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Still Waters: Here are the top places to go

Posted: Friday, Jan 25th, 2013


I know you’ve been sitting on the edge of your seats all year to find out who won America’s Best Restroom contest this go-round.

Well, we don’t have all that far to go, relatively speaking, to get to the best restroom in the U.S., judged by those who go and are in the know.

To be inducted in the “Hall of Fame” for 2012 ?is Buc-ee’s in New Braunfels, Texas. It’s only 14 hours away, so you will probably need to make a pit stop in between, but once you get there, you’ll probably want to hang out in Buc-ee’s for a few days. Take some vacation days. The restroom alone will be top on your tourist list for New Braunfels, just outside San Antonio off I-35 North.

Buc-ee’s is a convenience store with 60 gas pumps, a 68,000-square-foot store, 80 soda fountains inside next to 31 cash registers and 83 stalls in the restroom.

In addition to be the cleanest in the Lone Star State, not to mention the whole U.S. of A., these restrooms feature a Texas motif not to be missed. If you were in a hurry when you went in, you can take your time looking at the decorations on the way out. There are Texas longhorns mounted over the entryway and a Texas jailhouse façade to welcome ladies and gents to the cleanest outhouse in the West.

One of my favorite features, although I have not had the pleasure yet of visiting Buc-ee’s in person, is the plethora of hand sanitizers throughout the restroom. In the men’s bathroom, there is a hand sanitizer dispenser by each urinal. There’s no privacy between the urinals (I never understood that), so I am glad the press photo of the men’s bathroom was shot on the rare occasion no one was using it, but those gents can be guaranteed clean hands if they avail themselves of the Purell dispensers.

So it must be true that Texas does everything bigger and better.

The other nominees for best restroom in the U.S. are no slouches either.

There’s Liberty Market in Gilbert, Arizona, a bistro whose five unisex stalls each feature a theme, complete with mood music. I don’t know if one of them is Brad Paisley’s “Ode de Toilet” (“If you want to say ‘I love you’ then put the toilet seat down.”) The Liberty Market themes range from Italian adventure complete with vineyard murals, “Vespa” bikes and the Italian countryside to punk rock stereo. There’s also a master chef’s kitchen theme featuring recipes from Liberty Market’s menu. Clever advertising. If there’s reading material in the loo, people will peruse it. It’s the American way.

Another of the runner-ups in the restroom contest is the Hollywood Bowl (of course, with a name like that!) in California. These inside seats serve the folks in the outside seats at the Hollywood Bowl. These are recently renovated by the architectural firm of Rios Clementi Hale Studios. Be sure to send them a thank-you postcard from the bowl at the Bowl.

“The floor of each restroom was painted a shade of green that was color matched to the Toyon tree, a plant native to Southern California and found around the Bowl. This color helps lead people in from the outside and also helps define the extents of the restroom. The design includes simple lines, pure geometry and sweeping paint accents that visually connect to the iconic stage’s arches …”

I’m sure the folks rushing to the restroom during intermission are considering the “pure geometry” and how well the green matches native plants of Southern California.

One of the features I like about this one is the red/green light system above the stalls to let folks know if they are occupied or not. I think latching the stall door is also a good indication.

Staying on the West Coast, we “go” next to runner up Gitane Restaurant in San Francisco where interior designer Charles Doell has brought “a hint of the nostalgia and romance of the era into Gitane’s bathroom space.” A hint of air freshener would also be nice. This bathroom is nothing if not glamorous with a Victorian style chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Museum quality paintings line the walls, so take your time washing up so you can see them all.

We “head” to the East Coast for the next runner up, Mie N Yu Restaurant in Washington, D.C. Accents of the Orient mark this diner, but forget about the food. The real meeting place is the unisex washroom maintained round the clock by an attendant on weekends to keep politicians honest two days out of the week and sinks face each other “positioned in such a way that invites bathroom banter.” We all know that’s where the deals go down in the nation’s capital.

The Midwest is not to be outdone. Our next contender is the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago. You might forget where you are and why you’re there when you hit this restroom with thousands of reflective glass mosaic tiles wallpaper from ceiling to floor like a giant disco ball. To add a touch of class (and scent), the Radisson lines the vanity with fresh flowers. The hotel’s motto carries all the way through to the loo, “inspired by design and driven by function.”

I won’t go through all of the runner-ups, but you can see photos of all of them at www.bestrestroom.com

There’s the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis whose “sleek, modern space is reminiscent of a first-generation iPod”; the Vanity Nightclub in Las Vegas, where one would expect the flashy in the can, with flat screens over the urinals, gold lace curtains and a $40,000 chandelier made of 70 hand-blown glass globes; Da Marino Ristorante Italiano in New York City where the rich and famous like Mario Lopez, Sara Jessica Parker and Reba McIntire have “gone” and the restroom features a waterfall with Italian opera tunes playing the background (if you didn’t need to use the facility when you went in, the waterfall would clinch the deal); and finally Lane Stadium/Worsham Field at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., where digital mirror displays show ads and school messages to their captive audiences (the school researched this effective ad campaign by determining that fans average 2.8 potty breaks during each game.)

So there you have it for another year.

I’ll leave you with another refrain from Brad’s words to the wise on Valentine’s Day and always. “If I want to show her how much I adore her; The best way that I’ve found; Is to make sure when I’m finished; I put that toilet seat down.”

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