In a word, Miami’s restaurant scene is vibrant, and the band of architects behind it is just as diverse as the eateries themselves. Alongside changing menus, diners also expect a restaurant’s atmosphere to enhance the dining experience. Each architectural firm listed below has a unique design characteristic to suit every client’s needs. Some of these firms focus on stories while some build with purpose and meaning. But most of Miami’s restaurant architects share a common goal — create structures that are representative of a lively, colorful Miami.
The team took into consideration each firm’s years in business, industry awards received, and restaurant projects in the city. Whether you are renovating an outdated diner or building a restaurant from scratch, there’s a suitable architect on this list for you.
Vertical Design Studio
Vertical Design Studio, PA (formerly known as Archiquadra, PA) is a full service architectural and interior design firm based in Miami, Florida, led by Jorge Eduardo Gonzalez AIA LEED AP, a native of Chile. Jorge built his experience working and collaborating with RE Chisholm Architects and later at Bermello Ajamil & Partners where he further developed his skills and knowledge in design. He has over two decades of industry expertise and since establishing his independent practice in 2009, Mr.Gonzalez and his team have been involved in over 126,000SF of office/commercial projects, 135,000SF of restaurant projects, 130,000SF of residential projects and over 23,000SF of luxury retail in Bal Harbour, Brickell City Centre and Lincoln Road.
Vertical Design Studio has designed restaurants such as Bachour, led by internationally recognized award-winning pastry chef, Antonio Bahour. It has also had its hands on such restaurants as thin-crust pizza destination Spris Pizzeria. In its review of the restaurant, Thrillist claims that the space is great for people-watching. The firm also designed the Toscana Divino restaurant in Mary Brickell Village. Stylish Cuisine featured the restaurant featuring a 160-seating capacity and a bar that can sit up to 30 persons and PM Steakhouse in the brickell area.
Bigtime Design Studios
Bigtime Design Studios is a boutique architectural firm specializing in hospitality projects based in Miami. The firm develops spaces that marry together the elements of a seamless combination of design, environmental art, fashion, music, and creativity. Co-founder 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. The studio takes on the full spectrum of projects: hospitality, residential, nightclub, restaurant, commercial, and hotels. Bigtime Design Studios has been featured in a myriad of publications including South Florida Business Journal, Pompano Magazine, Hospitality Design, Food & Beverage Magazine, and Curbed Miami. When it comes to industry recognition, the firm has received numerous awards, including the 2020 NEWH Top ID Firm, 2018 German Design Award, 2017 SFBJ Structures Award, IDA Awards, and more.
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.
Charles H. Benson & Associates
Charles H. Benson founded his South Beach-based firm way back in 1996. Within two decades, the firm has cultivated a portfolio that stretches across all categories including residential, restaurant, commercial, industrial, and the list goes on. 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 a 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.
Edge of Architecture, Inc.
Malcolm Berg studied architecture at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design before establishing Edge of Architecture (EoA). 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.
Norberto Rosenstein, AIA, NCARB established Norberto Rosenstein Architect in 1991 and has since then provided exceptional work all over Miami. Rosenstein is licensed to work in Florida and 12 other states, allowing him to further his design versatility. The firm has worked with numerous restaurants, diners, and bars in the city. Specifically, his team helped to develop Cold Stone Creamery’s 60 Florida locations, Sunset Mall’s Pasion del Cielo Coffee, and Fat Rooster in Delray Beach.
Norberto Rosenstein Architect paved the way for the arrival of Hong Kong, New York, and London’s award-winning upscale restaurant, Hutong Miami. It is located in Brickell Avenue and binds an eccentric Szechuan, Northern Chinese, and Western design element. One of the restaurant’s highlights is its very one version of the Great Wall, a 70-foot long wall of hand-carved Chinese wood doors and panels pulsate, as night sets in, into an amazing display of color and light. Another stunning project is the South Beach hotspot Quality Meats, Mr. Rosenstein was awarded the inaugural Miami Hospitality Design Merit Award of Excellence. The restaurant lives inside a historic hotel. The original check-in desk? It’s 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. Other projects by Norberto Rosenstein include Louis Bossi Las Olas, Nusret Miami, Coya Miami, Doa Miami Beach, Malibu Farms at the Eden Roc Hotel, and the Blue Bar at the Fontainebleau hotel.
SDH Studio Architecture + Design was founded by Stephanie Halfen in 2012. Halfen was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, where she received her Architecture degree from Universidad Simon Bolivar. Later on, she graduated with high honors from Parsons School of Design in New York. Halfen built her career in Venezuela working with renowned architects as well as becoming an Associate Professor in her alma mater. Today, she leads her team in “creating spaces that inspire.” SDH’s designs are focused on individuality and forward-thinking designs that enhance people’s lives. The firm’s work has been featured in a myriad of publications, including Tropic magazine, Luxe Interiors + Design, Ocean Home, OD Casas, Miami Home & Decor, and more. SDH Studio’s impeccable work and excellent service have earned the firm countless industry awards, including Best Residential Architects in Miami FL by Miami Architect, Luxe Interiors + Design‘s 2017 award, and it was featured on the 2019 Gold List of Miami Architecture firms.
SDH Studio is responsible for the architecture and interior design of the upcoming Holi Vegan Restaurant in Miami. The 1,215-square-foot restaurant will feature a modern style incorporating neutral and green shades for a minimalistic approach. It will also house clients in private seating as well as a bar. Another project on its way is La Piazzetta, a 2,737-square-foot restaurant in Miami. The restaurant is in a modern style, with dining areas and a bar for solo dining and a separate bar for serving drinks.
Shulman + Associates
Shulman + Associates is a Miami-based firm that has been designing residential and commercial structures since 1996. Allan Shulman, FAIA, LEED AP is an architect, author, and curator who established Shulman + Associates. Shulman also teaches architecture as an associate professor at the University of Miami School of Architecture. Shulman + Associates’ designs are focused on creating relevant, site-specific, and forward-thinking designs. The firm is also a leader in creating an urban synthesis of preservation and innovation, developing new approaches to tropical architecture. In the two decades since its founding, the firm has garnered more than six dozen design awards. In the last five years, the firm has been awarded AIA awards, SARA awards, AHEAD Americas Awards, Architect’s Newspaper Interior award, and more.
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. 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.
Studio Robert McKinley
Studio Robert McKinley is a New York-based firm that has captivated the Miami restaurant scene with its impeccable designs. Founder Robert 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. Some of his most notable restaurant designs include The Hall, Ruschmeyer’s, Marion, Sant Ambroeus, GoldBar, and The Surf Lodge. His whimsical and sophisticated designs are celebrated by publications such as The New York Times, Architectural Digest, Gotham, Eater, Interior Design, Esquire, Rolling Stone, TIME, GQ, 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-inspired 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 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.
Telesco Architecture is a Miami-based studio working on a collaborative effort to bring visions into blueprints and soon a reality. The firm has been praised for its impressive nightclub and restaurant design projects in the heart of South Beach throughout the United States and the Caribbean. The firm has earned a blue-ribbon reputation for its integration of creative inspiration with experienced hospitality designers. Thomas Telesco Sr. started the firm in 1990 when he moved to Miami Beach from upstate New York. Today, the firm still continues to create designs that matter even after Thomas Telesco Sr.’s passing.
One of Telesco Architect’s projects is the Andu Restaurant in the Brickell neighborhood. The Andu Bistro is part of the renowned financial district’s burgeoning nightlife scene. It is embellished with a unique floating maître d’ station, whimsical light fixtures, espresso hardwood flooring, and dangling crystal ornaments surrounding the circular dining area. The Andu has a total of 4,600 square feet of cool and glamorous vibe with a warm and inviting ambiance. Hospitality Design magazine featured the project in its cover story for its 2008 issue. Another project is the 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—besides 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.
William Lane Architect
Since 1990, William Lane Architect has been serving Miami with residential, commercial, and preservation projects specializing in contemporary design. The firm’s awards resume includes the 2018 AIA Miami Merit Award, 2017 AIA Florida Merit Award, and features in the Florida/Caribbean Architect magazine, Miami New Times, The Miami Herald, The New York Times, Archdaily, Tropical Modern, and Metropolis. 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 soon opened his business and 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. It features the main dining room and courtyard that seat 110, as well as a bar area. 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. William Lane Architect also designed 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.
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 take on a futuristic vibe—diners can view chefs on wall-mounted monitors. Conveyor belts deliver drinks and appetizers to bar-goers.