Overview

Denver’s restaurant scene runs the gamut of cuisine, vibe, aesthetic, and speciality. The stylistic demand is as varied as the menus, as is the art of creating a popular eatery that integrates seamlessly into the character of the neighborhood in which it is placed. Whether we are looking at architects who are still growing their portfolio but have made a noticeable, albeit small, splashes in Denver’s restaurant design, or firms with a longer history of making their mark on Denver’s aesthetic, the list below includes a diverse group of professionals all ready to meet different market needs. Some of these firms have a strong grasp of how to pull out the unique character of a chain, while others are pushing the boundaries of Denver’s style and crafting the new trends that Coloradoans will celebrate in the future.

Top Architects

Applebaum Architects

Architects:
Marc Applebaum

Address:
1623 Oneida Street, Denver, CO 80220

About Applebaum Architects

Marc Applebaum was profiled as one of the top 15 architects in Denver on BuildDirect 2016. Applebaum established the firm and guided it through the heart of his design philosophy: to ensure that the surroundings where people live and work generate a sense of well-being and balance. Serving on the City of Denver Arts & Venues Committee from 2013-2017, Marc integrates community involvement and deep respect for the artistry of historic materials into his professional life. These characteristics are often embodied in the firm’s works found in its commended portfolio, especially for the restaurant and dining sectors.

Featured Projects

One of the firm’s most notable projects for the sector features a combination of two early 1900s buildings. The twin structures house the Tavern Downtown and the Cowboy Lounge, which sit below a rooftop bar and deck designed for year-round use. The Rooftop Tavern was named one of America’s 10 best rooftop bars by Frontier Airlines magazine. Applebaum cultivated both charm and functionality with large accordion doors, an outdoor fireplace, video projection screens, and separated seating areas with views of downtown, the mountains, and Coors Field. Another project featured the firm’s equal dedication to staying true to the artistic essence of the original building’s historic origin. When Applebaum took on Racine’s—considered a Denver institution and favorite meeting place—the design had to be based on favorite elements of the original structure. Applebaum made sure that the resulting structure is still something recognizable, especially for dedicated patrons. The striated brick masonry and articulated building massing fit the bill. Additionally, an adjacent 28,000-square-foot parking structure was designed to relieve neighborhood traffic and parking issues.

Arch 11

Architects:
James Trewitt and E.J. Meade

Awards:
American Architecture Award 2020
AIA Young Architects Award 2020
AIA Colorado Honorable Mention 2019
AIA Colorado Denver Chapter Award of Distinction 2019
Alpha Rho Chi Medal for Design Excellence
AIA Emerging Impressions Award

Address:
1200 Bannock Street, Denver, CO 80204

About Arch 11

Arch 11 was founded in 1993 by James Trewitt and E.J. Meade. AIA member and founder E.J. Meade received his Master of Architecture from the University of Colorado. He was a former senior instructor at the College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Colorado from 1993 until 2005. Trewitt, on the other hand, received an associate’s degree in engineering technology, a Bachelor of Architecture, and a Post-Professional Master of Architecture. Trewitt also taught drawing at the University of Arkansas and Architectural Design and furniture history and design at the University of Colorado. He was the recipient of the Alpha Rho Chi Medal for Design Excellence and the Emerging Impressions Award from AIA. With locations in Boulder and Denver, the firm is staffed by ten professionals to complete multiple and diverse projects, for a wide array of sectors, including the commercial and restaurant market.

Featured Projects

For one of its projects for the restaurant industry, Arch 11 maintained the façade and roof of Happy Noodle—an Asian-influenced noodle house—while rebuilding the entire interior of the restaurant, creating a rustic and chic vibe, with custom seating, tables, and lighting. Graceful combinations of wood and steel make the space feel industrial yet warm. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot—a neighborhood bar and eatery in Denver’s Prospect Park—is 3,200-square-feet of posh elegance. Inserted into a 1930s era bag factory, this intimate homage to Prohibition speakeasies includes a rooftop deck, a curving peninsula bar, and stainless steel beer taps. In downtown Denver’s stadium district, Ignite was incorporated into a historic building that was once a pawn shop. The gleaming renovation includes an over-scaled glass stair enclosure, an open-air patio, a glass-enclosed rooftop bar, and pine textured walls.

ArcWest Architects

Architects:
Todd L. Heirls
Kevin H. Anderson

Address:
2406 W. 32nd Ave, Suite A, Denver, CO 80211

About ArcWest Architects

ArcWest Architects is a more recent addition to the Denver scene. Since 2006, ArcWest has created an impressive portfolio that includes restaurant architecture, as well as commercial, residential, warehouse, and corporate designs. Founding partner Todd L. Heirls enjoys collaborating directly with senior management and uses his welding expertise to create custom steel details to add directly to a project. ArcWest’s other founding partner, Kevin H. Anderson, brings over 25 years of experience as a licensed Colorado architect. Together, Anderson and Heirls lead a company that is commended for its business ethics, high-performance designs, and its architectural contribution to Denver’s communities. ArcWest was named one of the top 19 best architects in Denver on Expertise. While the firm is still building its design portfolio in the restaurant architecture sector, its present renovation services and its ability to transform existing dining spaces into structures that answer to the sophisticated and modern needs of its patrons make it a promising player.

Featured Projects

ArcWest was commissioned by a local client who owns one of the best Mexican restaurants in town—Patzcuaro’s on 32nd Street. With a modest $65,000 budget, ArcWest renovated the exterior without compromising the integrity of the original façade. Patzcuaro’s now has a storefront entry and window system that lets in an abundance of natural light and also offers a fresh yet historic look. The storefront of the kitchen was replaced and redone to include a serving window so “Taco Tuesday” could roll out To-Go orders, which is a great example of ArcWest’s knack for making simple functionality a part of a great design. For another project, the firm keeps its tradition of enhancing the potential of pre-existing spaces. ArcWest used its keen eye and functional sensibility to reimagine the edifice of a former and future brewing company. ArcWest architects provided planning, layout, and brewery design services for the new brewhouse and taproom—SoBo’s—located in the city’s antique district. The key was incorporating the essence of the historic foundation while adding new artistic elements to freshen up the interior’s vibe.

Chord Design Studio

Address:
1425 Market Street Suite 220, Denver, CO 80202

About Chord Design Studio

Formerly known as Kennedy Architects, Chord Design Studio has been serving the Denver commercial, healthcare, public, and residential markets for over three decades. The company is a full-service interior designer, architect, and facilities consulting firm that takes on new building design, adaptive reuse, restoration, and renovation works. Rob Forslund, the firm’s owner and principal, has established lifelong relationships with project owners, with a majority of its business coming from repeat clients. What makes the firm a preferred professional is its consistency in delivering projects that have a clear project scope, on-schedule delivery, and most importantly, on-budget execution. As a designer for the restaurant sector, it has completed high-end and mid-range projects for dining and drinking spaces that have long become a part of Denver and its surrounding city’s social and cultural landscape. Some of its works have been commended by award-giving bodies and publications, including the Hospitality Design Magazine.

Featured Projects

One of its most iconic works in Denver is the Izakaya Den, a 10,000-square-foot Japanese-inspired restaurant. The firm partnered with Hyder Construction to complete a dining space that accommodates a full dining area, a bar, a private dining room, an indoor and outdoor patio, and a mezzanine level. Another more recent project that highlights Asian design elements is the Daughter Thai Kitchen & Bar, located in the city’s LoHi neighborhood. This over 3,300-square-foot restaurant was designed to provide a dining experience basked in casual elegance. The client wanted to provide a place where workers and local couples could enjoy after-work happy hours and oriental-themed date nights. The interior showcases custom wood screen walls, authentic lanterns shipped from Thailand, and highlights a warm mural that depicts the home country’s traditional dance.

Kock|Covotsos Architects

Architects:
Michael Koch

Address:
3457 Ringsby CT #223, Denver, CO 80216

About Kock|Covotsos Architects

Michael Koch founded the firm in 2003 after establishing his experience and credentials as a design professional. Koch earned his degree from Washington University and then went on to get a Master of Architecture from Yale in 1996. He is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and holds a practice license in Colorado, California, Nevada, and Arizona. Over the years, Michael Koch Architect partnered with other design firms to create a larger network of design professionals, enabling it to tackle more markets and offer a more comprehensive service option. In 2018, Cassandra Covotsos joined as principal after working with the firm for five years. Michael Koch Architect’s growing portfolio is varied in both project type and aesthetic, showing a capacity for diverse niches. While the company’s involvement in the restaurant sector is relatively new, it is no doubt one of the emerging firms that will shape the industry in the years to come. Its introductory project, a cafe renovation work, defined the firm’s future in the market.

Featured Projects

Cherry Bean Coffee, a coffee shop that also offers delicious eats, has been listed by Thrillist as one of Denver’s new hot spots. Located in the Sunnyside neighborhood, this seemingly small project took on great importance for Michael Koch. The challenge was to accommodate a full-service coffee and espresso bar in the small, abandoned office space. Reinvigorating that vintage vibe, they uncovered and revealed historic brick and quality pre-existing materials that could have been easily overlooked or taken for granted. A smooth, bright wooden countertop, industrial hanging light fixtures, and a well-situated coffee bar combine to add character to this already unique space. Cherry Bean Coffee was nominated for Best Coffee Shop on Denver’s A-List and it’s not hard to see why.

LIV Studio

Architects:
Brandon Anderson
Preston Reed
Tana Anderson

Awards:
AIA Colorado Young Firm of the Year,
AIA Denver Mentor of the Year

Address:
1760 Gaylord Street, Suite 3F, Denver, CO 80206

About LIV Studio

LIV Studio is a small design firm known for its client-based approach to architecture. The team includes Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified and American Institute of Architects (AIA) member Brandon Anderson and Tana Anderson, NCIDQ. LIV is dedicated to the continuous research of new materials and methods of fabrication. The firm believes that to be able to generate great architecture, design and technology should come together. By asking the question, “why not?” the firm is able to explore the possibilities that these two factors can offer. The result is an award-winning portfolio recognized by the industry’s elite organizations. In the past, the firm won the IIBA Merit award for Sushi Rama and the 2015 AIA Colorado Young Firm of the Year awards. Its principal also earned the 2013 AIA Denver Mentor of the Year and the 2012 AIA Denver Young Architect of the Year. As a boutique firm, it has an interesting portfolio of unique structures, including architectural works for the region’s rich restaurant sector.

Featured Projects

Cochino Taco got a major overhaul when LIV came in and turned the drab exterior into a bright, inviting, open space with a white awning and a red umbrella-filled patio. Handsome, multi-textured woodwork interiors, wooden tables, and a long bar with silver diner stools make the space feel eclectic, hip, and lively. Denver’s Masterpiece Kitchen, another restaurant design work, represents the firm’s ability to pair simple, boxy exteriors with clear brand placement and backyard charm. The adjacent, outdoor, partially enclosed wood-paneled patio is a surprisingly pleasing contrast to the clean, industrial bulk of the main exterior. Echoed inside with a blend of wooden backdrops, small steel hanging lights, and thick countertops, Masterpiece Kitchen is contemporary, creatively structured, and down to earth.

OZ Architecture

Architects:
Jim Bershov

Address:
3003 Larimer Street, Denver, CO 80205

About OZ Architecture

OZ Architecture has been bringing a spirit of collaboration and a hip, contemporary design aesthetic to the Denver metropolitan area since 1964.

Since 1964, OZ Architecture has been known for its contemporary, hip, and timeless architectures throughout the Denver metropolitan.
The firm champions a collaborative environment with an impressive list of 19 principals. These professionals are members and certified by the industry’s influential organizations, such as the AIA, USGBC, ASID, and NCIDQ. As a company, OZ is a constantly recognized player in the design scene. In the past, the firm was recognized as a ColoradoBiz Top Company of 2017 for their innovative, solution-based contributions to both local and global communities, as well as for their internal community outreach program, called OZ Gives, which provides their staff with opportunities to plan initiatives that support the community where they work and live. As a restaurant architect, the company is responsible for the design of local landmarks: the Row 14, The Nickel, Denver’s Punch Bowl Social, and the Ricard Brasserie and Liquor Bar.

Featured Projects

When designing the Ricard Brasserie and Liquor Bar, OZ took into account its location at the base of Snowmass Mountain and came up with a design that encourages a graceful dialog between structure and landscape. Ricard’s produced a traditional lodge design: exposed beams, long windows, and a fireplace. To appeal to its present-day market, the firm put in a modern spin with an eclectic, high-ceilinged sitting room and a slightly more casual dining room extension. The firm also completed another design work in the city, the Punch Bowl Social. The project is a part of a sassy chain that combines drinks, food, games, and karaoke into one social experience. OZ had to get creative to craft a space that could accommodate the diversity of activities without losing visual appeal. A full floor-to-ceiling glass front window offers an immediate sense of openness, while a strong, well-placed awning displays Punch Bowl’s fun electric sign. Mixed interior materials, including exposed piping, brick, and a decent dose of industrial chic, pays homage to a hip, modern night out.

Roth Sheppard Architects

Architects:
Herb Roth
Jeffrey Sheppard

Awards:
AIA Architecture Firm of The Year,
AIA Young Architect of the Year

Address:
1900 Wazee Street, Suite 100, Denver CO 80202

About Roth Sheppard Architects

Roth Sheppard Architects’s contribution to the region’s architecture industry is represented by over a hundred awards from the AIA, the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), and other design associations. They’ve put their mark on 80 restaurants since 1983, and they won AIA Architecture Firm of the Year in 2010 for both Denver and the state of Colorado. Principals emeritus and cofounders Herb Roth, FAIA, and Jeffrey Sheppard, AIA guide the firm’s younger generations of principal architects, LEED-AP Adam Harding and Brian Berryhill—both members of the AIA.

Featured Projects

Izakaya Den, an elegant two-story Japanese restaurant near Wash Park in Denver, is known for its elegant and refined character. The restaurant building features large glass windows, clean angles, a 6,000-square-foot dining area, and a 2,000-square-foot kitchen. Ten-foot walls of glass and a long skylight open to change the experience on a warm summer’s eve, allowing diners to become part of the active nightlife. Another project, the Vesta Dipping Grill in downtown Denver, is a 4,000 square feet of eccentric, modern beauty. Custom lighting fixtures, precise placement of the grill/hearth area, custom steel fabrications, and a combination of freestanding tables and private enclosed booths allow for seating options that invite solo patrons as well as the casual group of after-work diners.

Rowland+Broughton

Architects:
John Rowland and Sarah Broughton

Awards:
ASID Crystal Award,
AIA10 People’s Choice Awards,
AIA10 Historic Preservation Award,
AIA Colorado Award of Excellence

Address:
1830 Blake Street #200, Denver, CO 80202

About Rowland+Broughton

Rowland+Broughton is committed to creating lasting relationships with clients whom they can work with again and again as trusted advisors. Since 2003, Rowland+Broughton has executed award-winning projects led by AIA members John Rowland and Sarah Broughton. Some of the firm’s restaurant designs have been nationally recognized, some even featured by industry publications, including Hospitality Design Magazine. As a design professional, the firm offers comprehensive architectural, urban, and interior design services and takes a client through the process, from pre-design through installation. With studios in Aspen and Denver, the firm is making itself a part of Colorado’s evolving national image. When it comes to restaurant design, Rowland+Broughton relies on its in-depth understanding of code analysis, as well as its dedication to sustainable design to conceptualize functional, enduring, and stunning spaces.

Featured Projects

Tucked into the Aspen highlands, Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro offers a gorgeously chic, intimate, European-inspired dining experience. The essence of the bistro is complemented by the delicately renovated, rustic cabin interior. A high, apex ceiling provides a sense of space and relaxation. Wide windows let views of the snowy Colorado wilderness comfort patrons as they warm up inside Cloud Nine’s inviting atmosphere. For another project, the firm exhibited its meticulous skills in transforming a historic site into a modern space. Renovating and restoring a precious historic edifice requires careful consideration and collaboration. Rowland+Broughton worked extensively with the City of Aspen Historic Preservation Commission to respectfully update what is now the charming White House Tavern. A modern brick addition and new brick patio bring a new layer of visual appeal to the chapel turned tavern. This iconic project earned the firm the 2014 Historic Presentation Commission Award for Renovation.

Semple Brown

Address:
1160 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, CO 80204

About Semple Brown

With over 30 years of services to a wide range of markets in Denver and beyond, Semple Brown is one of the most established firms in the region. The company focuses on mixed-use, cultural, hospitality, office, residential, academic, entertainment, and restaurant sectors to deliver trailblazing architecture and interior design projects. Led by Sarah Semple Brown, FAIA, and Rusty Brown, AIA NCARB, the company has consistently secured commendations from the industry’s biggest networks. These institutions include the national and local AIA chapters, AIA Colorado and AIA Denver. As a designer for the restaurant and hospitality sectors, the firm has earned multiple Mayor’s Design Awards and ASID IDA Awards in the past. Its projects for the dining sector goes way back to 1990, including local landmarks such as the Mexicali Cafe in Larimer Square, Champion Brewing, Adega Restaurant and Wine Bar, Racines Restaurant, Steuben’s Restaurant, among many others. These projects embody the firm’s philosophy of how designs and architectures should “create and enhance a unique sense of place” for its clients.

Featured Projects

The firm showcases an extensive portfolio of restaurant interior design and architecture projects, many of which have been a huge part of the region’s vibrant and dynamic lifestyle. One of its projects in Denver is the Sunday Vinyl, a 2,000-square-foot restaurant that accommodates 68 seats. The design was inspired by the warm and cozy elements of a traditional European winebar. The mood of the restaurant was set to inspire an idea of returning to the analog world and “unplugging.” Vintage elements reinforce this atmosphere: upon entry you’ll see record players and shelves of vinyl records. The back wall of the dining space places listening nooks that provide a more intimate experience whether alone or with a small group. The Leroux, another restaurant design in the city, follows the contemporary Euro Bistro theme that exudes relaxation, authenticity, and individuality.

Studio Atlantis

Architects:
Jeff Metheny

Address:
7354 S Alton Way, Centennial, CO 80112

About Studio Atlantis

Studio Atlantis specializes in restaurant and retail design, and they pride themselves on an in-depth understanding of the needs of a restaurant customer. Their multi-disciplinary firm combines the talents of design architects, interior designers, and graphic designers. President Jeff Metheny has 20-plus years of retail and restaurant design experience and pays special attention to documentation, permitting, and construction. Senior Designer Alexis Crumb likes to focus her skill set on initial concepting, detail environmental design planning, and brand emphasis. Studio Atlantis has designed more than 30 restaurants and brings their personal, small teams warmth to large-scale, complex projects. Although they don’t appear on the list of firms with multiple design awards, their special focus in restaurants and consistently successful impact on the Colorado restaurant scene is highly notable.

“Defining and solving the puzzle of creating a physical space out of a person’s vision interconnected with real world constraints of budget, regulations, and the ever-evolving customer inspired me to start this career and continues on every project.” – Jeff Metheney, Principal, StudioAtlantis

Featured Projects

When tasked with the challenge of updating and expanding Sweet Basil, a cherished Thai restaurant in Vail, Studio Atlantis used earthy materials, custom lighting, stone walls, and curved floor elements to transform the space into something gorgeously bold, contemporary, and intimate, yet still open. Studio Atlantis has also brought their expertise to chains, such as the exterior reimagining they offered Red Robin Gourmet Burgers. They needed to maintain the customer’s recognition of the brand while also redesigning the look to offer a fresh, modern appeal to the outdated model.

Trapp Associates

Architects:
Shemryn Trapp

Address:
965 Linden Avenue, Boulder, CO 80304

About Trapp Associates

Trapp Associates opened up shop in 1981, and they were dedicated to a simple and specific goal — offering innovative solutions to the restaurant development industry. Thirty-five years later, with a portfolio of over 360 restaurants, they have grown to be distinguished in their specialty. Their projects include small, independent startups and national multi-unit chains. Trapp Associates is a boutique firm, able to take on large projects and utilize their specific restaurant industry expertise to avoid final-hour catastrophes with city planning, city signage, and kitchen equipment and health department requirements. Trapp Associates can begin at the base of a client’s needs (site selection) and work their way through the nitty-gritty details (permit and construction documentation).

“At Trapp Associates our greatest challenge and satisfaction is creating the best “stage” for Operations to win on” – Tim Trapp, President

Featured Projects

Rock Bottom, one of the first full-service dining brewpubs in Denver, provides warmth, openness, and artistry, with design hints of Frank Lloyd Wright in the use of leaded glass panels. A private party room and covered patio allow the space to open up without feeling daunting, and the large copper suspended in a two-story glass enclosure is an ode to the ultimate brewpub visual. On a major thoroughfare from Denver into the mountains, Trapp Associates gutted and re-envisioned a historic building into what is now the El Rancho. Its 12.6k square feet of lodge-like character, including preserved lacquered logs, make this establishment feel down home, while the brewing equipment at the front entry and the open floor plan gives it a contemporary edge.

“While working for one of Colorado’s premier architectural firms ( Carl Worthington Associates) in Boulder had the first restaurant chain client fall to me. Later becoming the VP of design and architecture for the Cork n Cleaver chain marched that chain across the US. Trapp Associates was founded in 1981 following the Corks closure and have provided design and architecture services to many national and international restaurant companies ever since. We have found after hundreds of projects of all scales a restaurant has to: “ work first and look fantastic second.” Because of the three pillars of restaurant success: Food, Service, Site/ Design, food is first, service second, and what we do is third. Of course, great success happens when you can get all three to be exceptional.
We have learned a whole new dimension of achieving restaurant success by opening and operating our own restaurant, U Turn BBQ, and Brewery. We believe the heroes in the equation are the staff that shows up every day to make special guest experiences.” – Tim Trapp, President