While Iron Chef Michael Symon has the Cleveland-style barbecue taste nailed down, he turned to our design team to capture the essence of the city’s backyard barbecue experience at one of his most recent ventures, Mabel’s BBQ. Based on his long-standing partnership with the Studio and our work on thirteen B Spot locations across Ohio, Michigan & Indiana (along with other concession projects), Symon gave us the creative space to move well beyond the stereotypical red checked tablecloths and peanut-shell covered floor.
Drawing from ethnic culinary and cultural nuances of Cleveland’s communities and neighborhoods (a request from Symon), our team pulled from elements of the city’s vibrant and historic West Side Market. Our interior and graphic design teams ran full speed ahead with inspiration from smoky, savory food—its color, texture, and assembly, along with the nostalgic elements of Cleveland’s glory years. When you enter Symon’s new restaurant, these concepts hit you just as hard as the mouthwatering scent of BBQ.
The color and material palette was developed around the ingredients of Symon’s domestic and delicious new menu, which is prominently captured over the bar in acrylic characters set on a track. The effect is a menu that looks much like a salvaged gas station sign hung in a garage. Because barbecue’s slow, smoky method of cooking is its flavorful differentiator, a hand-painted feature wall and two gigantic charred walls celebrate the qualities of burnt wood and the nostalgic charm of the smoky BBQ process.
Across the vestibule, an oversized neon sign created by Tremont artist Jeffry Chiplis, is encapsulated by wire mesh to emulate the suburban chain-link fence. The glowing red text invites Mabel’s visitors to “Eat More Meat,” a Symon catchphrase.
Communal picnic tables fill the dining space much like a backyard gathering. Folding chairs inspired by the Industrial Era were produced by Hardwood Solutions in Wilmot, Ohio. Styled to represent an overscaled version of a retro green Coleman cooler, the bar serves up a wide variety of craft beer, whiskey, and moonshine. In addition, matchstick artwork appears in a few key locations to represent the place where all BBQ begins. The innovative, industrially reinterpreted lighting scheme takes its cue from the famous arched ceiling of the West Side Market and strategically frames a photo of Symon and his family from yesteryear celebrating the Cleveland-style barbecue that inspired the entire concept.
Ultimately, our team created a rich, welcoming dining space filled with bold contrasts in materials—from wood surfaces to glass panels and metal framing—to provide a Cleveland-flavored, neighborhood backyard BBQ.
Photography: Mark Steele Photography
The team at Richardson just gets us. They have partnered with us over eight years and we’ve been nothing but elated by the work they’ve done for us.
Chef Michael Symon, Iron Chef