White tablecloths and a few special light fixtures alone no longer cut it in the world of Texas restaurant design, where stunning, innovative spaces layered with thoughtful, surprising details is the new normal. Last year, fresh concepts that elicited oohs and ahhs (and thousands of Instagram snaps) from foodies as well as design hunters opened across the state. Here are some of our favorites.

Last Straw

This one is more of a watering hole than a restaurant, but it made our list for its downright fun and refreshing interiors. In fact, we can’t think of another place in Texas like it. It’s a modern take on tiki-style with design moments that will make you smile, from a framed portrait of E.T. in a Hawaiian shirt and a neon sign of a camel sipping a cocktail through a very long straw to a painting of Jay-Z “shredding” on a jet ski at Barton Springs.  It’s all there and more throughout the vibrantly hued space imagined by Austin-based artists Will Bryant and Cody Haltom. It’s a showcase for the magic that can happen when two über talented artists are let loose to imagine their dream space. 1914 E. 6th St.

restaurant design interior of Vibrant in Houston
Vibrant in Houston.April Valencia


The light-filled, minimalist interior of this Montrose eatery housed in the former McGowen Cleaners brick building makes a fitting backdrop for enjoying Vibrant’s clean menu, which is gluten-free, dairy-free, refined-sugar-free, and non-GMO. Owner Kelly Barnhart’s background as a curatorial assistant at the Museum of Fine Arts is evident in the dazzling art collection that adorns the walls. 1931 Fairview St.

Restaurant design The wine room at Maverick Texas Brasserie in San Antonio.
Maverick Texas Brasserie in San Antonio.Ryann Ford

Maverick Texas Brasserie
San Antonio

This Southtown eatery lives up to its name as a “Texas brasserie” with warm interiors that make the 7,200-square-foot restaurant feel inviting. Special touches like a handmade copper bar, exposed brick walls, and industrial design details, coupled with its delicious food offerings, have made this one of the city’s most buzzed-about spots of the year. 710 S. St. Mary’s St. 

Restaurant Design Interior of Merchant House in Dallas
Merchant House in Dallas.Courtesy of Apheleia Restaurant Group

Merchant House

The Dallas-based duo behind the beautiful renovation of the storied Adolphus Hotel, Swoon Studio has done it again with this two-story restaurant on Dallas’s Maple Avenue. Filled with eccentric wallpaper, enviable gallery walls, and other quirky details fit for a Wes Anderson set, the house’s unassuming exterior hides the fun design that lies inside. 4040 Maple Ave.

Restaurant Design Interior of Il Brutto in Austin
Il Brutto in Austin.Courtesy of Il Brutto

Il Brutto

When it comes to serving Italian food, the darker and moodier the setting, the better. While there will always be something charming about candlelight and red-and-white checked tablecloths, Il Brutto’s modern take on the Italian restaurant is sleek and alluring with a dark color palette of textures. Led by Clayton & Little’s director of interiors, Joe Holm (who also helped revamp the restaurant at the Stagecoach Inn this year), this East Austin spot for pizza and authentic Italian pasta dishes is one of our favorite hideaways of the year. 1601 E. 6th St.

Restaurant Design Goodnight Charlie’s in Houston
Goodnight Charlie’s in Houston.Cameron Blaylock

Goodnight Charlie’s

Originally conceived by Gin Braverman, who has designed Houston spaces like Axelrad and the late Oxheart, the design for this “Scandinavian-inspired honky tonk bar” in Montrose was spearheaded by interior designer Bailey McCarty and her team, Keila Marino and Heather Rowell. The theme for Goodnight Charlie’s is brought home with cheeky touches like Alamo-print wallpaper in the restrooms and rough-hewn cedar wood that adorns the walls. 2531 Kuester St.

Restaurant Design the interior of Hank's in Austin
Hank’s in Austin.Wynn Myers


Hank’s, the restaurant, bar, and cafe in Austin’s Windsor Park neighborhood, proves that less is actually more with its all-white interior accented by white oak benches, steel doors and windows, and a collection of thriving indoor plants. Designed by Claire Zinnecker, who made her television debut last year on NBC Universal Kids, Hank’s is a welcome addition to the prolific Austin restaurant scene. 5811 Berkman Dr. #100

Restaurant Design The interior of Gung Ho in Dallas.
Gung Ho in Dallas.Ben Gibson

Gung Ho

From the channel-backed plush leather chairs to the vibrant mural on the wall, Greenville Avenue’s Chinese-American spot, Gung Ho, is a festive place to enjoy everything from savory pickled egg rolls to a Thai tea shot with rum. The long and narrow space is accented with poppy wallpaper and a handsome wood bar that contrasts with modern teal stools. 2010-A Greenville Ave.