“There are two things that Jack Bauer never does. Show mercy, and go to the bathroom.” – Kiefer Sutherland
Unless it wasn’t previously obvious, we are nothing like Jack Bauer. Well, as long as you can ignore our strong taste for waterboarding and shared affinity for yelling on the telephone. Thankfully, this allows us to sample and appreciate bathrooms far and wide.
Though oft overlooked, the restaurant bathroom provides many things: a welcome respite from awkward conversation, what is best known as “cocktail relief,” and a chance to pretty yourself up if you’ve been sweating over some intense Indian food, wasabi vinaigrette, or a close Red Sox game. The restaurant bathroom is often a reflection of the restaurant’s soul—a window into the experience that a careful chef is attempting to craft. Other times, it’s a port-a-potty behind a taco stand, equal parts revolting and evocative. Regardless, visiting the restaurant bathroom is something we highly recommend, for it helps to complete your dining experience.
A surprisingly high percentage of restaurant visits require a cool-down moment. Whether it is stilted conversation with a date, awkwardly obvious passive-aggression from your date’s mom, or your friend’s friend’s insufferable laugh/personality, it is not infrequent that you will find yourself needing to step away from the table to rearrange hair and wits alike (just remember not to take too long). Similarly, there are certain self-induced circumstances that drive this same necessity: getting halfway through a drink that simply shouldn’t have been ordered in the first place, miserably uncouth comments toward said date’s father (“How was I supposed to know your dad is a Republican?”), and buffalo wings. In all cases, a quick trip to the restroom can provide you the opportunity to calm down, make things right, and clean the hell up.
A well-executed bathroom can be as much a part of a restaurant’s décor as the dining room. At Nick’s on Broadway, for example, a trip to the restroom affords the lucky customer with a chorizo-red column of serenity punctuated by a massive mirror inclined just-so, custom-printed hand towels meticulously arranged, and an initially off-putting but eventually redeeming ceiling-height window into the rest of the space, providing light without compromising privacy. It is this attention to detail with a flair for the theatrical, reflective of the cooking and service overall, that reminds you what you’re paying for. Contrast with, for instance, Julian’s, where a dim and gimmicky cubby with plumbing expresses everything in a neat, self-conscious sentence.
A bathroom need not be perfect, however, in order to get the job done while evoking the restaurant’s underlying thesis. Take George’s on Ives, for example, where a walk past the kitchen and through the weirdly large office space takes you into a clean, large and unfinished restroom that has certainly seen its share of hangover-induced emergencies but is none the worse for wear. Someone has tried to paint a mural here but gave up halfway through because it was good enough—the George’s ethos, in a sense, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Or at Ruffuls in Wayland Square, you can venture through the kitchen, down the stairs, past the office and across the basement into what is the strongest expression of restaurant-patron trust one can imagine.
Though they are certainly far from the culinary realm, on-campus bathrooms can provide a similarly important service to their patrons, and we would be remiss if we didn’t enter into a brief discussion here. The 3rd floor men’s room in Smith-Buannano stands as a shining beacon of how a good bathroom can turn a bad day around, especially if you make it into the stall with the window in it. The Ratty basement men’s room gives possibly the best hand-wash on campus. The 2nd floor men’s room in the Classics Department is, in a word, phenomenal, and worth visiting office hours for the experience. We’re not sure what this means, but the 2nd floor men’s room in Walter Hall bears a strong resemblance to a CIA safehouse in Prague. And for god’s sake visit the bathrooms in the John Carter Brown.
And alas, the publication gods have finally discovered our hoax and informed us that this is our last column. So, Brown, we say: it has been wonderful and weird, and we’re glad you got something out of it. We certainly did. Peace, gahbless, and cheerio.