Bathroom matters. Bathrooms matter!


Bathrooms matter. Well for me anyway. Whenever I’m in a restaurant for the first time I make a trip to the bathroom to check it out. And as a mild germaphobe, I’m generally loathe to do much “business” in a public restroom at the best of times, but I often want to wash my hands before a meal and if the bathroom is a turn off, it can ruin the entire experience—regardless of how great the actual meal is.

In fact, I recently posted a short article about my positive experience at Deacon’s Corner. This weekend I made a return trip and excused myself to use the facilities. What a disappointment. They were terrible, cold, and uncomfortable. Unlike the rest of the restaurant’s interior, it clearly had not be renovated. And the sounds of the kitchen staff heard through the vents were rather disconcerting. Same story at another chic local hideaway spot I enjoy, the Greedy Pig; I have no idea how a restaurant capable of serving such fine fare could allow their bathrooms to be so awful. They smell terrible and could ruin anyone’s appetite.

Asian restaurants often have the worst bathrooms for some reason—some people won’t even go into them. The big dim sum restaurant Floata has terrible washrooms, as do most little Chinese restaurants like New Town Bakery in Chinatown. Phnom Penh, a Cambodian-Vietnamese restaurant in Vancouver I frequent, is another local restaurant that needs to rethink their bathrooms. No one wants to hike down a cluttered flight of stairs to a dingy, dirty, cramped washroom with no soap or paper towels. In fact, during my last visit, I found one of their patrons sitting on the toilet smoking. Even one of my favourite Asian spots, Hapa Izakaya, blew it with their bathrooms recently when I found it filled with supplies like a storage room. There are exceptions of course, such as the spotless facilities at the Main Street location of Sun Sui Wah.

I’ve been told that the women’s washroom at the Wolf and Hound on West Broadway is the size of a sardine can, unheated (very cold these days) and filthy. Perhaps they feel cleanliness isn’t important in a pub—but I call bollocks. The sad reality is that there are more crappy bathrooms than good. I really don’t get it.

But what makes a great bathroom? Is it the style? Cleanliness? Amenities? I’d say all of the above. When a restaurant takes care to create an inviting bathroom and keeps it clean and well stocked, it sends the message that the management and staff are as serious about my overall experience and food safety as they are today’s special.

Many smaller restaurants have chosen to not have gender-specific bathrooms, it becomes increasingly more important to create a comfortable and clean environment for their guests. And with women using the same bathroom as the men—who are often slobs, let’s face it—the usage doubles, requiring staff to pay closer attention to the cleanliness of the facilities.

Many restaurants do a terrific job with their bathrooms. Western Canadian restaurant chains like Cactus Club and Milestones may not often get props from gastronomes, but they always have terrific washrooms—the Cactus Club location at Broadway & Ash has arguably the best bathroom in Vancouver with its art, couch, mood lighting, and automatic dispensers. It’s more of a lounge than a water closet.

restaurant-washroomThe washrooms in The Four Seasons new restaurant Yew are brilliant. As are the ones in The Loden Hotel’s Voya. Both are comfortable, classy expressions of the restaurants’ attention to detail, they’re roomy, well lit with lots of counter space and little touches like baskets with real towels, hand lotion and full length mirrors. Women appreciate full-length mirrors. Speaking of hotel washrooms, the washrooms at The Wedgewood are lovely but they’re too far from their restaurant, Bacchus. You have to trek through the lobby, down hallways and even down a flight of stairs, but once there, the lovely patterned wallpaper, antique furniture and appointments serve to remind you that you’re in one of Vancouver’s nicest dining spots.

And don’t whine to me that bathrooms are expensive to decorate. Baloney. At Zakkushi on 4th, the bathroom is unpretentious and genuine with its handmade Japanese papered walls, flickering candlelight and quaint bamboo water fixture like a little stream pouring over carbonized wood—a nod to the charcoal being used to prepare the food. It even has mouthwash!

There used to be a quirky, high-end tea salon in café in Yaletown called Don’t Show The Elephant (a name I’ll never understand) that had a bathroom as a centerpiece. The door had a clear window offering patrons a clear view of the toilet, confusing me greatly my first visit, but when you closed and locked the door, the window would magically become opaque white. Voila! Privacy. Now that’s a bathroom concept.

I’m not saying every restaurant has to spend a fortune on their bathrooms and create little intimate rooms with candles, cloth hand towels, and incense, but make an effort folks. Your bathroom says as much about you as a restaurateur and your attention to details as your menu. Don’t even get me started about restaurant websites.

What washroom horror stories or fabulous bathroom discoveries have you made in your restaurant travels? Whose done a great job of their bathrooms and who’s in dire need of a renovation?


11 Responses to “Bathroom matters. Bathrooms matter!”

  1. Posted on April 1st, 2009

    Great post, Mark! I’m certainly with you on this one – a bad bathroom experience can ruin a restaurant for me.

    Worst bathroom in town is certainly at the Cambie, but it hardly counts as a restaurant in any way. The tiny, tiny bathroom at Two Chefs and a Table certainly merits an award as one of the worst in town – the sink is so miniscule it might only be comfortably used by gnomes. It is clean, mind you.

    Campagnolo has 4 bathrooms, and each one is clean as a whistle. Pied a Terre has spotless facilities.

  2. Posted on April 1st, 2009

    Thanks, Mark! Public washrooms have long been a pet peeve of mine, especially at restaurants. But while the onus is on the restaurant to maintain a good washroom, I gotta complain about the restaurant patrons, too. Who else can I blame for the terrible state that so many public washrooms are in?

    Men: are there so many drunk men using public washrooms? It’s the most plausible explanation for the puddles that appear under the urinals. C’mon, guys! Learn to aim better! It’s not hard to do! It’s a vicious cycle, of course, since a puddle on the floor makes most people stand further back…

    Women: this gripe appears to be specific to women from Asia. Fear of dirty toilet seats means that some Asian women squat on top of the toilet. That extra height means more splashes on the floor…and elsewhere. Just sit down, okay?

  3. Posted on April 1st, 2009

    Hi All,

    I’m new to the site, I work with Foodist contributor Johnathon @ epixStudios.

    I won’t be shy about my dislike of public restrooms – all this germy chat makes me want to wash my hands! Having suffered food borne illnesses a few too many times, I’ve found that untidy bathrooms are major red flag about kitchen cleanliness and food prep safety too.

    As Jer said, Pied a Terre’s facilities are gleaming. The restrooms at Opus/Elixir are sparkly fresh, but the wash stations are outfitted with creepy lcd screens which play surveillance footage of the main lobby. Although I enjoyed my dining experience at Cibo, the bathroom was a bit ripe and unkempt by the end of a busy Friday night.

  4. Posted on April 2nd, 2009

    Oh shoot, Shannon reminded me that I meant to reference the washrooms at Opus. Indeed they have video feeds from the lobby lounge, but they also have a transparent wall separating the men’s from the women’s sides. It was an odd thing indeed to be able to peek in to view females touching up their makeup in the mirrors, realizing they had a clear view of the back of men while they stood at the urinals. As a minor voyeur myself, I found this enticing, but I guess it made too many people uncomfortable as they’ve since added a drape of beads to obscure this view.

  5. Posted on April 2nd, 2009

    I went to the La Buca on MacDonald and the bathroom is through the kitchen and if there’s someone using it, you find yourself at the back of the very small room looking over at chef Andrey. It’s all good because he gives you a cheery wave. The only weird part was seeing a trolly extremely close to the bathroom door with the dessert I had just enjoyed still sitting out. Gulp.

  6. Posted on April 2nd, 2009

    I know that bathroom path well, having eaten at Masa’s for many a great breakfast. (Masa’s was the previous restaurant, with a Japanese chef who had a delicate touch with eggs.) I suspect now as it was then, it’s luck of the draw what you see as you walk through. It’s rather unique and odd at the same time but I guess there was no way around it.

  7. Posted on April 11th, 2009

    What no one has mentioned here yet is the now ubiquitous garbage pail next to the door so the pile of paper towels people use to open the door on the way out don’t accumulate on the floor. I find this especially amusing in restrooms that have those marvelous hands-free devices: autoflush toilets and urinals, instant on taps, auto hand soap and paper towel dispensers. All great, and then you have to touch the door handle on the way out. Sure, some restaurants by design could not have automatic doors, or doors that hinge in such a way that you can ‘push’ on the way out, but wouldn’t it be nice…

  8. Posted on July 27th, 2009

    We’ve since learned that there is a new application in development for the iPhone called Foodists have been invited to beta test the application, so if you are interested and willing to help rate bathrooms in your city, email your phone’s UDID to [email protected] and let them know you are a Foodist willing to help. They’ll explain the rest. There’s even a $30 iTunes Gift Card in it for your time and effort.

  9. Posted on December 2nd, 2009

    There’s a new gadget called Foot Flush, it’s a foot pedal that connects to all standard toilets for hands free, germ free flushing. Now all restaurants and businesses can provide the same hands free hygienic environment that the shopping malls, movie theatres, and fancy restaurants do, without spending $1,000 per toilet on infrared technology that doesn’t even work that well. Foot Flush is currently available for $26 at It’s about time!

  10. Posted on January 24th, 2010

    Thanks for the info provided! I was finding for this info for a long time, but I was not able to see a dependable source.

  11. Posted on April 14th, 2013

    A toilet seat riser makes settle the carriage of a significant number of individuals and makes heading off to the bathroom a partmore straightforward so it is not something that might as well be stayingaway from simply due to its look and association with maturity. I know that most folks don’t require a higher toilet seat at an adolescent experience but as you get more advanced in years it will end up being increasingly foremost to you.’

    Have a look at our very own blog too

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