As you drive by The Nicolett in Lubbock, Texas, you might notice the sun-bleached wood door, or, if you look closely, the delicately crafted iron roses that hang above it. And once you step inside, it’s hard to miss the towering stone fireplace in the center of the room. But other details, like servers’ outfits and design elements over the bar, are just as important to this restaurant, which is dedicated to sharing the story of its northwest Texas city.

Finn Walter, chef and owner of The Nicolett (one of BA’s 50 Best New Restaurants of 2022), has cooked at restaurants around the world and was the assistant pastry chef and chef de partie at Napa Valley’s now-closed Restaurant at Meadowood in 2012 when it earned its third Michelin star. Although he’s cooked in kitchens as far away as Paris, Walter’s plan was always to return home. “I wanted to learn everything and come back with a different perspective,” he says.

The High Plains cuisine associated with the region is rooted in ingredients indigenous to the area, like piñon and yucca. Walter puts a very local Lubbock twist on his fine dining menu, featuring dishes like elk tartare, yucca topped with caviar, and a green chili pozole.

In his search for designers to build out his dream restaurant, Walter wanted to stay as local as he did with his menu. So he looked nearby—very nearby: He turned to his neighbors, Jessica Colangelo and Charles Sharpless of Somewhere Studio. Together, they set out to preserve as many original elements as possible of the eclectic space, which was built in the 1920s and throughout the years served as an auto garage, an apiary, and a private residence.

Here, Walter explains how he blends contemporary design with classic West Texas staples to complement his inventive High Plains cooking.

Perfecting the brand

Colangelo and Sharpless first came across the symbol that would later become The Nicolett’s logo while browsing the archives and special collections at Texas Tech University, where they were professors at the time. Originally a cattle brand, the simple, clean arch is now reflected throughout the restaurant; from the logo to the central fireplace to the wood arch framing the bar. The decision to include the brand in its many iterations was one of the team’s first design choices. “It was there on the very first set of plans,” Walter says, “and it was perfect.”

An elegant iron arch has become the restaurant’s logo.Photograph by Mary Kang

Custom iron roses

Iron roses were added to an awning over the front door as well as to the bars covering the front windows, transforming them from functional to decorative. The delicate roses, one of the last pieces worked on by the late local sculptor Steve Teeters, echo the real roses blooming in the restaurant’s nearby courtyard. As the streetlights outside the restaurant turn on for the night, Walters loves the way the adjacent wall gets “painted with the shadows of those roses.”

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