Hide caption Brider, in Denver, features slate gray floors, a chalkboard menu and metal elements throughout. For the past few years, my friends and I have noticed two trends when dining.
First, seemingly every high-end menu rebukes factory farming with an essay about locally sourced pork belly, and second, just about every one of these restaurants looks so much like a factory — with exposed light bulbs, steel details and brick walls — that I'm constantly looking over my shoulder for the foreman.
"I call it 'manufactured authenticity,' " says Cori Sue Morris, co-founder of the cheekily named brunch blogging site Bitches Who Brunch, which reviews eateries in D.C., New York and Chicago.
Restaurant designer Hilary Miners, of D.C.-based CORE architecture firm, had some thoughts about why. Levitt adds that the aesthetic, which he estimates has been around for 10 years, may also have been a reaction to the 1990s sensibility encapsulated in restaurants like Las Vegas' SUSHISAMBA, where brightly colored, sculpted waves arch over diners.
"We wanted something that felt accessible to everyone," says Bryan Dayton, the owner of Brider, which opened last December in Denver, Colo., with a slate-gray floor, steel chairs and chalkboard menu. Marie Ziar, co-owner of Le Grenier, which opened four years ago in Washington, D.C., credited nostalgia. When chef Philip Krajeck opened Rolf and Daughters in Nashville, Tenn., in November of 2012, he established the restaurant in a 19th century textile mill.
The industrial look offered a connection to history, and it was economical.
To my untrained eye, all of these restaurants seemed somewhat industrial, but the restaurant owners pointed out details — a bright green chair here, some custom historical element there — that kept the designs from feeling clichéd. She calls the next "it" look "San Francisco style," a similar industrial design, but with whiter walls and brighter details.