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Building on the success of their flagship on Grove Street, Little Gem came back to Studio BBA to design their second location on Union Street. Unlike a formulaic roll out, we guided the owners and chefs through a new process that allows for authentic character in Cow Hollow to emerge while staying true to the core design values we developed in Hayes Valley.

The design goal was to transform the former burger restaurant from a dark cave to a light-filled, comfortable places that reflects Little Gem’s core values: natural, reliable, comfortable, with a focus on quality ingredients. Immediately we began to carve out opportunities for light and life to flood into the space; riffing off the iconic green plaster “volume” in Hayes Valley, we located an anchoring full-height tile wall, washed with daylight, between the main bar and the rear dining room. This separation allows for intimidate dining in a fast-casual setting, and artfully obscures a required structural element in the building. 

This powerful gesture inferred the spatial program: an efficient kitchen with a variety of welcoming dining experiences. The front dining room is bustling and active, with custom furniture and a wall sculpture made by the chef himself! The bar is refined, offering an elegant moment to engage with a bartender across marble and doug fir. The rear dining room is reserved for conversations, bookended by light-washed tile, a custom banquette with the perfect lumbar cushion in leather.

The collaborative process is featured through custom art and steel plant shelves. It’s a gem of a restaurant, focusing on the pleasures of dining and the use of quality, local materials – a direct reflection of Little Gem’s ethos.


Little Gem

BBA Team

Bonnie Bridges

Megan McGuinn


3,000 SF


Upcycle Builders


MEP: MHC Engineers

KEC: Trimark / Design West Partnership


Eric Rorer Photography

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