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AIA|LA 2017 restaurant design winners announced

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The best designed restaurants, cafes, and night clubs

One of the winners is the Long Beach location of Beer Belly.
Monika M. Armstrong

The Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA|LA) awarded design honors Friday to local restaurants, cafes, and night clubs.

“Sometimes people don’t think restaurant design is that important,” designer Barbara Lazaroff said in announcing the winners. “You only understand how important it is when it doesn’t work. Somehow when it works, it just flows, and it’s great.”

The five winners were selected from nearly 70 entries by a three-member panel comprised of Los Angeles Times writer Lisa Boone, architect Aaron Neubert, and restaurateur Caroline Styne, who owns Larder Baking Company and Tavern.

Below, we’ve compiled images from the stunning winners, along with excerpts from the jury’s comments, provided by AIA|LA. (Not included below is Design, Bitches, one of the winners, whose beautiful pink and white project, Little Octopus, is based in Nashville.)

Break Room 86

This 80s-themed nightclub, filled with old TVs and boomboxes, was designed by Houston Hospitality.
Dylan & Jeni

Jury comments: “This one stoked me the most in terms of, not only the décor, but the interactive aspect of it for the guests. Going in there and being able to immerse yourself in this idea of the break room and the karaoke and the music: it almost felt more authentic in its craziness.”

Beer Belly

The Long Beach outpost of the popular Koreatown gastropub was designed by MAKE architecture, which played on the city’s nautical history and took full advantage of a slew of wood slots that already existed in the space.
Monika M. Armstrong

Jury comments: “The wood work is so graphic and so strong. It really has a big impact without going over the top in terms of décor and design.”

Little Ground Cafe

WORD created a neighborhood hangout in Glendale using a lot of wood and concrete.
Christopher Warren

Jury comments: “We responded positively to the graphic sensibility of the wood screen, and also the urban and social engagement of the corner.”


Montalba Architects masterfully created two spaces within an old Art Deco bank building: a vibrant marketplace that transitions to a quieter, intimate dining room.

Jury comments: “This is just a purely beautiful space. The ceiling heights, the textures, the surfaces, the layout are super inviting. It feels serious yet fun, big and modern, yet intimate.”


Converted from an auto body shop, this lively taco spot designed by Project M+. and The Yard is located next to the LA River.
Darcy Hemley

Jury comments: “We love that, at a time when everyone is repurposing things, the reuse of the building was wonderful. It really engages the neighborhood ... The idea of the restaurant as a landscape, as a garden, resonated. “