CORE architecture + design

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Female owned

Washington, DC


Redesigned Buena Vida Aligns with New Tasting Menu to Deliver Limitless Hospitality

May 31, '23 1:08 PM EST
Buena Vida by CORE. Credit: Ron Ngiam
Buena Vida by CORE. Credit: Ron Ngiam

CORE partnered with Street Guys Hospitality to re-invent their honest Mexican concept into a prototype focused on experiential dining, positioning them to expand to new locations.

ARLINGTON, VA — Washington, DC based design firm CORE architecture + design partnered with renowned Street Guys Hospitality to renovate their existing restaurant space at 2900 Wilson Boulevard to reinvent Buena Vida. Responding to customer needs in a post-Covid landscape, the Mexican Gastrolounge delivers an unlimited tasting menu centered around one of the latest trends in the hospitality industry, experiential dining. In times when quality food is available at the touch of a fingertip, Buena Vida seeks to reintroduce guests to the genuine connection that occurs in a social dining experience, which encourages curiosity and exploration. For a fixed price, guests are treated to unlimited plates from the menu that highlights authentic Mexican homestyle cooking. Based on their unique preferences, the server will adapt what they bring to the table. This worry-free style of dining delivers a sense of limitless hospitality. 

“Our biggest goal was to reinvent our existing concept for Buena Vida to deliver an honest Mexican experience tied to natural ingredients in both food and design. From the beginning, CORE understood our vision and gave us what we were looking for, and more. We are confident to expand the brand to new locations soon,” says restaurateur Ivan Iricanin, CEO & Founder of Street Guys Hospitality.

Buena Vida was inspired by the restaurant’s adventurous dining format and conceptualized the design as dining at the edge of the jungles of Tulum, Mexico. The finish palette delivers on blending the sophisticated and the exotic by using pattern, texture, and lighting, while rooting it in a natural foundation. Every surface throughout the space was selected to exude a sense of easy luxury and comfort. The design succeeds in reinforcing the brand’s culinary pillars of natural ingredients served in an authentic format. 

Fueled by curiosity and discovery, the spatial design invites diners to explore all three levels and find moments of surprise and wonder on each. The ground level features a variety of seating styles to provide guests the same optionality as the tasting menu. Flexible arrangements of high-top tables allow guests to gather in large groups to enjoy expansive views to the bustling streets while reinforcing the social nature of the dining concept. Others may enjoy the refuge of several secluded dining nooks surrounded by lush colors, which are like secret oases throughout the restaurant. The once-exposed mezzanine was redesigned as an organic “treehouse” of primitive wood forms and cascading plants. This intimate experience provides diners with a bird’s eye view and a sense of privacy, desirable for private parties. 

Upstairs, the bar was separated from the main dining room using a primitively detailed wood screen, with louvers revealing different views as patrons move through. Visual and tactile connections to nature are explored in large-scale, jungle-inspired graphics and various materials from velvets to rattan. Building upon the concept of dining at the edge of the jungle, Buena Vida incorporates biophilic design with plants used throughout the space to reinforce indoor/outdoor fluidity. A detailed focus was placed on sensorial elements and creating a naturally inspired ambiance to relax visitors and further immerse them in exploring the menu.

“It was critical for our design to deliver this sense of curiosity that directly reinforces the client’s vision for the menu, which encourages exploration of new dishes through a shared experience,” explains Allison Cooke, Principal and Director of Hospitality Design at CORE architecture + design.

As a continuation of the experience below, guests ascending the stairs to the rooftop feel like they are climbing a jungle tree of cascading greenery surrounded by dark, moody colors. Upon arrival, they can glimpse the outdoor bars and discover a private dining booth draped with vining plants. Buena Vida’s rooftop offers guests unique views of DC as a beautiful backdrop that complements the Mexican Gastropub ambiance. The extensive greenery at both bars and the plush seating provide indoor lounge comfort with an open-air experience.  

Throughout the restaurant, guests are offered unique Tulum-inspired dining and design that reinforces the vibrant authenticity in Chef Jaime Pelayo’s culinary repertoire and the exceptional mission of Buena Vida. By encouraging guests to explore the various dining areas and connect through an unlimited tasting menu, the total experience is a celebration of their genuine, adventurous, and authentic Mexican fare. 

Buena Vida serves lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch with late night fun in the mix. The menu balances dishes from the land and sea, with creative options for vegans and vegetarians to explore the unlimited tasting menu.

About CORE architecture + design

CORE architecture + design is an award-winning architecture and design firm that brings a spirit of exploration to each project and fully integrates the client in their co-creative design process. From dream to reality, CORE turns storytelling into rich architectural spaces and vibrant built environments that enhance lives and neighborhoods. The firm's portfolio includes chef-driven restaurants, hotel public spaces, mixed-use developments, and large-scale office and residential developments. Visit and follow @coredc on Instagram and LinkedIn.