Scene Maker: Flatland Kitchen

The common denominator behind several of this year’s hottest restaurants is a husband-and-wife design studio that started 10 years ago in the kitchen of a tiny apartment. “That’s how we got our name,” says Rebekah Nolan, who operates Flatland Kitchen with her husband, Eric. Their branding is often the customer’s first impression of a place, from the cute animal-butt line drawings that greet diners just inside Love Handle to Field Brewing’s pop-art beer cans to Beholder’s scripty calligraphy, Rebekah says they take a holistic approach to their work and prefer to get in at the ground level of a restaurant plan, “when they have just an inkling of an idea of what they want to do.”

Though their clients are often brand-new ventures, the Nolans also get inspiration from the classics. “The Red Key Tavern,” Eric says. “That’s one of those places that you can’t replicate. You have to exist for a long time to feel like that.”