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Le Bao Asian Eatery

1009 Park Avenue
Columbia, MO  65201

Columbia, MO

Architecture, Interior Design,
Construction Management, Fabrication

2,200 sf

American Institute of Architects St. Louis Distinguished Award

American Institute of Architects Mid-Missouri Merit Award

American Society of Interior Design Pinnacle Awards Third Place Hospitality


Jina Yoo, the owner of a popular full-service restaurant in Columbia, wanted to enter the fast-casual market serving bao, steamed buns filled with a variety of meats and veggies. Bao originated in China, but their popularity spread throughout Southeast Asia, and more recently in the United States.

Jina found a two-story 2,200 sf space in a Quonset hut undergoing renovation. Although Jina wanted a masculine aesthetic to contrast with her more feminine first restaurant, the challenge was to make the building less barnlike and more a reflection of our her brand, which was developed in partnership with the branding agency as we designed the space. After fitting the kitchen into the space, the first floor became the main dining room, while the upstairs evolved into a nicer, full-service bar and private party space.

The most notable architectural feature is the linear wood cladding on the round ceiling that carries down to the walls of the first floor. To keep it in the budget for aesthetic and acoustical considerations, we bypassed manufactured products and built the flexible, 4’ x 4’ modular panels in our shop on a jig. The panel spacing maintained the vertical repetition of the perlins, and the panels flowed seamlessly into the banquettes, which our fabrication team also produced and delivered to Columbia. An organic-patterned broadloom carpet was selected to further control sound on the second floor, while disguising any potential spills. Playful branded graphics and furniture in branded colors round out the restaurant to give a fitting, curvaceous home to Columbia’s first bao restaurant.

“[LeBao is an] outstanding re-use of an existing building and use of materials to create and exciting restaurant environment. It was a handsome solution with beautiful drawings…playful interior volumes and geometries, well-detailed, and a restricted palette of materials.”

— Jury Comments, American Institute of Architects Mid-Missouri Merit Award