The most notable places to relieve yourself—or take a mirror selfie.
Vera’s gender-neutral communal restroom. Photograph courtesy Gallery Armada.
The spiffy new restrooms at BWI airport are a contender for the 2023 title of “America’s Best Bathroom”—an actual award handed out each year by the Cintas Corporation.
This got us thinking—what does it take to be one of America’s best bathrooms? And which area bathrooms might the awards committee be overlooking? For an expert take on what makes a restroom great, we spoke to the unofficial authority on toilets in the Nation’s Capital: NoMa resident Chris Waldrop, who runs the Instagram account dc_bathrooms.
Waldrop, 50, is a federal worker by day and lavatory archivist by night—he’s been using Instagram to highlight unique bar, restaurant, and museum bathrooms since 2016. Having grown used to cool, interesting venues with bland, boring bathrooms, Waldrop decided to start keeping an eye out for the ones that “actually put a little effort in.”
“I really like a bathroom with a sense of style, where it looks like they’ve thought about all the different touches,” Waldrop says. “From the faucets to the wallpaper to the tile, everything. I also like bathrooms where you can tell [the venue] has a sense of humor, or they’re kind of following through on their theme.”
With that in mind, here are some of his—and our—favorites.
501 Ninth St., NW
José Andrés’s high-end cocktail bar mixes the modern and the surreal, and the bathroom reflects that, with rolls and rolls of toilet paper covering the walls.
250 Massachusetts Ave NW
We recently designated the bathroom at Capital Crossing restaurant Bar Spero as one of the coolest bathrooms for a mirror selfie. It sports massive sets of sunglasses for restroom mirrors— 90s style Pit Vipers to be exact.
657 C St., SE
The coziest bookstore in DC is organized haphazardly—handwritten index-card notes mark the sections, and book stacks reach the ceiling. The bathroom is an extension of the chaos. It’s certainly not glamorous, but it does contain the bookstore’s entire foreign language section. “Because foreign language in this country is in the toilet,” owner Jim Toole once told Washingtonian.
920 Blagden Alley, NW
This stylish Peruvian restaurant has a snug tasting room on the first floor (Causa) and a more laid-back bar on the second level (Amazonia). The latter is where you can find the chill, rainforest-themed restroom. “They have all these really beautiful murals that were hand-painted of a rainforest and panthers, monkeys, parrots, and such,” says Waldrop.
79 Potomac Ave., SE
Not only does the retro-style beer garden have nearly 20 urinals (with built-in sinks!) in the men’s room, the bathroom is also aesthetically notable, with ambient lighting and a very 2001: A Space Odyssey vibe.
1218 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Waldrop calls this Georgetown Mexican restaurant’s unisex washing station “kind of wild.” It has no mirrors—customers are left to stare at one another while washing their hands over large metal basins.
480 Seventh St., NW
Yet another busy José Andrés spot has a bathroom with a built-in audience. Stock-image-style art plastered on the floors of each bathroom depict a diverse, smiling crowd of people looking up at you, all with their hands held high. When was the last time someone looked this excited for you to use the bathroom?
1815 Adams Mill Rd., NW
A mural featuring drunk monkeys and wallpaper with stoned koalas noshing on cheeseburgers. What more is there to say?
1608 Wisconsin Ave., NW
Designed by New York-based artist Wirat Assawamahasakda, this trippy Georgetown ramen spot feels like a cross between The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars. The bathrooms, packed with trinkets and lit by neon, are no exception.
920 Girard St., NE
Some serious points for uniqueness here—customers at this classic Brookland brewery can head to the bathroom and play a full-sized piano across from the toilet. Just make sure, Waldrop says, to “please wash [your] hands before playing.”
26 N St., SE
This Florida beach-themed bar in Navy Yard has committed entirely to the bit. Not only are the floors covered in blue tile, but the bathrooms are modeled after the changing rooms at your local public pool. “You think beach bar, you kind of assume cargo shorts and Coronas,” co-owner Fritz Brogan previously told Washingtonian. “We kind of want to turn that on its head a little bit.”
Looking for more eccentric toilets? You can follow dc_bathrooms on Instagram.