For many years, there was an artsy, brunch-centric restaurant in SoMa called Triptych that had bottomless mimosas and a lovely patio out back but whose interior was awkward to traverse. The walls felt makeshift and the corridor connecting everything was uncomfortably narrow. But Triptych had one of the best bathrooms in town, a silver tiki-disco lair with ABBA and Bee Gees memorabilia and a piece of furniture that looked like a wicker jukebox.
It was altogether ridiculous, a goofy labor of love by someone who couldn’t part with any of their vintage treasures but didn’t want them plastered all over the house, either. Sadly, Triptych closed last spring. Now that San Francisco restaurants’ price points climb higher and higher each year, and publicists coo in restaurateurs’ ears about the importance of having Instagrammable peripherals, there’s something of a sotto voce arms race afoot. And one frivolous (but undeniably positive) consequence of the move toward unisex bathrooms is that more people can now see more of them. Granted, the men’s room at three-Michelin-starred Benu is as lusterless and utilitarian as an airport’s, but on the whole, restaurant restrooms are better than ever. Here are our favorites.
2501 Mariposa St., Mission
Sommelier-owner Paul Einbund’s Slow Club replacement drew widespread praise for its $96 smoked whole duck over root vegetables. But when you’ve had a few glasses of Einbund’s paired wine and it’s time to excuse yourself from the dinner table, you’re treated to a road movie of sorts: looping footage shot through a car’s front windshield as you travel down a rural highway.
330 Gough St., Hayes Valley
“Do you like our owl?” is what the replicant-who-doesn’t-know-she’s-a-replicant asks Harrison Ford in Blade Runner. It’s synthetic, but at Kim Alter’s temple of haute Californian cuisine, the owls in the restrooms (and the owl carved into the front door) look almost as convincing.
974 Valencia St., Mission
While the interior of Mexican restaurant Loló is a brightly hued fantasia that Pedro Almodóvar would love, it’s the unisex bathrooms that leave us smitten. One has wallpaper of red-and-pink hibiscuses on a blue background that could be a close-up of a Florida grandmother’s one-piece bathing suit, and the other has halves of colorful kids’ soccer balls mounted to the walls at regular intervals, with cleats strung from the ceiling.
2329 Clement St., Richmond
This pizza-and-pasta spot expanded its footprint last summer a few months after opening, but its bathroom game is pretty much unimprovable. In a nice counterpoint to the wallpaper that covers the dining room with the faces of Bay Area heroes — Angela Davis, Alice Waters, BART — the bathroom is a design from S.F. superstar Amos Goldbaum. An exaggerated cityscape, it shows San Francisco endless stacked rows of Edwardian buildings interspersed with the odd roller coaster, bison, or guy carrying a surfboard.
800 North Point St., Fisherman’s Wharf
Serenity now! Although they don’t have the oversized cylindrical glass vases the bar does, the restrooms at Gary Danko make excellent use of flowers, lighting, and music. Yes, they’re co-ed, which makes some people uncomfortable — and the scented ambience can be a little strong when you’re trying to keep your palate ready for the horseradish-crusted salmon medallions on that five-course tasting menu. But you’ll never find a loo more Zen than this.
298 11th St., SoMa
We’re not so much in love with the art direction of the bathrooms at this drag club and theater as much as with their structural smartness. Rather than subdivide according to gender or even install a single urinal, Oasis built a suite of individual stalls. We love a graffiti-covered dive toilet as much as anyone, but sometimes, a little class is all we ask. And we don’t care what you do in there as long as you make it quick.
6 Claude Lane, FiDi
It’s no surprise that the Southern French restaurant with the elegant bar would also have one of the most elegant restrooms. Gitane’s beauty extends even unto a urinal, which is set into the floor in a vaguely turn-of-the-last-century fashion, and the alternating black-and-white tiling feels like a most aesthetically pleasing way to maintain proper hygiene. It’s de facto wainscoting, too, and above waist height, the wall is given over to framed paintings of flowers. The nearest embroidered toilet-paper cozy feels a thousand miles away.
Check out more stories from our Toilet Issue here:
Countdown to the Waste Emergency
The majority of San Francisco’s sewer pipes were built before 1975, and the city is trying to replace them before they fail.
Throne of Terror
Many celebrities have died on the toilet or in the bathroom.
San Francisco Has an Experimental Toilet Showroom by AT&T Park
TOTO’s Concept 190 is the No. 1 place for a futuristic No. 2.