We eat not just with our senses of taste and smell but with our eyes, too, and there’s just something about a beautifully designed restaurant interior that can elevate a meal from great to exceptional.
At these Bay Area restaurants, careful consideration has been paid not just to the food on the plate, but to creating the right atmosphere to make it shine. From the maximalist style of Ken Fulk's interiors at Boulevard to the sexy, midcentury cool of Oakland’s Bardo Lounge & Supper Club, here are seven stunning restaurant interiors in San Francisco and beyond.
(Courtesy of @blvdsf)
In the fall of 2021, San Francisco mainstay Boulevard shook off its pandemic dust and flung its doors wide to a glamorous, gussied up new interior created by none other than design wunderkind Ken Fulk.
Fulk not only reshaped the dining room, creating a dramatic entrance and a distinct bar and lounge area, he brought a playful elegance to a middle-age grand dame. With mix-and-match handmade wallpapers and textiles, a textured ceiling, theatrical lighting and vintage touches, Boulevard has not just been restored to her youth, she’s been reborn as something altogether more stylish.// 1 Mission St (Embarcadero), boulevardrestaurant.com
Empress by Boon
(Courtesy of @empressbyboon)
Empress by Boon isn’t just an exceptional culinary destination spearheaded by a Michelin-starred chef; it's a spectacularly designed destination spearheaded by a Michelin-starred chef.
The 7,500-square-foot Chinatown space, with a pedigree half a century year old, was transformed by chef/owner Ho Chee Boon and Lily Jordan of the UK-based studio Atelier LLYS into a restaurant as modern as it is a throwback to what it once was—the neighborhood's special occasion dining room.
Using existing elements like an antique wooden pergola and Chinese ornamentation, Empress by Boon’s distinct spaces, each with their own unique view of the city skyline, fuse to tell the ongoing story of this historic landmark. Statement floors, geometric woodwork, and a throughline of blues of every hue make for one of San Francisco’s most dramatic restaurant interiors.
// 836 Grant Ave (Chinatown),theempresssf.com
(Courtesy of Ettan)
Thomas Schoos, principal at Los Angeles–based Schoos Design, crafted Palo Alto’s California-Indian restaurant Ettan with care. Drawing inspiration from India’s visual heritage, the airy, two-level space is anchored by splashy, one-of-a-kind details like a textured glass dome roof, an oversized antique blue door, and a hanging garden of plants and sculptural light fixtures.
Patterned tilework, French windows, and metal and stone accents indoors give way to an outdoor patio with a ceiling of bright blue-and-red umbrellas. But don’t take our word for it, the good folks at the BLT Built Design Awards have already made a much stronger case: Ettan was one of only three U.S. restaurants to win (for international interior design) in 2021.
// 518 Bryant St (Palo Alto),ettanrestaurant.com
Bardo Lounge & Supper Club
(Courtesy of @bardo_oakland)
The transportative Bardo Lounge & Supper Club in Oakland’s Lakeshore neighborhood is midcentury modern at its best.
Inside, the double-decker space created by local design firm Arcsine is simultaneously comfortable and sophisticated, an homage to the kind of sexy dinner party of the ‘60s or ‘70s that may or may not have ended with choosing a stranger’s keys from a fishbowl.
The team dug deep to find both antique statement pieces like the chandelier (which once hung in Portland’s historic Imperial Hotel) and everyday items of the era, like the 50-year-old couch that was borrowed from one of the restaurant owner’s mothers. The result is a patchwork of distinct lounge areas surrounded by wood paneled walls and a swanky bar complete with vintage glassware.
// 3343 Lakeshore Ave. (Oakland),bardooakland.com
Son and Garden
(Courtesy of @sonandgarden)
A collaboration between Kasem Saengsawang, the chef/owner of Farmhouse Kitchen Thai, and pastry chef Suchanya Piyamaporn brought the enchanted tea room Son and Garden to life. The Tenderloin restaurant zigs where other SF eateries zag; instead of cool, understated sophistication, they’ve opted for bright, bold excess with ceilings that literally bloom with flowers.
In the Secret Bar, Regencycore furniture in rich, colorful fabrics and sumptuous accents—think gilded mirrors, colorful peacocks, and bird-shaped cocktail glasses—are just as fun as they are lovely, a fairytale fantasy come to life. If you’re in Silicon Valley, Son and Garden’s Menlo Park location is just as charming.
// 700 Polk St (Tenderloin) and 1195 Merrill St (Menlo Park),sonandgarden.com
(Courtesy of @pennyroma_sf)
The Flour + Water Restaurant Group collaborated with Office: Jason Schulte Design to reshape a relatively cavernous space on 20th Street into an inviting neighborhood trattoria. Drawing inspiration from its indoor-outdoor layout, Penny Roma is all layered botanicals and tranquil grays and blues that walk the line between rustic and modern. North African rugs, a warming charcoal hearth, and a greenery-framed view to the kitchen contribute to a sophisticated vision of an intimate dinner party.
// 3000 20th St (Mission),pennyroma.com
Leo's Oyster Bar
(Courtesy of @leosoysterbar)
Leo’s Oyster Bar may not be the new kid in town anymore but its interior is still one of the city’s best thanks, once again, to designer Ken Fulk.
Fulk’s signature maximalism has left the space a Mad Men-meets-Golden Girls mashup of tropical oasis in the main dining room and midcentury tiki in the back lounge. Texture and color play throughout the spaces, with details like vibrant palm frond wallpaper, checkerboard tile floors, and mismatched mirrors. In the lounge, bamboo walls and vintage posters evoke a 1950s Hawaiian hideaway.
// 568 Sacramento St (Financial District), leossf.com