In Atlanta, restaurants pay homage to traditional Southern cuisine and hospitality, while also meeting the demand for a thoughtful, stylish edge to the dining experience. This list reveals some of the architect and design firms whose work in Atlanta’s restaurants, cafes, and food halls has been well-received by the community. Some specializing in restaurants and others well-versed in myriad design projects, some working in small teams and others working in widespread collaboration with one another, these firms reflect professionals who produce functional and stylish restaurants, each tailored to the needs of a variety of clients. The following firms stand out for the ethical, creative, and mission-driven nature of their designs, the intimate roles they play in the community, and for their success in producing award-winning and locally celebrated Atlanta dining spots.

Top Architects

Design Research Studio

Tom Dixon

The Lodge, Portobello Dock 551 Harrow Road, London W10 4RH

About Design Research Studio

Although not located in Atlanta, Design Research Studio is chosen for its international acclaim and striking, high-end achievements in hospitality projects, most notably restaurants. One of the firm’s designs has reached the city of Atlanta in a widely talked-about and exclusive new restaurant project: Himitsu. In 2002, this firm was founded by Tom Dixon, known for the strength of his storytelling abilities in regard to design. Many of his projects feature dashes of British eccentricity — a nod to his homeland and culture — and his creations tend to make good use of raw materials. Design Research Studio has been involved in a number of high-profile global restaurant projects, from London to Hong Kong, and this sought-after firm’s presence in Atlanta has been warmly received.

Featured Projects

In 2011, Tom Dixon worked on Barbecoa, the Royal Academy of Arts Restaurant in London, with Jamie Oliver and Adam Perry Lang. He also contributed to the design of Alto, a high-end restaurant in Hong Kong, and Bronte on The Strand in London. Design Research Studio’s first project in the United States is Atlanta’s Himitsu, a cocktail lounge bar inspired by a combination of Japanese-style mixology, 1920s American speakeasies, and Todd Murphy’s painting King of Birds. The restaurant’s name, Himitsu, literally means “secret” in Japanese, and its aesthetic reflects it. The design features low lighting and richly colored and textured elements that meet the sleek, metallic industrial features, and exposed structural details occasionally sneak into view. The centerpiece is a copper bar featuring high-quality craftsmanship and performative mixology, and a display of Tom Dixon’s own Melt pendants hangs overhead to evoke sensations of raw and natural materials. Smoked mirrors reflect the contrast of industrial roll bases with the smoothness of natural, marble tabletops. Details calls it “the world’s most exclusive cocktail lounge.”

CCS Architecture

Cass Calder Smith
Barbara Vickroy
Melissa Werner
Taylor Lawson

Hotel Architecture + Design (HA+D) Best Restaurant Design

44 McLea Court, San Francisco, CA 94103

About CCS Architecture

CCS Architecture was founded in 1990 by Cass Calder Smith. Today, the firm is also run by partners Barbara Vickroy (Director of Interior Design), Melissa Werner (Director of Operations), and Taylor Lawson (Associate Principal). CCS Architecture is made up of 30 other team members operating out of two offices, one in San Francisco and the other in New York City. The firm works on both architecture and interior design for a variety of both public and private structures, with an emphasis on its award-winning restaurant projects, although many of its residential designs have received awards and recognition, as well. The firm is driven by creative exploration, common sense, experience, and a desire to bring each project to its own full potential. Its creations tend to exhibit exceptional spatial and material qualities, setting its style apart from competitors’, and the firm is known for outstanding service.

Featured Projects

With offices on the East coast and West coast, CCS Architecture’s award-winning restaurant designs have started sweeping through Atlanta. CCS Architecture actually designed a portion of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport used for dining. The space the firm designed now houses restaurants like Grindhouse Killer Burgers and Argo Tea. These spaces also include a media tower, projection screen, and several charging stations. One of the firm’s more high-end projects in Atlanta received Best Restaurant Design at the Hotel Architecture + Design (HA+D) Awards Ceremony in Hong Kong. The design was three-fold, consisting of a restaurant, lobby bar, and cafe area within the 1967 Hyatt Regency Hotel. The spaces were created to be modern, clean, and timeless, but to also feel inviting to guests. The restaurant, Sway, used to be a bare extension of the hotel lobby. Deep renovation by CCS Architecture turned it into a chic, all-day restaurant with an exhibition kitchen and a wine bar. The interior is cozy, with warm lighting and sophisticated furnishings, and the firm gave it an identity separate from the rest of the hotel by creating decorative screen panels that remove it from the hotel lobby and also establish a particular tone and mood for guests.

NO Architecture

Tim Nichols

489 Edgewood Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30312

About NO Architecture

NO Architecture is the solo project of Tim Nichols, experienced architect with the internationally renowned design firm, Hok. While a full-service architectural and interior design company, NO Architecture focuses on creative and immersive spaces, e.g., restaurants and workplaces. Popular for the design of the Atlanta restaurant The Optimist, some of NO Architecture’s other notable works include the Joystick Gamebar, The Lawrence, and Double Zero. As well as designing, Tim Nichols teaches interior design as an assistant professor at Georgia State University and facilitates art tours through Europe, including Paris, London, and Barcelona. Named after the limitless possibility of a blank starting page of any truly creative and brand-new design, the firm’s goal is confrontation with the unknown. Courage and conviction, rather than the safety of preconceptions, drives each project. Central to the firm’s success is collaboration — the best antidote to preconceptions. The firm was founded in 2008, but its work has been done independently and collaboratively for the last 20 years. The firm’s strongest presence in Atlanta is within its work in restaurants. NO Architecture collaborated on the design of a number of local establishments, including BeetleCat, Superica, and King & Duke.

Featured Projects

The firm’s most talked-about project in Atlanta is The Optimist & Oyster Bar, a dual project in which Tim Nichols worked in partnership with famous chef Ford Fry; fellow design firm Smith Hanes; and builder Ben Lassbeck. The location, a former meat distribution warehouse, was transformed in 2012 into a classic seafood restaurant serving sustainable cuisine made in a wood-burning oven. The restaurant, located in Midtown West at Howell Mill and 8th, includes 16-inch-deep windows made of steel, oak ceilings, steel shelving, and decorative textiles that soften the decor. The firm expanded the brick, which lets in more natural light and allows impressive views of the wider area. Adjacent to The Optimist is the Oyster Bar, the more informal companion establishment with an outdoor patio. The Oyster Bar frequently features live music. The Optimist was declared Best New Restaurant of 2012 by Esquire.

Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry

Bill Johnson

191 Peachtree Tower, 191 Peachtree Street NE, #2400, Atlanta, GA 30303

About Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry

Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry, an Atlanta-based firm chosen for its achievements in restaurant design, focuses on the holistic aspects of quality dining: cuisine matters, but so does each element of the space in which we eat. The Johnson Studio recognizes that the strength of the setting can elevate the dining experience from a tasty meal to a significant and long-lasting memory of an entire occasion. Focusing on the dynamic between food and place — “the emotional connection between what we eat and where we eat it” — is central to this firm’s success. With 25 years of experience and over 500 project completed, The Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry has created important, unique, and memorable restaurant aesthetics throughout the country.

Featured Projects

The KR Steakbar in Atlanta, a new-age Italian steak bar specializing in small plates, was designed to promote a feeling of neighborliness. Located in a 30-year-old former designer showroom, the restaurant features an open-floor plan and glowing walls decorated with walnut wood strips that create a spacious, open mood. A rectangular bar is positioned over cozy, leather lounge seating, which complements the friendly nature of the elegant and exposed kitchen. In Sandy Springs, Kaiser’s Chophouse on Roswell Road provides high-end cuisine in a space designed by The Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry. The Chophouse features a contemporary aesthetic with traditional elements, from an open bar to seating areas divided by a cozy library wall made up of bookshelves. Friendly booths for intimate dining are punctuated by wooden tables. Described as “London chic” by the client, the restaurant is filled with friendly booths and classic wooden tables.

Meyer Davis Studio

Will Meyer
Gray Davis

Interior Design Best of Year Awards,
Boutique Design Gold Key Awards,
International Hotel & Property Awards,
Hospitality Design Awards

180 Varick Street, Suite 404, New York, NY 10014

About Meyer Davis Studio

A New York-based firm, Meyer Davis Studio helped design Bar Margot, King & Duke, and St. Cecilia. Highlighted for the bold creativity of its multiple restaurant designs in Atlanta, Meyer Davis was founded in 1999 by Will Meyer and Gray Davis. Since then, the firm has received national and international recognition for its work in hospitality, specifically restaurant settings, and workplace designs. With each project, the firm seeks to tell a story using space, form, texture, and light; each design creates a “visual experience that seeks to compel and inspire.” Meyer Davis has worked with renowned restaurateurs and celebrity chefs, including Michael White, Andrew Carmellini, Daniel Boulud, Tom Colicchio, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Josh Capon, and Ford Fry. The firm’s work with restaurant settings has received recognition and praise from Interior Design’s Best of Year Awards, Boutique Design’s Gold Key Awards, The International Hotel & Property Awards, and the Hospitality Design Awards.

Featured Projects

Atlanta’s St. Cecilia is a 10,700-square-foot establishment modeled after European bistros, offering a coastal Italian vibe. The design includes a creamy and natural color palette with ocean blues evoking relaxed, seaside gazing, and quirky details lighten the mood; the space has no straight walls, maintaining an open ambiance with tons of natural light. The design relied on local, natural, and homey materials, like locally recovered hardwood floors, industrial-style exposed steel, and custom leather barstools. Antique mirrors allow views of a giant oak and brass bookcase decorated with small treasures, all reminiscent of an Italian seaside. Bar Margot, another design by Meyer Davis, is located within the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta. CovetED calls it a bold and whimsical design inspired by Wes Anderson’s film The Royal Tenenbaums, containing wit, moodiness, while somehow managing to incorporate the “cool charm” of modern Southern hospitality. Another Atlanta restaurant by Meyer Davis, in collaboration with NO Architecture, King & Duke was literally built around the idea of open-fire cooking. Central to the design of the restaurant are a 24-foot open fire hearth, coal-burning grills, one wood-burning grill, and an assortment of rotisseries and Dutch ovens. King & Duke is located on West Paces Ferry and Peachtree.

Smith Hanes Studio

Maggie McBride

949 West Marietta Street NW, Studio X-113, Atlanta, GA 30318

About Smith Hanes Studio

Smith Hanes Studio collaborated on The Optimist, Esquire’s Best New Restaurant of 2012 and one of the most popular dining spots in town. This Atlanta-based firm favors projects involving spaces where people live their lives and entertain themselves. Working on everything from restaurants and cafes to houses and art galleries, the firm aims to make a difference in the way its clients’ experience their lives. Smith Hanes Studio seeks out clients who excel in their own fields and who value the process of creation — entrepreneurs, chefs, business owners. His gallery design for legendary art dealer Fay Gold reveals the precision common in his designs, coupled with an elegant yet comfortable aesthetic. In particular, Smith Hanes is praised for his involvement in Atlanta’s restaurant community, and his work has been featured in Luxe and Bon Appetit. Two of his collaborations, The Optimist and Watershed, are community classics.

Featured Projects

Le Fat was modeled after a fusion of Parisian bistro and pre-WWII Hanoi — a particularly hopeful and stylistic time for French Indochina. The cuisine served by chef Guy Wong is known for its evocative aromas, and the combination of culture and quaint Parisian style makes this a truly unique restaurant within Atlanta. The setting is peppered with classic millwork elements, a Zinc bar, and fruitwood tambour columns. The lighting is a testament to the resourceful and conscientious nature of the design, with entirely handmade or found lamps, all belonging to the era that inspired the decor, illuminating the charming interior. Completing the French bistro aesthetic is a mirrored bar reflecting the hand-painted decorations on the walls. Another of the firm’s collaborative designs is Watershed on Peachtree, which Zagat has mentioned in 23 articles, such as “The 12 Best Brunches in Atlanta,” “Best Fried Chicken in Atlanta,” “Where to Eat Brunch,” and “This Week’s Best Food Deals and Events in Atlanta.” Zagat gave Watershed a 4.2 for its cuisine and a 4.3 for its decor, described the ambiance as “refined yet hip,” and singled out the “trendy bar as helping to fuel a romantic, cool vibe.”

DeCarlo and Hawker

Michael DeCarlo
Sara Hawker

2470 H. L. Williams Drive, Atlanta, GA 30317

About DeCarlo and Hawker

This firm is the combined, creative efforts of a husband and wife pair, Michael DeCarlo and Sara Hawker. DeCarlo, who started his practice in 2009, has experience at Atlanta’s Summerour & Associates, where he worked on detailed and high-end projects. A licensed architect since 2000, he studied at Georgia Tech and intensively at a program at Versailles. He is a board member of Atlanta’s historic preservation Easements Foundation. Hawker, who began working for the firm in 2013, specializes in restaurant design and has collaborated on several projects with other designers on this list. Formerly with the John Studio and Hirsch Bedner Associates in Atlanta, she originally studied architecture at the Savannah College of Art and Design. DeCarlo and Hawker, working as both a single firm and with fellow designers in Atlanta, have created local classics that may soon become national landmarks for the role they play in a historic property: Marrakesh, Bellina, Biltong Bar, Ton Ton, and Botiwalla, all in the Ponce City Market.

Featured Projects

An Atlanta staple, the Ponce City Market is a mixed-use property in a historic neighborhood comprised of local stores, restaurants, a food hall, office and boutique spaces, and even some residential units. At 2.1M square feet, the building was formerly used as a Sears and as a City Hall and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016. Today, investors and owners intend for Ponce City Market to become one of the nation’s famous food halls, along with Pike Place in Seattle, San Francisco’s Ferry Building, and the Chelsea Market in NYC. In particular, the food hall features treasured spots that showcase the versatility of DeCarlo and Hawker’s designs. There’s Marrakesh, the brightly lit, Mediterranean-chic mini-market with colorful tiles decorating both the floors and ceiling, and wooden baskets tucked in nooks and crannies. There’s Bellina, the charming Italian bistro with deep hues, rich textures and soft light; Biltong Bar, with its sleek upholstery, warm glow, and sophisticated brick walls; Ton Ton, a ramen restaurant complete with traditional, decorative wood paneling; and Botiwalla, an Indian street food grill peppered with all the decorative details of a bustling city street. Long-term goals for this overall property include rooftop gardens to enable local restaurants to grow food.

Seiber Design

Ed Seiber
Stacey Kirby

American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Design Excellence Awards

675 Drewry Street NE #10, Atlanta, GA 30306

About Seiber Design

Founded by Ed Seiber in 1995, Seiber Design is a studio of architects and interior designers serving private sector clients and individuals. The firm was selected for its number of popular restaurant projects completed in Atlanta. Ed Seiber began his solo practice with a great deal of experience in designing high-volume and upscale dining. In 1996, Stacey Kirby joined the firm and became a partner by 2005. The firm works on designs tailored for restaurants, stores, businesses, and houses. Seiber Design’s motto is “everything matters.” Each detail is carefully selected, then carefully fitted into place. The firm’s Atlanta-based project, Proof and Provision, received the 2013 Bronze Design Excellence Award in the Restaurant Category from the Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers. For its work on Ray’s on the River, the firm received the 2008 Gold Award in Design Excellence.

Featured Projects

In 2006, the firm received a Silver Design Excellence Award from the Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) for its restaurant project, Eugene. With 3,400 square feet, Eugene is a high-end and contemporary restaurant in The Aramore Condominiums near Atlanta’s Peachtree Battle Shopping Center. The design features a cozy and elegant ambiance with warm colors, deep textures, and sophisticated lighting. Another award-winning project, Ray’s on the River, occupies an 11k-foot structure right at the edge of Atlanta’s Chattahoochee River. The building was originally a seafood restaurant, but deep renovation, both interior and exterior, led to a classic supper club ambiance featuring both modern details and striking, decorative focal pieces. At the client’s request, the firm placed views of the river front and center, in order to add warmth and sophistication to the restaurant’s mood and to honor Atlanta’s natural water sources.


Ann-Marie Lima
Amy Price
Kerry Wittwer
Kellon Minor

916 Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard, Suite 1, Atlanta, GA 30318

About ai3

ai3 is a collection of designers, architects, artists, and thinkers striving to create meaningful spaces born out of clients’ stories. Inspired by the teamwork that went into designing the Georgia Aquarium, this steadily growing and inter-disciplinary firm has one of the most widespread influences on Atlanta’s dining scene today, and with some of the most creative designs. ai3 is led by Lucy Aiken-Johnson, Patrick Johnson, Dan Mass, and Principals Ann-Marie Lima, Amy Price, Kerry Wittwer, and Kellon Minor, many of whom are members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certified Professionals. The firm believes that helping clients narrate their own stories allows the clients to create verbal blueprints for the desired form and function of their properties, and architects and designers follow those blueprints to success. The process supports client-led designs, as opposed to any specific, overarching “ai3” style and ensures that clients are the true “owners” of their projects. Some of ai3’s many clients include the Coca-Cola Company, Microsoft Atlanta, the Atlanta Sports Complex, Central Atlanta Library, Atlanta Hawks, and the Atlanta Country Club. The firm’s strong suit is restaurants and retail, an area in which it has completed 48 projects, primarily in the Atlanta area, and nearly all of them in the state of Georgia.

Featured Projects

ai3 collaborated with Peace Design on the design for Lure, a fresh seafood restaurant in midtown Atlanta. Inspired by the commercial fishing industry, Lure’s entryway is a landmark in and of itself — a giant, 200-year-old anchor belonging to a ship removed from the bottom of the Boston Harbor. Inside, the restaurant brings together maritime elements like wood and metal, rough-hewn timbers and beams, an antique wooden pulley and chain suspended from the ceiling, birch wishbone chairs, brass portholes and fittings, and a lamp made out of a piece of a World War II bomber. Outdoors, wooden shutters separate diners from the bustling sidewalk and help maintain the sensation of being in a ship’s hull. The firm also collaborated on the Drift Oyster Bar, an upscale but not uptight restaurant whose design was inspired by the cuisine served. With a vintage oyster can collection, suspended oars, custom steel sculptures, sail cloths and twinkling lights, Drift sets the tone for a seaside vacation. Another collaborative project in midtown Atlanta, The Globe, features a giant chalkboard and globe lights in a European bistro style eatery, prompting the name of a whole new aesthetic, “schoolhouse chic.”

Square Feet Studio

John Bencich
Vivian Bencich

Contract Magazine Inspirations Award,
City of Atlanta Urban Design Commission Award of Excellence,
Atlanta Downtown Design Excellence Award,
International Interior Design Association Award of Merit

154 Krog Street NE #170, Atlanta, GA 30307

About Square Feet Studio

Square Feet Studio is highlighted for its number of award-winning restaurant designs in Atlanta, but also for the thoughtful nature of its projects, which go out of their way to honor Atlanta’s history and celebrate the Southern spirit. Run by John Bencich and Vivian Bencich, Square Feet Studio, an Atlanta-based architecture, planning, and design firm, is the recipient of several awards. The firm prioritizes environmentally sustainable resources in all matters of design, in order to minimize environmental impact while maximizing long-term quality and function. Square Feet Studio’s designs have been featured in Zagat, Retail Design Blog, Hospitality Design, Curbed Atlanta, Atlanta Business Chronicle, Vogue, Imbibe and many more. Although the firm excels in a number of project types, some of its most high-end and artistic designs exist in restaurant settings in and around Atlanta.

“I have always been fascinated with making things and knew I wanted to be an architect since I was in high school. Upon completion of my degrees at Georgia Tech and working in the profession for 9 years, my wife and I launched Square Feet Studio so we could have a practice in which architecture, planning and interior design were inseparable. That was not the status quo at the time. The disciplines were siloed and firms specialized or has separate “studios” doing planning or interior design. We thought that was unnatural. In the 17 years we’ve been practicing together, we’ve found that our integrate approach allows us to have more honest conversations with our clients because we are discussing their needs in terms of how people respond to complete experiences rather that in the unnatural buckets created by the profession. We can talk about the traffic patterns, the parti and the window treatments in the same conversation. ” – John Bencich

Featured Projects

Staplehouse started as an underground supper club founded by Ryan and Jen Hidinger. Located in a historic brick building, the space was once a general store. With renovation, the building has become an open-kitchen restaurant with a cozy outdoor space, walls coated in ivy, and a brand-new dining patio with a prep kitchen built in the shadows of a large oak tree. A private dining area with scenic views sits above the main level, and a side room houses The Giving Kitchen, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting local, struggling restaurants. The design for Staplehouse was the grand prize winner of the 2016 Contract Magazine Inspirations Award and was the winner of the 2016 City of Atlanta Urban Design Commission Award of Excellence. Another Square Feet Studio project, White Oak Kitchen, won the 2012 Atlanta Downtown Design Excellence Award and the 2013 Award of Merit from the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), Georgia’s Best of the Best in Hospitality Design. Inspired by the client’s appreciation for creating high-quality whiskey, the restaurant is decorated with barrels, steel straps, and oak slats. Charred wood panels warmed by dim lighting add a layer of sophistication, and the skyline of Atlanta is visible through windows that are 22 feet tall.

“We get inspiration from everywhere. It could be something in the space we’re going to work in, something from the client’s narrative, or something we’ve come across in our travels. There’s really no limit to what could be an influence which makes every day a bit of a surprise and a joy. ” – John Bencich