With shifting local regulations, supply chain delays, a labor shortage, and a host of unknowns brought on by a pandemic that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, 2021 was not the easiest year to open a bar or restaurant. Somehow that makes it feel more important than ever to celebrate the ones that managed to open with a business model that works despite all the challenges happening in the world right now. So, let’s take a moment and celebrate these fabulous, functional designs judged to be among the best of the best in rd+d’s annual contest.
And a big thanks to everyone who not only managed to open a restaurant last year but who then also took the time and effort to submit it to the rd+d awards. Thanks also to our judges who made a hybrid of in-person and remote judging work.
Here’s to an award-worthy 2022!
Best Bar Design
Winner: 8Street Brickell, Miami
Design: Bigtime Design Studios, Miami
Architecture: EAVBTD LLC, Architecture, Miami
Purchasing: Loren Michaels Development, Purchasing Agent, Miami
This boutique hotel bar seats 60 and was designed to draw in both hotel guests and locals alike. At just 3,000 square feet, the soaring ceiling threatened to overwhelm the space. The solution — a sculptural ceiling that both hides MEP and lighting while providing a dramatic sculptural element — wowed the judges, as did the overall modern and high-quality design.
Best Restaurant Design — Check Average Over $50
Winner: The Point, Washington, D.C.
Full-service seafood restaurant The Point was designed to translate the confluence of water (seafood) and fire (cooking) as interacting elements that join together to be stronger. The judges were taken with the modern decor, and felt the project was very well executed with a unique design.
Best Restaurant Design — Check Average Below $50
Winner: Gatsby, Washington, D.C.
A reimagined diner concept that spans 9,000 square feet across three floors, Gatsby manages to offer a casual take on art deco and a space that is fit for both pre- and post-ballgame visits as it’s located opposite Nationals Park. The kitchen, located on the second floor, proved the most challenging aspect of the design, but the judges noted that the back-of-house staircase was a solid solution in a great multistory space.
Honorable Mention: Best Restaurant Design — Check Average Below $50
Honorable Mention: The Iron Gate, Wyandotte, Mich.
The renovation of a retail space into a sophisticated, relaxing small plates restaurant was an impressive transformation of a small space.
Best Design — Limited-Service Restaurant
Winner: Sake Express, Gastonia, N.C.
Sake Express is a quick-serve Japanese sushi and steakhouse restaurant that has been voted Best Japanese Restaurant in Gastonia, N.C., for 15 years. The well-loved spot was due for a refresh and the owners wanted an open space with high visibility that didn’t look like a typical fast-casual restaurant. The entire space was overhauled with a strong emphasis on safety and cleanliness. A custom handwashing station in the entry vestibule impressed judges, as did the project team’s overall great attention to little details.
Best New Concept Launch
Winner: Tuk Tuk Boom, Jackson, Miss.
The goal behind Tuk Tuk Boom was to create a fresh, modern take on fast-casual Thai by designing a bright, lively space that mixes the colors found in curries, peppers and herbs with a natural wood and crisp white backdrop. The design team wanted to create both a takeout-friendly environment and one that would make dine-in guests want to linger. The judges felt it they did a great job of meeting their goals.
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Best New Prototype (Existing Concept)
Winner: Black Hog BBQ, Washington, D.C.
Architect: CORE architecture + design, Washington, D.C.
General Contractor: Trinity Group Construction, Herndon, Va.
MEP Engineer: Caliber Design, Inc., Sterling, Va.
Foodservice Consultant: Singer Equipment Company, Elverson, Pa.
Graphic Designer: Polygraph Creative, Washington, D.C.
Black Hog BBQ is a new fast-casual spin-off from a full-service restaurant chain of the same name based in Maryland. It invites guests to try a variety of classic American regional barbeque flavors. The design aimed to celebrate the history of barbecue in America. Worn woods, cayenne and mustard colors, and industrial lighting pay homage to the history of American barbeque halls. The judges felt the project more than met its goals and that the ambience of the space was sure to leave guests with positive feelings.
Honorable Mention: Best New Prototype (Existing Concept)
Honorable Mention: Eataly Dallas
Eataly Dallas is the chain’s seventh location. It hosts three unique restaurants along with a market that contains 10,000 products imported from Italy, made in-house and sourced from local — in this case.