5 West Ontario, Chicago
Designer: Dirk Denison Architects
What do you do in this economy to generate more revenue from your upscale kitchen? You carve out space for a fast food restaurant, juxtaposing high and low brow. Lettuce Entertain You, Chicago’s well-respected restaurant machine, has cut out portions of two of their establishments, Tru and Osteria ViaStato, to make room for M Burger. But Lettuce did not compromise on design integrity, employing Dirk Denison Architects, the creators of some of Chicago’s finest restaurant interiors including L2O and Terzo Piano.
Denison’s concept picks up the black-and white-scheme of the upscale Tru, running with it down the exterior wall: Black back-painted glass with bold, handsome typeface repeats the menu items on the wall in a band like a frozen moving-message sign. Inside, the same glass, now in white, illuminates the densely efficient space, which all seems to be part of the window framed in stainless steel and flanked by two simple menus in a reverse black-and-white motif. Denison designed the black laminate folded tables of varying heights and planes to facilitate the flow of traffic in the tight space. The result is a highly studied, sophisticated, yet simple design appropriate for a burger joint.