Judging Restaurants by Their Bathrooms

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By: Allie Epstein

If you’re an obsessive-compulsive foodie like me or maybe one of those people that pees a lot, you’ve seen a lot of restaurant bathrooms. Some are classy, cheesy, and even scary. But we all love the fun ones. Memorable bathrooms for me would be The Standard Hotel’s, where women and men can shake hands while washing under the waterfall sink, Gjelina’s, with its wheel-operated basin and old fashioned, chain-pulled toilet,  and Smith and Mill’s, which noteworthy sink you’ve probably taken photos of for your twitter. All of these bathrooms bring a fun and exciting bonus to your outing, and there’s actually something satisfying about going to the restroom.
Then there are the other ones. The ones with sticky floors, puddles of bright colored green soap all over the sink, and overflowing trash bins. The bathrooms with the faucets that you have to push to get water but shut off before you’ve even developed a lather. A gross bathroom can only mean a gross kitchen, and all of these hygienic failures can take away from your pleasurable experience and, quite possibly, the food.
When I’m in a new restaurant, one of the things I love to do is check out its bathroom. After doing this for a while, you start to notice the quality of things. You notice when things are put there to be trendy or if they’re really well made. Which brings me to my point.
I went for brunch at Little Dom’s a few weeks ago, and I noticed some things were a little awkward in the bathroom. It’s made to look kooky and old-fashioned, I get it. But first, I was a little weirded-out by the black toilet. “How can I tell if I peed on someone else’s pee?” I thought. That’s disgusting. The one tiny sink in the corner had two faucets, one running hot water and one running cold. This was irritating because one was brutally hot, while the other was ice cold. I had to move my hands back and forth to each side, and I just gave up after few seconds. I don’t mean to be prissy about it though, by no means am I saying I’m too high and mighty to run my hands under some ice water for a minute. But this awkward situation made me laugh quietly to myself as I later thought how I could compare it to the restaurant and subsequently, the food.
Upon entering Little Dom’s, I passed both Sarah Silverman and Michael Cera. I could see the giddiness in the hostess’s eyes, and the waiter’s lips puckering up. I knew they were about to kiss ass. The hostess asked me if I had a reservation (on a Sunday morning?), and I told her I did not. It was drizzling out, and all the seating on the sidewalk was not being used, so I suggested sitting outside rather than enduring the 45 minute wait. The hostess agreed, but as if she had never even considered the idea. My waiter was complaisant but not very interested. He didn’t laugh at any of my jokes, and I’m usually very gracious to my waiters. The restaurant’s sidewalk was surrounded by hipsters and their dogs, and I couldn’t help but feel if I had dressed up more to their liking, the restaurant staff would have given me a little more attention. The food was good—classic and flavorful. We ordered the blueberry ricotta pancakes, steak and poached eggs, and the rice balls. A little prettier on paper than on the plate, but I was pleased either way.
However, I felt ignored and that I had been paid no attention. I wasn’t famous, and I wasn’t wearing my best trendy outfit (again, it was Sunday morning.) I compared this feeling of neglect to the bathroom. Food was good, bathroom was clean. The bathroom was cute and obviously given thought, but it was the little bits of weird that showed how the restaurant staff would rather be trendy and interesting at first glance than really be hospitable or make you feel comfortable. The main purpose of a bathroom, to relieve yourself and wash up, was overlooked on order to express more trendiness. Which led me to think that’s what the restaurant is—a really trendy place to attract celebrities and pretty looking people with a “wow” factor menu that doesn’t suck, but it certainly won’t win a James Beard. The place is made to look great and taste great, but isn’t really a restaurant that wins your heart for its service or hospitality. We walked away satisfied but without respect.
It’s a stretch, but it made sense that morning.

Growing up in a household of foodies, splurging on lobster tails for daily family dinners and eating nothing but the best Balthazar bread, it was no surprise that Allie chose the culinary arts as her career. For, with a passion for eating, grew a passion for cooking and Allie enrolled in The French Culinary Institute. Schooled by some of the most world-renowned French chefs, she is classically trained with refined French techniques under her belt.
After graduating and interning with Jean George in NYC, she decided to take the less traditional route of a NY-born chef and move to Los Angeles. Cooking at hip cafes to food trucks, she’s learned about the business in unique ways. Moving to a new city, she loved finding quirky, local restaurants and has since written about them. She learned that while cooking is great, her passion is eating the food as well and has since made a point to taste as much food as her belly will hold. She also has weakness for romance novels.

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