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The Fine Art of Restroom Rating 

When you gotta go, you gotta go. But there are places where you really shouldn't.

Wednesday, May 28 2003
I fantasize about a massive, pristine convenience. Brilliant gold taps, virginal white marble, a seat carved from ebony, a cistern full of Chanel No. 5, and a flunky handing me pieces of raw silk toilet roll ....

-- Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor)

So we're home late one night watching this classic scene from the video Trainspotting. You know, the one where Renton's really gotta go, and he's forced to use the most god-awful toilet in Scotland. We consider Renton's predicament with detached horror, while simultaneously thinking about SF Weekly's annual "Best of" issue. And suddenly, we have an A-ha! moment. Best restroom! Why doesn't the Weekly have a category for best restroom?! What a glaring omission! But while brainstorming all the bathroom possibilities in the city, we realize it would be difficult narrowing the list to just one. And there is another, more vexing problem: How could we cite the best restrooms without also mentioning the worst? In the end, we decide that the concept has to be its own piece.

So, without further ado, we're proud to present SF Weekly's exclusive "Best and Worst Restrooms in San Francisco." Our list is in no particular order; however, we've alternated the good and bad so that readers don't become too nauseated. For purposes of this study, hotel lobby restrooms have been excluded due to their generally superior quality. For the opposite reason, public transit restrooms have been excluded.

Taqueria Can-Cun (2288 Mission at 19th Street)

We hadn't been to the Can-Cun commode in years for one simple reason: fear. But our journalistic integrity demanded that we pay another visit. Upon arrival, we're relieved (no pun intended) to find the thing's occupied. We wait in the fluorescently lit hall and listen to the occupant's exotic bodily noises and incessant hacking. Someone's dying in there. After 15 minutes, a kindly Can-Cun employee notices our dilemma and allows us entry into the "Employees Only" bathroom. We bravely enter.

This is not a bathroom, people; it's a dungeon. The walls are of primitive stone and mortar, and there's a black wrought-iron grate covering what might have been a window in another century. The room is filled with junk: cardboard boxes, a mop sitting in toxic mop water, and a black plastic bag covering a large object we assume is a dead body. There's menacing graffiti, a puddle of urine, and God knows what else splattered on the floor.

Speaking into our mini-tape recorder in this crime scene makes us feel like an investigator on CSI: San Francisco. Omigod! What is that? In the corner of the dungeon is the largest cockroach we've ever seen. Most certainly a NYC breed. He's stuck on his back, legs kicking in the air, clearly in distress. He doesn't look like he's gonna make it. And we thought cockroaches were indestructible.

RNM Restaurant (598 Haight at Steiner)

We explored some of the fancier dining establishments around town, but were consistently underwhelmed. Given the prices at some of these joints, we expected something really earth-shattering. Something along the lines of the "Sonovac Zero Gravity Toilet" from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The bathroom at RNM doesn't have a Space Age toilet, but it's still damn nice. It rated exceptionally high on 21 out of 22 criteria on our ratings chart. (If you must know, it was missing a hook on the door for your jacket/purse.) Plus, it's got ambience up the wazoo. There's a vase of fresh flowers on the stainless-steel counter. Next to that is a glowing, basketball-size orb, which gives you this handsome yet devilish underlit effect when you check yourself in the mirror. (Sort of Kubrick-esque, actually.) Soothing music is piped in via little speakers in the ceiling. And the bathroom is wonderfully odorless. How do they pull this off? Is it the flowers? The orb? Or maybe that toilet really is a Sonovac?

Zeitgeist (199 Valencia at Duboce)

We'd like to acknowledge an obvious but important fact of life. A bad restroom is harder on a woman than on a man. If you've ever wondered why women have such strong legs, it's because they've spent their entire lives nervously hovering over bad toilets. (Yes, we believe "hover" is the right word.)

After exploring the bathroom at Zeitgeist, we became even more concerned about the plight of women in our city. It's not pretty in there. Zeitgeist's has to be the busiest bathroom on our entire list; there's always a huge line going way out to where they barbecue that buffalo or goat or whatever. Plus, the Zeitgeist bathroom is unisex, so women, unfortunately, get the worst of both worlds.

But in our relentless restroom research, we found a little trick that might help our female friends. Women can pee standing up. Yes, it's true. You can do it just like the boys, and without devices either. Go to to learn the trick. And be warned: This is required reading before visiting Zeitgeist.

Home Restaurant (2100 Market at Church)

You'd never guess it from such a modest restaurant, but Home's bathroom is super impressive. As you enter the spacious unisex chamber, you feel instantly at peace. Is it the handsome lighting, or the pleasant odor? Is it the charming candles, or the gorgeous wall-length mirror? Maybe it's the endless stream of free-range toilet paper -- TP that doesn't seize and tear every time you try to take some. No, at Home it's all about the sink. The chic rectangular washbasin is about 4 feet long, angling gently down the length of the room. And it's got water pressure to die for. The stream is so lovely and fierce it made us wonder if there shouldn't be laws banning such indulgences. Although maybe the more troubling question is why the bathroom at Home is nicer than the restaurant itself.

About The Author

Dan Siegler


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