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At some of the best new restaurants in NYC, delicious food, highly-conceptualized plating and big name chefs may be what initially draws in hungry diners. But small details—such as wacky bathroom interior design—help spread the word. With rising rents and so much competition amongst new and old establisments, restaurants are placing more emphasis than ever on attention-grabbing design. While bathroom selfies have been around since the advent of Instagram, today, they allow many to find out about trendy bar and restaurant openings; accounts such as @toiletfantasies and @poopersguide are even documenting the underrated art form.
In fact, public bathrooms—whether at outdoor restaurants or vegan spots—have never been more entwined in pop culture. Artist Nina Katchoudourian made a name through her photo series, "Lavatory Portraits in the Flemish-style," documenting herself inside airplane bathrooms. Netflix's Russian Doll uses its Art Deco-ish forest green restroom as the liminal portal through which Natasha Lyonne's character is trapped reliving the same events again and again. In politics, gender neutral restrooms (and the lack thereof) have never been more relevant; it remains a jarring glare when newly-opened spaces seem to perpetuate the binary through design.
That's why we're putting together a list of our favorite funky restaurant bathrooms across the city. Some bar and restaurant bathrooms are memorable for their legendary horrors, such was the case at 285 Kent, where lines were monstrous and toilet upkeep, nonexistent. But this isn't some list organized by cleanest restrooms, most user-friendly loos, places with free Le Labo handsoap or even the best public bathrooms to have sex in. This is a highly-subjective ranking of the absolute weirdest and most wonderful-looking restaurant and bar restrooms this city has to offer.
Think we missed something great? Tag your favorites at #TimeOutNewYork.
1. SOFREH (Prospect Heights)
Sofreh is easily one New York City's best restaurants, demonstrating the elegance of Persian food. Its playful bathroom has a diplomatic mission: highlighting Iranian pulp movie posters, less recognizable to Western audiences.
2. LALITO (Chinatown)
At this Chinatown restaurant with coastal-focused bites, a bathroom—complete with flashing lights and faux tropical plants— is inspired by J.Lo's "Waiting for Tonight" music video.
3. MISSION CHINESE (Bushwick)
At Danny Bowien's Brooklyn location of his megahit restaurant, the bathroom's design is inspired by The Matrix, complementing the overall club feel of the space, located downstairs from the performance venue, Elsewhere.
4. POKITO (South Williamsburg)
At this South Williamsburg sleeper hit bar, you'll find excellent tiki drinks; have a few and you'll be ready to use that teddy bear faucet.
5. TXIKITO (CHELSEA)
At Alex Raij and Eder Montero's Chelsea restaurant, Basque cuisine makes an appearance on the cute bathroom wallpaper, dollopped with mussels, olives and meat.
6. THE TURK'S INN (Bushwick)
At the newly-opened Turk's Inn restaurant and music venue, expert curation extends to the bathrooms. Each lavatory has its own vintage wallpaper and toilet seat combo (our favorite is the one with The Smurfs); all have audio clips telling the history of the original Midwest supper club, the Bushwick restaurant is based on. Learn while you tinkle!
7. CERVO'S (Lower East Side)
Cervo's, a Portuguese restaurant on Canal Street and a sister to The Fly and Hart's, has one of our favorite restaurant interior designs. Considered details, like tiles inspired by Anni Albers, makes excusing oneself from the table more elegant than ever.
8. DIMES (Lower East Side)
Dimes has long been the authority on all things cool for the Lower East Side. From the restaurant's custom Memphis Group-style furniture, peppermill grinders and water filters, it's no suprise that artist Cassie Griffin's soothing, handpainted tiles were made only for the eatery. Those reading Renata Adler's book, Speedboat, will note the similarity between the watercolor cover and the bathroom.
9. THE STANDARD (East Village)
Don't tell, but The Standard East Village is one of our favorite bathrooms to take a leak, when we're really in a bind. Whether you're here because you're staying at the hotel, having a bite at Narcissa, or, hanging out in the backyard garden, make sure to look into all of the basement bathrooms, before taking your pick. Each stall is outfitted with different groovy vintage wallpaper.
10. MOTEL MORRIS (Chelsea)
We may be too old to still ask friends to accompany us to the restroom, but Motel Morris' definitely feels like a spot you'd want to hangout in. The pretty in pink bathroom even has its own rotary phone for prank calls.
11. KING TAI (Crown Heights)
Beyond delicious tiki drinks, a great monday night punch special and one of our favorite places to kick back after work, customers of King Tai always seem to take note of the jade green bathroom. King Tai's single-stall space reminds us of the bathroom from The Shining. This is a rare case where not only is it one of our favorite bar bathrooms, but we wish it could be installed in our home.
12. PARM (Upper West Side)
As someone who collects snackpackaging in the hopes of someday wallpapering our home with them, we respect Parm's saucy use of tomato paste labels.
13. ATLA (NoHo)
Many restaurants work with illustrators to give their branding a recognizable identity. We're partial to Mexico City-based illustrator Rachel Levit Ruiz' magical realist designs for Atla. You can find her art on the menu, tote bags and even on a serpentine decal in the bathroom.
14. DOLLY'S (Williamsburg, Opening Soon)
For those of us who miss the Dolly Parton decals at VYNL, the country singer will be revived at this down-home, countrified watering hole complete with a Parton-themed bathroom.
15. ELSA (Cobble Hill)
The Cobble Hill reincarnation of the former East Village favorite offers many of the same charms as the original. Here, designed by Home Studios—behind some of Brooklyn's best hospitality interiors (such as Elsa's sister bar, Ramona)—even the bar's bathroom feels glamorous. It's a perfect ode to the drinking destination's namesake, fashion designer, Elsa Schiaparelli.
16. THE FLOWER SHOP (Lower East Side)
At this '70s-inspired bar outfitted with a pool table, a pink fireplace and a great Tuesday night trivia, bathrooms feature naughty day-glow posters—such as one with the Kama Sutra, and, another, with Popeye and Olive Oil necking.
17. KOPITIAM (Chinatown)
One of New York's best all-day cafés is chef Kyo Pang's Kopitiam. Now, at a bigger location with more seating, the Malaysian spot continues to serve up simple yet sensational bites like the nasi lemak or the fish ball soup. While the bathroom at Kopitiam 2.0 may not wow with crazy flashing lights or a disco ball, we love the story behind it. The design was based on the chef's bathroom back home in Penang. "That’s why the sink is around 3ft. tall. Even the tiles were shipped in from Malaysia. The sinks were originally fishbowls that we drilled drain holes [into]," writes Kopitiam on Instagram.
18. MAISON YAKI (Prospect Heights)
At Maison Yaki, Olmsted chef Greg Baxtrom's French-yakitori spot, the menu combines French and Japanese techniques and flavors; the blending of cultures can be seen via the fancy TOTO toilet with seat warming functions and a bidet, something that both cultures have come to be known for.