Monday, March 10, 2014

The wedge sneaker of restaurant bathroom trends

When paging through food magazines like Saveur, Eating Well, or Bon Appetit, often times my favorite articles are not the recipes, but the random little stories that the fill pages before all of the recipes. Articles like "To braise or not to braise" (it's very controversial, apparently) or "Composting in the City" (There are taxis in DC that will pick up compost from people like me that live in high rises and have no gardens.) I always learn a thing or two. Or have a good laugh.

Or in the case of a recent Bon Appetit article, raise my hands to my face Kevin McAllister-Home Alone style and scream NOOOOOOOO. That article? Anatomy of a 2013 Restaurant Bathroom. No, I do not have strong objections to bathrooms. We all need them and I think we are all grateful that restaurants have them. For this article, Bon Appetit sent one of its writers to visit many, many restaurants and had the person compile a list of popular trends in restaurants bathrooms. And you thought your job was weird sometimes.  

I had no problem with the designer soaps and cool sinks on the list. (I love cool sinks. If I had a big enough handbag, I'd steal the one in the bathroom at my dermatologist's office.)

Photo 16

What got me all up in arms was that restaurants no longer can write "men" or "women" or use the well-known standard men's bathroom /women's bathroom graphics. Nope. That's just sooooo 2012.

Since I think this trend has made its way to most of the restaurants I have dined at over the past few years, I can assure you that much like high-low hems and wedge sneakers, this trend needs to die. 

Because however trendy it may be, this is the reality for the diners of the restaurant. If the restaurant writes words on the bathroom doors, the words must be in a language that most of us are probably not quite familiar and often do not immediately make obvious which is which. Oh, that ends in an "a"! High school Spanish taught me that is the feminine version of a word. Except, dammit, I am at a Belgian restaurant. Why did I spend so much time reviewing the menu before I ate here and not the language derivations?

Or it's a graphic that is not always that clear as to what it is. It's like a Rorschach test of how badly you have to pee. Is that a skirt? Or is it sombrero? That looks like a beret. Is that handbag? Or is it a man bag? I have no idea. I give up! 

And inevitably, if you walk into the wrong bathroom, the person who is in there is seated at the table next to you and you just want to crawl under the table with the bread basket and calm the mortification with carbs. 

So what do I currently do? I stand in the dimly lit hallway of the bathroom--and it's always dimly lit which makes the bathroom door Pictionary test all the more challenging--fake fumbling with my phone so as to give the impression that I was just about to use the bathroom when I had to handle this very important matter on my phone. In reality, I am just waiting for the door to one of the bathrooms to open so that I know which is which. 

Which generally works well except for unisex bathrooms. But is the bathroom really unisex or did someone else get stuck in the hallway trying to figure out which bathroom to use and just storm in?

My Restaurant Bathroom Trend suggestion for 2014: Restaurants just kick it 90s style and put a simple M and W on the bathroom doors. But Employees Must Wash Hands, uh, let's keep that trend around for forever!



  1. I recently experienced Blacksburg, VA of all places. I was like "what is this?" I just don't understand!!!

  2. I remember being at a dog-themed bar many years ago when I lived in NYC - I think it was in the West Village. Anyway, the bathrooms were labeled "Pointers" and "Setters." It seems relatively obvious now, but I had to return to my table, legs crossed, to ask my companions where to pee.

  3. I would have not figured that one out. I probably would have been standing there Googling the words.

    (Also, a dog-themed bar? I want to go to there!)