Portland, Oregon, is a city known for its foodie culture. People literally move here for the restaraunts. And with those inventive recipes and creative dishes comes the necessity for fun, attractive, and functional brick and mortar spaces to enhance the experience of staff and guests alike. When it comes to dining out, it’s not just the food people go for, it’s the experience of being out and being away, and creating that ambiance and design and structure is the work of those who create these very unique Portland restaurants. Here are some of the best of the best you’ll find creating the places where locals and travelers alike stand in line — if not to eat, at least just to get a glimpse of the eye candy inside.
Top Architects and Designers
Ankrom Moisan Architects Inc
Portland Sustainability at Work Gold Workplace Certification
6720 S.W. Macadam Avenue #100, Portland, OR 97219
About Ankrom Moisan Architects Inc.
A recipient of the Portland Sustainability at Work Gold Workplace Certification, Ankrom Moisan Architects is a national firm founded in 1983 and headquartered in Portland. The firm’s portfolio includes a wide array of award-winning projects such as mixed-use student housing, workplace, hospitality, and healthcare projects, and senior living communities (like the Mirabella, which won the ULI Global Excellence Award). The firm has a mission and emphasis on creating spaces where people and communities thrive.
Sinju restaurant is designed with a Japanese aesthetic—customers and clients enter and move through spaces that are made within spaces, each arranged to embody balance and delicacy. Areas made for larger communities neighbor more personal and intimate spaces for smaller groups. The bar is designed with Bubinga wood, visually enhancing the dining experience. Fabrics and wood-slatted panels hang, which provide both contrast and intimacy against the stone-tiled floors. The art collection that hangs on the walls is from the owner’s own travels to Japan, which imbues the restaurant with a sense of authentic personality, intrigue, and a visual environment. The interiors hold swaths of silk finely designed in quality and detail, providing the restaurant a sense of luxury and artistry.
Brett Schulz Architects
2500 Northeast Sandy Blvd. Suite D, Portland, OR 97232
About Schulz Architects
Brett Schulz runs his eponymous studio with a strong focus on quality architecture and interior design. The Portland native is a Pratt Institute alum who spent the seminal years of his career in New York City before moving back and planting his roots in his hometown. Prior to founding his own practice in 2002, his resume included stints with SERA Architects and FFA Architects. His impressive body of work spans commercial, multi-family, residential, non-profit, and alternative housing sectors. The firm has earned a reputation as a solid partner in the field, earning commendations from its network of clients as well as press features in The Architect’s Newspaper, Portland Monthly, and Portland Architecture.
Besaw’s Restaurant is a 3,000 square-foot project by Brett Schulz. The new branch designed by the firm infused the establishment with a contemporary design that oozes with traditional style and modern charm. The interior’s design evokes a welcoming atmosphere that encourages social interaction and provides an optimal dining experience. Features include custom booth seating, horseshoe-shaped marble bar, Amiga Lighting-made custom light fixtures, and Kate Blairstone custom wallpapers. Besaw’s Solo Club, a 1,500 square-foot subsidiary right beside the restaurant, was also designed by the studio in partnership with contractor Vara Design Build. Its layout includes a separate kitchen, menu, and decor set-up, a mezzanine for additional seating, and an office area.
208 SW Stark Street #200, Portland, OR 97204
About Design Department
Design Department is a Portland-based firm established in 2008 by Ben Hufford and Eric Black after years of experience at large architecture firms. Today, Hufford remains the design principal at the firm, joined by Meredith Curran, who leads interior design. Food establishment design is a core service of the firm. The practice has been involved in some of the most successful local restaurant and bar projects. Design Department helps clients through the process of lease negotiation, equipment planning, and restaurant and bar design, as well as all permitting processes within the city and the county. Some of its Portland clients include Bamboo Izakaya, Bamboo Sushi, Jackknife, Sweet Hereafter, Dig A Pony, Wilder, Migration Brewing, and Straight from New York Pizza.
A second project for Bamboo restaurant group, this space earned Eater PDX’s “So Hot Right Now” award shortly after opening. The street location off of NE Alberta is both authentic and warmly inviting. Lanterns were strung above the dining area, and the bamboo huts create a street feel, which was inspired by the “yokocho” dining alleys of Tokyo. This space was entirely built by local artisans but excels in transporting those who enter back into the Showa Era of Tokyo. Another featured project is the bar located in the lobby of the historic Sentinel Hotel in downtown Portland. In 2014, it won the “Stone Cold Stunner” award by Eater PDX and was even featured in Eater National’s “The Year in Beautiful Restaurants: 15 Stunners.” The firm reused the fireplace, and then incorporated the stain glass-domed ceiling in order to create a timeless, intimate space, similar to a 1920s speakeasy. A 65-foot-long marble bar is the central hub and focal point of this popular watering hole.
112 SW 1st Avenue, Portland, OR 97204
About Jessica Helgerson
With work featured in the New York Times, Gray Magazine, Contract Magazine, Architectural Digest, and Casa Vogue, you may recognize the designs of Jessica Helgerson Interior Design. Helgerson’s signature style is inspired by a well-traveled career; she has lived and worked in Italy, Switzerland, and France. Her life in Europe and her travels in India, Mexico, Morocco, and the Far East have strongly influenced her work. The design group as a whole has expertise and experience applicable to the many types of projects they complete.
Helgerson’s work with Tuft Restaurant has been featured in The New York Times, Bon Appétit, Food and Wine, Portland Monthly, Gray Magazine, and Contract Magazine. Departing from the norm of Portland’s woodsy aesthetic, the design of this Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant is something to behold. Tusk (named after the Fleetwood Mac album) is a restaurant with lighting and colors that are bright and fresh, giving off the sense of a lively, sunny party. Helgerson designed a system of bleached wood dowels that filter the light and even create beautiful shadows along the walls. This was all done in order to make the space feel as if one was sitting outside under a shady arbor. The palette is pale and restrained, and there is much room left for the colorful artwork displayed (and of course the bright food). The senior designer for the Tusk project was Em Shephard.
4713 N Albina Avenue, Portland, OR 97217
About LEVER Architecture
Lever is a design practice based out of Portland with an architecture portfolio that includes a multitude of building projects for institutions, creative offices, retail, and multifamily housing. The practice was founded in 2009 by Thomas Robinson, who received his Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from UC Berkeley and then a Master of Architecture with Distinction from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He then led various institutional projects for Allied Works and Herzog & de Meuron. Lever is known as a pioneer in the development of mass timber buildings in the United States.
People move to Portland not just for the city but also because of its location, which is just a short drive away from nature’s splendor. Just west of Newberg right outside of Portland, L’Angolo Estate shows off the latest example of the Pacific Northwest’s architecture and what one can do with the local timber industry. Lever Architecture tapped a mill in Drain, Oregon for upgraded versions of mass-produced beams fashioned from southern Oregon trees. The new tasting room features Doug Fir ceilings and an elegant concrete bar. Lever Architecture designed the airy tasting room with a sleek design and an abundance of natural light—the goal of the project was to replicate the wine in an elegant manner, rooted in the natural beauty of the environment. The project reveals the beauty of simplicity when it comes to aesthetic design, one fitting for an enjoyable wine and dine experience.
LRS Architects Inc.
T Paul Frank
Commercial Real Estate Community Impact Award,
Association of Retail Environments Sustainability Award
720 N.W. Davis Street #300, Portland, OR 97209
About LRS Architects Inc.
Founded in 1976 by Bill Ruff and Steve Lee, LRS’s award-winning architecture has consistently received positive client feedback and has collected over 60 awards for their work. Managing principals include T. Paul Frank, Trish Nixon, Dan Purgiel, Steve Mileham, and Paul Boundy. The practice has been repeatedly ranked among the best Portland firms by industry bodies such as the Portland Business Journal. LRS is known for its impressive commercial portfolio but also shines in housing and public projects. They have offices both in Portland and Shanghai, China. The Erickson Fritz Apartments, a project of the studio, was recognized by the Portland Business Journal with the Commercial Real Estate Community Impact Award of 2016. The New Seasons Market Woodstock also won the 2016 Association of Retail Environments Sustainability Award.
The Barlow project was a 1700-square-foot expansion to the historic Park Tower building located in downtown Portland. Designed to emulate 1920s speakeasy nostalgia of the flapper era, LRS Architects helped design and expand this vintage artisan bar to not only fit the old-school theme, but also to celebrate the Broadway District’s own history. Close by are the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and Portland’s Centers for the Arts, stunningly designed structures that were instrumental in creating a successful environment for this restaurant. A demonstration kitchen and mixology station were also added, each minute detail meticulously designed to complement the restaurant’s quite visible corner location. The floor-to-ceiling glazing enhances the allure of Barlow.
Orange Wall Studios
240 N Broadway #308, Portland, OR 97227
About Orange Wall Studios
Orange Wall Studios Architecture and Planning was founded in 2004 by Gary Hartfill. Passion, vision, collaboration, and craft are the four key values that form the foundation of the practice. The work of the firm has been featured in Portland Business Journal, both for its upscale architects and as one of Portland’s fastest-growing businesses. Dedicated to a collaborative design process uniquely tailored to each client, Orange Wall has customized beloved restaurants in the Portland area and beyond, including the ever-popular Pfriem Brewery in Hood River. In projects both in and outside of the restaurant realm, Orange Wall Studios has been awarded for its excellence in preservation, sustainability, adaptive reuse, and community revitalization throughout Oregon.
Laurelhurst Market is a restaurant continually featured for its excellent food and ambiance. Although they can’t take credit for the gustatory satisfaction of the customers, one must commend Orange Wall Studios for creating and building an environment beloved by Portland natives and foreigners alike. Featured in the Oregonian, Portland Monthly Magazine, Bon Appetit Magazine, and Willamette Week, the rave reviews of this place are ubiquitous. The restaurant is known for its meats and butchery services, and the display case is not just for show—it’s part of the whole machination. Rather than a theatrical steak-house theater look, the space is casually polished and wooded. The small bar in the back serves as an environment for more experimentally minded cocktail drinkers. The exterior design of the building is both rustic and industrial, with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow passers-by to see the interiors.
Interior Design of the Year
2351 NW York Street #7, Portland, OR 97210
About Osmose Design
Andee Hess has won a slew of awards including three Interior Design of the Year merit awards and was named among the prestigious design:retail’s 40 under 40 list. The industry veteran, a previous employee of Skylab, began her own company Osmose Design in 2009. She prefers her work to not have a signature look and would rather have someone walk into an office and have it be unique enough for people to stop and say, “who designed this?” Osmose blends and pushes the limits of interior design by fusing design-build with project management, furniture, and lighting design, and branding creative direction, all while making dependable relationships in order to craft memorable spaces and environments.
Salt and Straw, an ice cream restaurant in Northwest Portland, is one of the studio’s standout design projects. The ice cream bar functions extremely well despite its small size, always jam-packed with customers clamoring for sweet treats. Osmose rooted all design in the personality of the company, which includes light-fixtures that were hand-carved to look like scoops of ice cream. Even their wallpaper choice was custom made out of tiny panels to mirror the shape of waffle cones. Hess considers the community, the client, and the space in every detail of the design. One of Hess’s most recent projects, Q restaurant, honors the area’s bustling business and tourist vibe by creating a nostalgic and classic space that also embraces new excitement and buzz. The private and intimate booths contain tufted upholstery, custom stained glass sconces, and black granite, while the more open dining room has a long central upholstered banquette and tabletops of olive ash. Cherrywood detailing and painted trellis screen wrap offer visual versatility and a romantic atmosphere that meshes well with the airiness of the walnut floors.
Scott | Edwards Architecture
2525 E. Burnside St., Portland, OR 97214
About Scott | Edwards Architecture
Scott | Edwards Architecture (SEA) is a Portland firm that runs on a “People First. Design Forward.” mindset. The studio’s operations utilize current and sustainable technology to craft upstanding structures and convenient spaces, with a key vision that centers around providing contemporary design and comfortable living through architecture, planning, and interior services. Its excellent work has earned recognition as one of Oregon’s Top 100 Workplaces by the Oregon Business Magazine and named the Top Workplace in the state by The Oregonian.
A commitment to quality design has been upheld since Sid Scott and Kelly Edwards founded the firm in 1998. With a staff of 85 professionals, the talented design team brings vast experience and an innovative approach to their projects, offering clients unique design solutions that focus on the end user. Expertise in client service has catapulted the firm’s reputation to stellar heights, earning prominence and high-regard within the city’s client community circle. The team’s body of work covers commercial, private residential, civic, education, healthcare, hospitality, and multi-family projects.
The featured SEA project is the Opal Bar, a 1,548 square-foot cocktail restaurant in Portland. The architect studio worked in collaboration with Ben Hufford of the Design Department to complete the striking establishment. Modern decor interlaced with classic fixtures brings out a stunning old world-new world charm. The large outdoor area is connected to the inside through wide windows that allow patrons to bask in the social atmosphere of the place.
AIA Design Awards,
AIA Merit Awards,
AIA Honor Awards,
ASLA Merit Awards
413 SW 13th Avenue, Suite 200, Portland, OR 97205
About Skylab Architecture
Skylab Architecture is a full-service and integrated interdisciplinary design studio. They were founded in 1999 with the mission to create meaningful and sustainable architectural experiences. Inspired by the human experience in various places, the firm investigates how to bring the best use of modern elements to people and places. Jeff Kovel and Brent Grubb serve as design principal and principal, respectively. The firm has won numerous awards from the Oregon Concrete and Aggregate Producers Association (OCAPA) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
Capturing a Northwest modernism blended with a log cabin and a hipster bar, the Doug Fir Lounge has the aesthetic of a classic mountain lodge merged with the modernist experience of travel and motel. Enormous glulam beams that were already part of the building were restored and offset by new finishes, and stainless steel, glass block, and chrome ceiling panels applied in a new manner. The futuristic application makes this a truly unique spot to dine in, and then catch a show or spend the night. Another well-known project is Departure, a 9,000 square-foot rooftop restaurant and lounge that sits on the top floor of the old Meier & Frank Building. The building was built in 1908, and is listed among the National Register of Historic Places in Portland, Oregon. This project truly emphasizes Skylab’s capability to meld an existing structure with high design, creating a new experience for the community that allows community members to engage in the heart of downtown Portland. The dining room seats 100 and is described as being similar to a cockpit space. Sliding glass doors exhibit a floor-to-ceiling view of downtown. Fifty feet of chart mural work encircles the dining room, all of fantasy island charts.
Robert L. Thompson
GSA National Design Honor Award for Sustainability/Adaptive Reuse,
BOMA International Campus of the Year Award,
Custom Home Magazine’s Grand Design Award
920 SW Sixth Avenue, Suite 1500, Portland, OR 97204
About TVA Architects
When design principal and FAIA Robert L. Thompson founded the firm in 1984, TVA’s studio was fueled with passion for the modernist style. This design niche is implemented in every project by Robert and fellow principals Mandy Butler, Tim Wybenga, and Pam Saftler, who are all seasoned experts in the industry. TVA Architects’ culture is marked by award-winning design and the excellence of its employees. With a grand tally of 43 awards from AIA National and Regional, it is no surprise that they have also received Local Design Awards for Excellence, a GSA National Design Honor Award for Sustainability/Adaptive Reuse, two Governor’s Livability Awards, a BOMA International Campus of the Year Award, and a Custom Home Magazine’s Grand Design Award.
LoveJoy Bakers is a beloved ground level, locally-run bakery and cafe located in Portland’s South Waterfront along the Willamette River. The TVA design team took inspiration from the shell building’s exterior palette and then utilized a similar wood finish for the interior ceiling treatment. This decision was implemented in order to visually enhance the small interior space of the café. Upon ordering, one will find a large wall of encaustic tile behind the menu wall. Oversized glass pendants increase a sense of visual curiosity for customers who are bound to at least glance over the wood and marble espresso bar. The kitchen is separated from the seating area by industrial glazing, and large glazed doors on its southern end open up to another spacious outdoor seating deck during the warm season.
107 SE Washington Street, Suite 228, Portland, OR 97214
About Woofter Architecture
Woofter Architecture is a collaborative design practice based in Portland that believes successful architecture requires environmentally sound and place-based responsiveness to time and culture. The firm has received both merit and sustainability awards from the AIA along with numerous awards for excellence, including some rather unique accolades like the Institutional Wood Design Winner and the 2013 WoodWorks National Wood Design Award. Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, Miles Woofter has practiced architecture for over 20 years, developing expertise in the design, documentation, and delivery of sustainable building projects primarily in the Pacific Northwest. Jonathan Bolch, another stalwart of the practice, also has over 20 years of experience as a registered architect in the state of Oregon. He currently serves as an adjunct professor of Architecture at Portland State University.
Although Woofter Architecture does a lot of design and architecture for educational centers, it would be a shame not to mention Higgins, a restaurant that has continually made Portland’s best bar and restaurant list while staying true to its original design. Its design and atmosphere help patrons remember what a city bar is actually for: a neutral, civilized, well-tended place to savor that little piece of time between one thing and the next. With a homey, wood-worn back bar, it’s easy to settle in and feel both cozy and urbane. One of the first farm-to-table restaurants to open in Portland in the early 1990s, Higgins has proven its staying power, and a lot of that is due to the work of Woofter Architecture and its classic, elegant, and timeless design.