A Business Nurtured by the Story of a Donkey

Named after the beloved donkey of an agave farmer, Fat Rosie’s is designed to portray the atmosphere you would experience on vacation in Mexico.

By Brandi Koloski

Photography by Eric Kleinberg

Multi colored Sadie II Barstools at restaurant bar.

Escape from the every day at Fat Rosie's Taco and Tequila BarNamed after the beloved donkey of an agave farmer, Fat Rosie's is designed to portray the atmosphere you would experience on vacation in Mexico. Fat Rosie's, part of Scott Harris Hospitality, partnered with 555 International, a Chicago-based interior design, fabrication, and management firm, to bring a "spirited escape" to their newest location in Naperville, Illinois. Working closely with the owner, Scott Harris, the team at 555 incorporated elements of Mexican culture to create an authentic and eccentric space. 

A Design Rooted in "Spirited Escapes"

Fat Rosie's is designed as a "spirited escape" that transports visitors to a resort-style environment that is colorful, authentic, and fun. The designers incorporated different expressions of color into the space, including the Sadie Barstool from Grand Rapids Chair, which added a burst of color to the casual dining area.

The project tapped into 555's expertise in fabricating and manufacturing unique custom fixtures that enhanced Fat Rosie's festive atmosphere. The decor is meant to be transformative — every time you step into a Fat Rosie’s restaurant, there's something new to notice or pay attention to. The main installation feature of the Naperville location was the Palapa, a thatched roof structure commonly found in Mexico. The Palapa aims to bring a resort-style feel to the restaurant and create a central focal point in the space.

In addition to the Palapa, the restaurant also features a tequila room — a separate space with tequila displays and shelving, which adds to the authenticity of the experience. The designers partnered with a local artist to create quirky donkey illustrations that echo from the tequila room to other areas of the restaurant and act as an ode to  Rosie the Donkey — the inspiration behind the restaurant name.

By utilizing the fabrication capabilities of 555, the team was able to seamlessly incorporate custom lighting into the space. A unique lighting fixture was created by utilizing clay pots, which required the manual drilling of holes in each pot — a challenging process of trial and error to achieve the final result. Additionally, the team repurposed the pre-existing wire frame chandeliers and painted them pink to blend them seamlessly into the overall design.

"Guac-Proof" Furniture

When it comes to designing a high-traffic restaurant like Fat Rosie's, finding furniture that is both durable and colorful can be a challenge. The team at 555 was drawn to the wide variety of colors and wood tones that Grand Rapids Chair offers, as well as the commercial-grade durability that they needed for the space. They wanted furniture that was "guac proof" and could handle constant use without sacrificing style.

They’re very high-traffic restaurants. So durability is a big concern for us. Making sure that we're checking a lot of boxes: fun opportunities for color, the high durability of a truly commercial-grade product, and the ease of keeping it all clean. We like to say: get stuff that is guac-proof." - Lauren Ditka, Design Director at 555 International

To meet their requirements, Fat Rosie's incorporated several Grand Rapids Chair pieces into their design. The Sadie Barstool was chosen for its playful aesthetic, while the Hugh Chair's Windsor-style design provided a contemporary twist on a classic look. The Sherman Chair blended industrial and modern American design elements, and the Ferdinand Chair's functional simplicity made it a natural choice. All wood surfaces were finished in a standard Honey shade to unify the various chair styles, while metal finishes in Cobalt Blue, Dusty Blue, Grey White, Honey Yellow, and Salmon Orange added bursts of color throughout the restaurant.

RELATED: Download our Color Finder Brochure to pick from 150+ premium colors.

Overall, the collaboration between Fat Rosie's and 555 International has resulted in a stunning and authentic dining experience that truly transports guests to a resort-style atmosphere in Mexico. From the custom Palapa installation to the tequila room with its quirky donkey illustrations, every detail has been carefully crafted to create a cohesive and memorable space. The use of Grand Rapids Chair's durable and colorful furniture adds a playful and practical element to the design, ensuring that the space remains "guac-proof" while still maintaining its fun and vibrant atmosphere. For those looking to escape from the everyday and immerse themselves in a spirited environment, Fat Rosie's Taco and Tequila Bar is definitely worth a visit. Did you love seeing Sherman in this space? Check out Sherman in an earthy palette at da Gama Canteen.