches. Patrons follow a red carpet into the theater, where chairs are plush. Zyscovich and his team designed similar CinéBistro locations in Vail, Colorado, and Atlanta, Georgia.
China Grill in Aventura, FL is less colorful and more chic. The spaces takes on a futuristic vibe—diners can view chefs on wall-mounted monitors. Conveyor belts deliver drinks and appetizers to bar-goers.
2. Edge of Architecture, Inc.
Featured Architects: Malcolm Berg
Address: 1929 Ponce de Leon Blvd Coral Gables FL 33134
Edge of Architecture founder Malcolm Berg studied architecture on the graduate level at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. He also holds a Bachelor in Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Art. His designs explore “the intimate relationship people have with their environment.”
The firm has been featured in such publications as The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and Hospitality Design. EoA has won awards for design and interior design, including the NEWH Excellence In Design – Project of the Year award in 2016, and the NEWH Excellence in Design – Restaurant award the same year. The firm’s restaurant designs were also recognized in 2015 when the International Interior Design Association awarded EoA the Design Excellence Award for Restaurants.
Edge of Architecture is the firm behind Miami Beach restaurant Bird & Bone, a Southern comforts eatery located in the Hyatt Hotel. Reminiscent of a country farmhouse, the restaurant’s decor transports diners from urban Miami to the rustic countryside with its use of warm wood and the fairy lights that adorn the back patio.
EoA also designed Miami’s Concrete Beach Brewery, a brewery that serves artisanal craft beers. The walls are made of repurposed metal and concrete—an effort to recycle the cage-filled concrete walls that stood there before.
1. Charles H. Benson & Associates
Featured Architects: Charles Benson, NCARB
Address: 1665 Washington Ave 2nd Floor Miami Beach FL 33139
Charles H. Benson founded his South Beach-based firm way back in 1996. In the two decades since, the firm has cultivated a portfolio that stretches across all categories: residential, restaurant, commercial, industrial, and the list goes on.
Mr. Benson’s firm has completed projects for the likes of Cameron Diaz and Danny DeVito, and has collaborated on projects with partners such as Herzog & De Meuron—on Artech condominiums— and Carlos Ott on the 1111 Lincoln Road parking garage. In 2013, for its work on the Juvia restaurant, the firm won the James Beard Foundation’s award for Best Restaurant Design or Renovation in North America Since January 1, 2010.
Juvia, a French-Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant that tops off a nine-story parking garage, is known for its view. The 10,000-square-foot space inhabits the rooftop, also known as the penthouse level, of the well-known Miami Beach parking structure. Architect Magazine made note in 2013 of the TENARA Fabric retractable roof, which was installed to protect the open-air patio.
In 2016, Benson’s firm helped bring Tanuki to Miami, a Russian chain restaurant that, at the time, had no presence in the United States. Tanuki has dozens of locations in Moscow, where most locations serve sushi 24/7. The Miami location, in South Beach, is a 3,500-square-foot space that seats 100. The venue features Asian-inspired art, a live ticker that showcases stock exchange numbers from all over the world, and a tanuki—a shape-shifting Japanese raccoon dog known to symbolize generosity and prosperity.