Charm City is a place where the history of America stands in the same place as its future. Its spaces are old buildings that have worn many, many masks as businesses came and went. But still, no matter what skin the city wears, there is no denying the legacy of its bones. This list ranks the best restaurant designers in Baltimore, who know how to work with the city’s old warehouses and its forgotten industries, and yet design sustainably for the future. Whether for a renovation or a new construction, the design minds behind these firms create eatery spaces for restaurant clients that are both new and still Baltimore.

Top Architects

Architectural Design Works

W. Paul Thompson

Archer-Bull Award for Design and Construction Excellence,
Harford County Historic Preservation Commission Project of the Year Award,
Southern Maryland Builders Association,
Award of Excellence

22 W Allegheny Avenue, Suite 301, Towson, MD 21204

About Architectural Design Works

ADW is an architectural and land planning firm that has been working out of Towson for the past 26 years. Every commission the firm receives starts with research and analysis to ensure a project’s maximum potential is reached. The firm’s process is driven by a focus on successful construction and risk management, which includes interviews with every individual contractor in front of the client. Their previous projects include a range of markets, including commercial, residential, government, and industrial. Among the ADW team’s list of awards is the 2004 Archer-Bull Award for Design and Construction Excellence, the 2001 Project of the Year Award from the Harford County Historic Preservation Commission, and a 1994 Award of Excellence from the Southern Maryland Builders Association. ADW also has an active presence on their Facebook page, where they share photos of current projects.

Featured Projects

Padonia LLC hired ADW in the construction and design of the Bluestone Restaurant in Timonium. The two-story building was completed for the cost of $3M and covers a total area of 10k square feet. The “off the beaten path” site was chosen to make the restaurant feel part of the neighborhood. As such, it sits between warehouses and a light rail line. The design of the building was inspired by the area’s quarry mining history, but it also draws from modern architectural trends. Featured are a glass entry tower that allows natural light into the space and a “Red Barn addition” that is reminiscent of rural Baltimore County. Located in Bel Air is Crackpot Restaurant, which was a $4.4M project covering an area of 16k square feet. The restaurant, which ADW proposed to be built in the Eastern Shore style, sits on a site that was subjected to over 60 development and architectural requirements, which the firm fulfilled. The building itself includes a gourmet seafood market, crab steaming facilities, and the 250-seat restaurant, a bar, and a private party room.

Design Collective

Dennis Jankiewicz
Fred Marino

AIA Maryland People’s Choice Award,
AIA Baltimore Grand Design Award,
ULI Award for Excellence

601 E Pratt Street, Suite 300, Baltimore, MD 21202

About Design Collective

Design Collective is a multi-disciplinary firm that was founded in 1979. Design Collective takes on architecture, planning, and interior design clients, and has done so in a way that wins awards. Most recently, they have been recognized by AIA Maryland with the People’s Choice Award for their interior design of a Cushman & Wakefield office in Baltimore. The Fitzgerald, a transit-oriented development and mixed-use apartment community in Mount Vernon, was awarded the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Baltimore’s Grand Design Award as well as ULI’s Award for Excellence. The firm has completed projects both nationally and abroad, but they are based in Baltimore. Design Collective has been featured in the Baltimore Business Journal, the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Magazine, and Architect Magazine. The firm’s leadership team includes Chairman and CEO Emeritus Dennis Jankiewicz, AIA; President, CEO, and Senior Principal Fred Marino, AIA; Senior Principal Matthew D’Amico of the American Society of Landscape Architects; and Senior Principal Luis Bernardo, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a LEED Advanced Professional certified in Building Design and Construction (LEED AP BD&C).

Featured Projects

Design Collective repositioned, reorganized, and renovated the Harbor Market Kitchen & Cafe at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. The team’s goal was to create a space that could accommodate the restaurant’s estimated 4,000 visitors per day, seven days a week, something which the existing space could not do sustainably. Design Collective designed a new layout for the cafe, installed an open kitchen, and used recyclable and renewable materials with energy efficient systems. The environmentally conscious redesign included elaborate recycling and compost collection bins. The firm also installed an attractive feature wall that simulated ripples of water using blue LED lighting. Drawing from the city’s history as an industrial center is the firm’s work on the 5,000-square-foot Austin Grill, located in a redeveloped cannery. Design Collective aimed to design a space that expressed Austin’s unique spirit and blend it into the industrial complex. For thirsty pedestrians walking along Thames Street, they might happen upon the DuClaw Brewing Co. location in Fells Point designed by Design Collective. The space features a custom metal and glass oval bar with large, welcoming windows.

Urban Design Group

Mike Burton

1909 Thames St, Suite 200, Baltimore, MD 21231

About Urban Design Group

The architects of Urban Design believe in creating sustainable work. To that end, their philosophy involves sustainable design and civic responsibility. They are an advocate of urbanism, at the same time hoping to improve the quality of life for those who live in the city. Mike Burton, AIA, a member of the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) and of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) GA, is the president in charge of this operation, and he comes from a family of architects who have been devoted to Baltimore for the past five generations. Kyle Mastalinski, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+C ULI, is Urban Design’s project leader. He has relocated to the city coming from the University of Buffalo, where his academic research focused on sustainable redevelopment in distressed urban communities. Their most recent project, the renovation of a former helicopter factory, was featured in the Washington Business Journal.

Featured Projects

Turning a vacant space into a classy restaurant was a $1.2M project awarded to Urban Design by the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Inner Harbor. The 5,500-square-foot space that would eventually become the SIP Kitchen & Wine Bar features wood and iron light fixtures hearkening back to the city’s industrial past. It also features wall installations that display the 72 different wines guests can self-pour. The restaurant’s opening was covered in the Baltimore City Paper and Baltimore Magazine. In Mount Vernon, the former site of Gampy’s Restaurant was restored and expanded by Urban Design Group into the Marie Louise Bistro. The French-Mediterranean restaurant now sports blond wood furnishings with a pressed-tin ceiling above. This restaurant was featured in the Baltimore Sun. Finally, Diablitas Restaurant can be found in Inner Harbor East as part of the Holland MFG Company Building. Urban Design completely renovated the space, including a bar, public dining, and private dining areas.

Foundry Architects

Matthew Compton

AIA Maryland Excellence in Design Award,
AIA DC Merit Award,
AIA Baltimore Residential Award

2701 N. Charles Street, Suite 100, Baltimore, MD 21218

About Foundry Architects

Foundry Architects builds for function, sustainability, and financial viability. Its principal is Matthew Compton, AIA LEED AP, who started the firm in April of 2011. Foundry Architects takes residential, commercial, educational, and institutional clients. Whatever the project is, the overarching goal is to create spaces that invest and integrate into their community. The firm’s work has enjoyed recognition from the eyes of the architectural world. Compton’s Gobo Run home, a 1,700-square-foot sustainable residence constructed for two generations of couples, was awarded the AIA Maryland Excellence in Design Award. The Minim House in Washington, DC, while also awarded by the AIA, has the distinction of being the most reported-on tiny home in the capital. Foundry Architects has also been featured in Chesapeake Home + Living.

Featured Projects

Standing in one of the Baltimore area’s first suburban shopping districts is a historic building that was constructed in the mid-20th century. While it was used as a store for Hess Shoe, today it is a restored restaurant known as Shoo-Fly Diner. Compton and team worked with the client to design a space that said ‘traditional American.’ The first floor is home to a bar, and the second floor houses the restaurant for table service. The upper level also features classic, U-shaped diner counters that provide views into the open kitchen, a current trend in Baltimore restaurant design. Foundry Architects’ work at Beau Thai in Washington, DC is an example of the firm’s flexibility. Where the previous project was pure nostalgia in its design, the Thai restaurant blends the here-and-now with the past. The structure of the restaurant is industrial — the exposed ceiling, the concrete floor — yet at the same time, faded photos of the owner’s family, taken from their homeland, adorn the walls.

Heath Design Group

Mike McGowan
Brian D. Laug
Chung Gobell

National Association of Industrial and Office Properties Awards

516 N Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

About Heath Design Group

Mike McGowan is the president of this Baltimore-based firm. The Cornell University graduate is also serving on the board of Downtown Management Authority, the city’s oldest and largest business improvement organization, and the Downtown Partnership Foundation, which seeks to stimulate the area’s economic development. Brian D. Laug, AIA NCARB, is the firm’s principal, bringing his multi-market expertise to Heath Design for the past two decades. Finally, Chung Gobell is the director of interior design and was educated at the Maryland Institute College of Art. The team works together to give its clients a timeless look that won’t require future updating. Established in 1991, Heath Design serves the corporate, healthcare, retail, and nonprofit industries. They have been awarded by the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties twice for their work.

Featured Projects

Heath Design continues the trend of Baltimore designers artfully renovating existing spaces, with Langermann’s. The award-winning restaurant specializes in South Carolina Lowcountry cuisine and enjoys views of the harbor. Before it was a restaurant, however, the space was home to a warehouse. Heath Design keeps Baltimore history alive by incorporating into the design the exposed ductwork, the brick walls, and the original warehouse windows. The 8,500-square-foot restaurant also features an open kitchen and inviting linen-covered tables. Lemongrass and Tsunami are two Asian-themed restaurants which also occupy the site of a former warehouse. Its biggest draw is the two-story Buddhist statue visible from both the Thai and Japanese halves of the building.

Brown Craig Turner Architects

Bryce Turner

100 N Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

About Brown Craig Turner Architects

BCT is a multi-disciplinary design firm that has served architecture and interior design clients in the retail, housing, hospitality, and corporate markets. The leadership team includes President and CEO Bryce Turner, who is a fellow of the AIA. An architect registered in 20 states, Turner’s experience in the industry has brought him to work in places as far as Africa and Asia. From 2002 to 2007, Turner was the chair of the ULI Baltimore office. In 2011, former Governor Martin O’Malley appointed Turner to the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission. He was reappointed again in 2015. Turner and the BCT team have recently won the ULI and the AIA for their work on the historic 37-story 10 Light office tower. The firm also hosts an intern program for interested student designers.

Featured Projects

The BCT Interior Design Studio was in charge of providing a comfortable, modern, farmhouse-inspired setting for guests of Farmstead Grill, a farm-to-table restaurant in Canton Crossing. Within the 6,000-square-foot space, a light, airy, and organic atmosphere is achieved with furnishings made from reclaimed wood, hand-blown light fixtures, and zinc for the table and bar top. During the daytime, no artificial lighting is needed throughout the restaurant. Ratcheting up in elegance is BCT’s interior design for Bond 45, an Italian restaurant in National Harbor. From the custom tiled floor to the hanging lights, the 8,000-square-foot restaurant screams upscale. Following the aesthetically pleasing Bond 45 is pizzeria Fiorella, which trades fanciness for rustic charm. Painted plates make for wall decorations, and warm reds and yellows are evident throughout the brick-laden interior.

Rohrer Studio

Dianne J. Rohrer
James P. Suttner

ASID Maryland Historic Commercial Award,
AIA Baltimore Architectural Design Award,
AIA Maryland Interior Design Award

611 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

About Rohrer Studio

Eighty percent of Rohrer Studio’s team members are LEED certified, demonstrating the firm’s devotion to keeping their designs sustainable. While the team’s work aims to convey the client’s identity, their designs also consider the context of the surrounding community. Certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise in Maryland state and Baltimore City, Rohrer Studios was founded by Dianne J. Rohrer, CID, a 25-year veteran of architectural interior design. Her projects have been recognized by the AIA, the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), and the International Interior Design Association. Her experience ranges from new construction, adaptive reuse, and historic renovations, the latter of which Baltimore city has in spades. Leading with her is the second Principal James P. Suttner, AIA, who has also been awarded by the AIA. Rohrer Studio’s work has graced the pages of the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Chesapeake Home, and Style Magazine.

Featured Projects

A recent project for Rohrer and team was the 1157 Bar + Kitchen in Tide Point. In Baltimore, where transforming historic spaces into modern venues is the name of the game, Rohrer Studio displays their talent. The design was an Honorable Mention for the 2016 AIA Baltimore Excellence in Design Awards. One of the judges commented positively on the compact design of the restaurant, which used to be a small-scaled row house. The restaurant is described as cozy and a must-go local spot. Rohrer Studio’s work with renovated row houses continues with the Salt restaurant and tavern in Upper Fells Point. The bar’s most eye-catching feature are the light fixtures hanging above the bar, which glow green over bar guests. The hip bar area contrasts the exposed brick walls of the rest of the restaurant, blending the old and the new. This design won Rohrer and team an ASID Maryland Interior Design Award.

Alexander Design Studio

Charles Alexander
Phyllis Cook
Jessica Damseaux

AIA Baltimore Honorable Mention,
AIA Maryland Merit Award,
Baltimore Heritage Adaptive Reuse and Compatible Design Award

8212 Main St, Ellicott City, MD 21043

About Alexander Design Studio

Alexander Design is another firm on this list that’s a proponent of green design. The firm’s senior staff includes Principal Charles Alexander, AIA LEED AP, who received his Master of Architecture from Yale; Principal Phyllis Cook, AIA LEED AP, who has 25 years of experience behind her work; and Senior Associate Jessica Damseaux, AIA LEED AP, who has served for AIA Baltimore’s Lecture Series as well as their on their Board of Directors. Past clients of the award-winning Alexander Design team include the American Cancer Society, Baltimore City Public Schools, and a number of local churches. Their renovation work at Mount Vernon Mill No. 1 has garnered much attention from the likes of AIA Maryland, and their other works have been granted Honorable Mentions and Design Awards from AIA Baltimore. Furthermore, the team has been featured in the Urbanite, Style, Chesapeake Home, the Baltimore Business Journal, and the Baltimore Sun.

Featured Projects

Alexander Design’s first featured project was completed just last year. The Cosima at Mill No. 1 covers an area of 12k square feet, the largest recorded square-footage on this list so far, and cost $2.5M. Solidifying themselves as a Baltimore city design firm, the project’s scope included converting the boiler house of a historic cotton mill into a Sicilian restaurant that utilizes wood-fired cooking. Alexander Design was faced with the challenge of creating an efficient restaurant while maintaining the aspects of the space that gave it character: the stone foundation wall, the chimney, the remains of a coal boiler, and the adjacent river. Today, the fires that used to power the cotton industry are used to cook the restaurant’s food. Another big restaurant space on the Alexander Design team’s portfolio is the DuClaw Brewing Company building. Coming in at 8,400 square feet and costing $2.7M to complete, the location is a free-standing building. The final design uses sliding planes and translucent spaces to create views that can be seen from multiple perspectives.

Schamu Machowski + Patterson Architects

Walter Schamu
Charles Patterson

6 of Baltimore Sun’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2016

1100 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

About Schamu Machowski + Patterson Architects

SM+P’s talent can be seen in the stonework of the city’s most iconic buildings. They have restored the B&O Railroad Museum and the Bromo Seltzer Tower. They renovated the Hippodrome Theater. They’ve completed complex projects for the National Institute of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency. And, their restaurant clients include some of Charm City’s best places to eat. Since 1982, Walter Schamu, FAIA, has been the president of SM+P. He is known throughout the region as an expert in historic architecture and is also the founder of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation. Vice President Charles Patterson, AIA LEED AP, has been with the firm for 20 years and acts as the director of design. The Baltimore Sun’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2016 includes six of their clients, two of which are listed below.

Featured Projects

The Woodberry Kitchen was named No. 3 on the Baltimore Sun’s list and No. 1 on a similar list compiled by the Baltimore Business Journal. The farm-to-table restaurant was a mill building before it was renovated by SM+P in 2007. While local artisans were recruited to work on architectural details, SM+P’s own designed the interior light fixtures and bench seats. Stacks of cut lumber above the wine shelves serve as a reminder of the building’s origins, and the neighborhood around the restaurant can be seen through the glass wall separating the inside from the outside. The Alma Cocina Latina came in 8th on the Baltimore Sun list, occupying the site of an old Can Company building in Canton. Where three other restaurants failed, the Alma thrived. SM+P allowed more natural light to enter the space and used a palette of light colors. Guests come in through a steel and cypress tunnel that cuts through the red-brick face of the building, transporting them to their dining experience.

Patrick Sutton Interior Design

Patrick Sutton

AIA awards for Design,
Institute of Classical Architecture and Art John Russell Pope Award for Interior Design

1000 Light Street, Baltimore, MD 21230

About Patrick Sutton Interior Design

When approaching the design of a restaurant, Patrick Sutton starts with the menu. His ultimate goal is to find the restaurant’s soul, the restaurant’s story, and transport guests there. In effect, he creates a mental vacation for them. The designer has received five AIA awards for Design, as well as the John Russell Pope Award for Interior Design from the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art. The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Style, Curbed Washington DC, the Washington Post, Style, and many others have praised his designs over the last decade. Whether in the residential or hospitality spheres of design, Sutton is at Baltimore’s forefront.

Featured Projects

Going through Sutton’s body of work, it is easy to see that he practices what he preaches. While all of these restaurants share his trademark luxurious elegance, they each embody what makes that restaurant its own. Cinghiale, which means “wild boar” in Italian, features busts of the animal watching over bar patrons. Old-world charm is suffused throughout the restaurant from the light fixtures to its earthy tones. The East Harbor restaurant is ranked No. 7 on the Baltimore Sun list. Pazo is also a vacation to Italy, but it trades the rustic country for gold-tinted extravagance. Azumi recalls both Japanese tradition and the Tokyo nightlife with the sake bottles, the bamboo tables, and the neon installations, and treats guests to views of the harbor outside.


Photo of Cinghiale (heading photo) courtesy of Erik Kvalsvik
Photo of Pazo (featured project for Patrick Sutton Interior Design) courtesy of Patrick Sutton Interior Design
Photo of the Garden Room courtesy of Gordon Beall

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