We figured the new cocktail speakeasy next to Crif Dogs would have remarkable restrooms. After all, its name is PDT (Please Don’t Tell) and we’ve always had that same policy when it comes to East Village loos — you’ll certainly never hear our stories about the ones at Lit circa 2002. At least, not until you buy us a few El Diablos at this decidedly more civilized boîte. In which case, like the Strokes song goes, meet us in the bathroom.
There are restaurants we love and then there are restaurants we’re in love with — Moto has been in the latter category ever since we had our first pint of Corsendonk there. Among its myriad charms is its WC. But last week, when we visited Smith and Mills, we discovered that our heart has room for more than one restroom — and somehow we don’t feel like we’re cheating. After all, Moto’s owner John McCormick had a hand in designing Smith and Mills, so these lovely lavatories are practically sisters. Hot!
Last week we continued our restro-spective of Jeffrey Chodorow's tinklers with a look at Ono. We half-expected Chodorow's blog to carp over our five-star review, but no — his latest entry shows that the man is still pissed off, this time at Adam Platt, whom he considers a piss-poor reviewer for handing a measly star to Wild Salmon. This got us to wondering about the restaurant's facilities.
Now that we’ve brought you the steaming poop on Keith McNally’s loos, we can’t help but wonder — who are the other restroom-auteurs? The titans who dream up a new restaurant and imagine themselves walking into its grand opening on a red carpet of double-ply? There is one such man: Mr. Jeffrey Chodorow. When we praised his Kobe Club restrooms last week, we thought the tiles looked familiar — indeed they’re a holdover from Ono, also designed by “Chodobro” Jeffrey Beers. Shall we visit what may be their finest crossing of creative swords?
On limo-lined 58th Street, two nouveau steakhouses face each other in a bizarre game of Spy vs. Spy. The white spy: bright, cheery Quality Meats of the Wollensky empire, designed by the whiz kids at AvroKO. The black spy: Chodorow’s infamous Kobe Club, a noirish trip that resembles a Tarantino stage set. Each has its bag of trick s— QM’s meat-hook chandeliers! KC’s samurai swords!— but the nukes in their arsenals are, of course, the restrooms. After you’ve finished a 64-ounce growler of Quality beer or a $225 bowl of Kobe punch, you’re going to need to use 'em. So let’s take a look.
As we noted when we toured the restrooms at Morandi, Keith McNally has pissed away a great deal of money to make his restaurant lavatories the gold standard. When Morandi failed to hit the mark, we were truly bummed, so to restore our faith in the master (and to make sure we weren’t remembering his previous works through Clorox-colored glasses), we decided to embark on an epic stall crawl of McNally’s previous loos, from Pravda’s Commie commodes to (pardon our French) the shitters at Schiller’s. Come flush with us.
Unless you’ve blocked out your raver phase, you probably remember Fun, the club where video feeds allowed the boys to spy on the girls’ room and vice versa. Those were the days when a restroom that makes you go “(p)oo-la-la!” could make or break a nightspot, and the most celebrated holdover from that era is Bar 89, a.k.a. “that place in Soho with the cool bathrooms.” Obviously, we don’t go there much and we’re guessing you don’t either, since the once novel aspects of the place’s décor have been dampened by almost a decade of beer funk. So how exactly have the restrooms held up?
When it comes to designing bathrooms, the guys at AvroKo are the bomb. We still have the bars of soap we pocketed as souvenirs of our visit to Public. So what about the design firm’s latest spot? As you’ll recall, European Union had to wait a while for its wine and beer license, presumably because residents of 4th Street were afraid that drunken patrons would end up peeing on their stoops. Poppycock! Who would do such a thing with facilities like these in house?
Whether you’re going to the Tribeca Grand for its brunch (as of last week, the place screens movies for kids so you can get them out of your hair while gulping Bellinis), for top-notch D.J.’s like Riton and Trevor Jackson, or for the bevy of Tribeca Film Festival after-parties that’ll be there next week, you’ll want to know about the restrooms. The spacious facilities under the Church Lounge may not have LCD screens like those inside the hotel’s rooms, but as our investigation reveals, they’re still some of the swankiest in the city.
The Tasting Room may have moved to bigger digs, but its venerable espresso machine remains at its old location, which was rechristened the Tasting Room Wine Bar & Café in February. It’s unlikely that the best espresso in the city will do Starbucks-style damage, but just in case, we sussed out the restrooms.
We’ve seen many items used as restroom décor — everything from S&M gear to Sartre tomes. But we had never encountered live creatures used as wallpaper until we entered 128 Billiards, an obscure pool joint with a tropical-themed front room that gives the Rainforest Café a run for its money. True, this is Chinatown, where you can buy pet turtles on the sidewalk and piranhas at more than one aquarium supply shop, but an aquarium in the wall?
Umberto’s Clam House is best known as the place where mobster Crazy Joe Gallo was gunned down while eating scungilli with clam sauce; these days the pasta mill is a couple of blocks away from its original location and the only thing likely to kill you is the massive plate of butter-bombed linguine Alfredo (though just as cheesy maritime décor may well blind you). Still, after eating with our backs to the wall we decided to check out the restrooms in order to see a side of New York City to which only tourists are, well, privy.
We’ve already remarked that Jeffrey Jah seems determined to make his new bi-level “gastropub,” the Inn LW12, the meatpacking district’s own little Spotted Pig. The place’s poutine hasn't quite become the new gnudi, but we still wondered whether the trapping-and-fishing kitsch extended into the bathroom. Could Jah beat the super-cheesiness of the flower paintings that grace the Spotted Pig’s facilities?
Though we're suckers for that new-bathroom smell (aah, the leather at Amalia, the pine at Morandi), every now and then we get the sudden urge to revisit those restrooms that really raised the watermark. One such classic lies deep in the bowels of a midtown office building, immediately beyond the hidden entry of perennial sake spot Sakagura.
A few months ago we sneaked you a peek of the renderings for Amalia, printing Über-designer Steve Lewis’s shopping list along with them. The Dream Hotel’s newly opened restaurant sticks pretty much to plan. Silk chinoiserie wallpaper? Check. Wall of walnut pirolettes? Check. What the list didn’t shed light on, though, was the restroom, so after ordering some rosemary-lemon thyme “eau de vie” (French for “$12 shot of vodka”) off the dinner and drinks menu, we descended the “floating staircase” into the raw brick area that opens March 22 as the D’Or lounge.
As far as restrooms go, Keith McNally’s are the gold standard. The man has pissed away a great deal of money importing gigantic urinals and sinks (as Schiller’s barkeep Corey Lima told us, boozed-up patrons often mistake one for the other), and his restroom lounges are bigger (and have nicer furniture) than certain apartments we’ve lived in. When he built the bathrooms at his new venture Morandi, he must’ve known everyone was watching. Did he suffer from performance anxiety?
First Le Cirque 2000 was out at the over-the-top opulent Palace Hotel and Gilt was in; then foam fiend Paul Liebrant was out, along with his wallet-busting lunches, and the more sedate Christopher Lee was in. We wondered how the bathrooms were surviving the changes (had the toilets been sold on eBay along with the bar?), so we slipped into the surprisingly shabby stairwell leading to a carpeted hallway.
Clinton Street hotspot Falai recently opened a Nolita café, because apparently Italio-philes needed a place to rest their weary Pradas and take in the Taleggio after a day of shopping at Amarcord across the street. Like its predecessor, Caffe Falai is every bit as antique-meets-modern (and blanketed in white) as a stage set from A Clockwork Orange. Wondering whether the bathrooms were fit for a droog, we stepped into the sliding door that encloses a tiny sink anteroom, and, behind another door, found one of the smallest privvies to which we’ve ever been privy.
During the year and a half Simon Hammerstein spent converting a former abattoir (and later, sign factory) into his dinner theater the Box, he hauled in an imposing set of doors from an insane asylum using his pimpmobile. We suspected the restroom décor would be similarly eccentric, and sure enough, the door to the wheelchair-accessible ground-floor WC comes from an old public schoolhouse. Then again, we’ve seen that before. The real action lay on the other side of the portals found down a narrow staircase, and at the end of the same sconce-lit hallway that leads to dressing rooms intended for circus freaks, S&M performers, and acrobats whenever the place finally opens, that is.
With just twenty seats (most wedged between the bar and a wall), Zucco: Le French Diner is one of the most lilliputian eateries in the city. Once we located the bathroom jammed in the back corner next to a prep table — and tapped on the cook’s shoulder so he could make room for us to open the door — we weren’t surprised to find that it's also tres petite. Thankfully, what the loo lacks in size, it makes up for with Godardian flair.