Restaurant Restroom Trends and the Dawning of an Enlightened Age

bath time for Louis (RaucousRoyals)

I felt like Louis XIV taking a whiz at Versailles.

The moment I stepped into Pleasant House Pub’s restroom, I felt like I had stepped into the TARDIS to travel Somewhere Else. Dramatic black wallpaper built the world and swallowed me up, laced over with a corset of flitting birds and gilt-edged flowers. The fixtures were gleaming gold, as were the tops of the light bulbs, the better to control the warmth of the lighting. A golden cymbal of a ceiling lamp crowned the achievement. And that all-too-rare necessity, the full-length mirror reflected my natural beauty back at me.

If I could have, I would have drunk (drank, drunken?) my beer within the confines of that restroom. Pleasant House had made my restroom-going an experience. The restroom is also one of my favorite tests for a restaurant with ambitions. How’s the convenience? The personality of design? The level of urine-soakedness?

Lately there has been a sharp uptick in quality what with all the subway tiles, custom sinks, and fancy artisanal soaps. But the greatest trend of all is the multiple, single-stall unisex restrooms in restaurants. Here’s why they matter.

How single-stall unisex restrooms changed the game:

1. Best behavior: In unisex restrooms, men feel they literally have to put both of their best feet forward and be–how do you say–more precise. Should they do the same in a men’s room? Of course, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

I’m curious to know if women have experienced a significant downgrade in their own experience. I just know mine has gone way up. (Collective apologies if it has.)

2. Better conditions: My friends would always mention the amazing Coco Chanel sofa in the women’s restroom and the small stream running through the waterfall grotto and I would be filled with envy. Meanwhile the men’s theme seemed to be medieval chamber pot meets post-recession highway oasis trough. Let’s be real. Men have a lot to learn from women about life.

3. More privacy: If you’ve ever been to a house before (and I have!), does the bathroom have multiple stalls? No! Because if I want to have IBS, do some lines, wash some blood off, or have a good crying jag, I enjoy the sanctity of silence. This is not a shared experience, and unless you provide those noise-canceling headphones and a sensory deprivation tank, I would like this to be between me and me.

Consequently, I hate those communal fountain sinks. The Publican has great suites, except some come sink-less. I don’t want to think about how filthy those door knobs are, nor do I want to open them with your ultra-thick, ultra-luxe, albeit ultra-wasteful paper towels.

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No thank you, Publican! (Grant Kessler via Bon Appetit)

4. Less awkward waiting: This is the worst in small, crowded restrooms. If anyone enjoys standing scrunched up three feet behind someone at a urinal pretending not to hear everything while the something-encrusted stall door hits you in the side, then please contact me. I would like to meet and study you, you twisted human being.

Multiple unisex locations also mean more efficient turnover and less wait times for the women’s lines, which traditionally tend to run longer.


5. Less confusion: This isn’t Deal or No Deal. I want a 100% chance of walking into the right room, not 50. Anything less than 100 is a no go.

So no more of those confusing, highly-stylized and/or ponderously comic signs. I don’t want to stare at a sign and decipher whether to go to the “buoys” or the “gulls” after a night of eating Red Tide. Nor do I, due to the state of the American education system and my own poor self-discipline, speak multiple languages fluently. And I certainly don’t want to see any sketchy silhouettes, symbols, or sex jokes because my Uncle Herman would be offended he’s being replaced. I am not an anthropologist studying Old Church Slavonic and Sumerian pictographs nor am I Robert Langdon in a Dan Brown book. Just slap the word “bathroom” or the chemical formula for tungsten carbide on a sign and call it a day.

And on a more serious note, in these times in which we’re moving away from gender binaries, unisex restrooms are a simple, graceful solution.

Ultimately, in this world of sturm and drang, I look forward to the day when I feel excited to temporarily leave behind my fried chicken or sous-vide quail to see a man about a dog. I want to help end feudalism, crush treacherous cabals at Versailles, die of gangrene, and have a piece of my mummified heart put in a locket like Voldemort’s to be eaten by the Dean of Westminster.

In other words, I want to feel like Louis XIV.


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