Starting a vegan experiment the day before a trip “home” to NYC is pretty stupid, but once I commit to something, I commit. That meant scrounging around to find a brunch spot that would satisfy two vegans (Running Buddy and me), a carnivore (New Best Friend) and the always agreeable Mariez — no easy feat. We landed on Josie’s on the Upper West Side (74th and Broadway), and it didn’t disappoint.
Mariez lamented that Josie’s looked sort of like IHOP inside (true), but the similarity stopped at the dining room. Josie’s restroom, in fact, was quite awesome, despite its deceptively simple exterior, which had pale gray walls, white brick-like tiles and plain white doors. Inside, there were more brick tiles, and the sink was one of those geometric, asymmetrical ones where the bowl is off to one side. And then there was the main event: a floor-to-ceiling wall covered with big square tiles printed with a photo of river stones. How cool is that?
Besides being a temporary vegan, I decided to be an annoyingly picky temporary vegan, and I asked the waiter to please give me the tofu scramble with the veggie omelette filling (asparagus, fennel and portabello mushrooms) instead of the scramble’s Denver-style filling — oh, and don’t forget I need soy American cheese. Between the scramble, several links of soy sausage and home fries (which included sweet potatoes!), I don’t think I’ve ever had such an amazingly satisfying meal. It wasn’t my favorite combination of foods, but I felt perfectly full and energetic, and that feeling lasted until I got back to Pennsylvania at 6pm that evening. I’m not sold on veganism yet, but my experience at Josie’s was a positive one.
Restroom Rating: [rating=4]
Mack Squared, an Afro-Latin dancer extraordinaire, was subletting in Harlem for a few months, and she invited me out to experience the live African music at the Shrine, her favorite local hotspot (134th St. and Adam Clayton Powell).
The Shrine’s restroom is proof that a restroom doesn’t need to be fancy to be fantastic. It’s downstairs, past a clear plastic sign that says “Restrooms,” and the stairwell’s plywood walls are decorated with posters and album covers featuring African-American musicians. This theme continues downstairs in the vestibule outside the one-stall restrooms, with more posters and album covers all over the walls and the restroom doors. Mismatched antique chairs are arranged in a row against a bare stone wall. There are more posters and album covers inside the restroom, covering the upper half of the walls and the ceiling. The floor and lower half of the walls are made of black and white tiles in diamond pattern. A wire basket hangs on the wall and holds extra toilet paper rolls, and a sign in the center of the mirror tells patrons, “Beer now cheaper than gas. Drink, don’t drive.”
The Shrine is truly a Harlem gem and worth a trip uptown to experience something different from the generic downtown bars and lounges. The wooden bar isn’t varnished, and the place hasn’t been renovated in eons, but I’m not complaining when you can get an amazing pina colada for under $10. And if you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it), a random old man from the neighborhood will grab your hand and make you dance with him to the vibrant music. What an evening!
Restroom Rating: 4
During my work trip to Las Vegas, we had our final after-party at Tryst, a nightclub in the Wynn that has an outdoor section featuring a manmade waterfall – pretty amazing.
Tryst’s restroom was all sorts of confusing. After fighting my way through the mass of partiers in the club, I ended up at the exit and not the restroom. I asked someone to point me in the right direction so I didn’t have to keep squeezing between drunk people who were likely to spill their cocktails all over my Tory Burch flipflops. I finally found the restroom, and it was equally confusing inside. I waited in line for a while – typical of a bathroom at a bar or club late at night – and as I got closer to the front, the restroom’s strange construction started to make sense. The stalls were arranged in a circle around a circular sink unit in the center of the room, so the line kept snaking around the sink as a bathroom attendant directed traffic to the stalls and gave out paper towels after women finished washing their hands. The sink structure was covered with metallic gold tiles – very fancy and Vegas-y.
Funny Vegas restroom moment? A placard above each toilet said: “Lewd, inappropriate behavior or the use or possession of illegal substances on these premises is strictly prohibited and will result in removal from the property. ONE PERSON PER STALL.” I feel like these are obvious rules that are taken for granted everywhere on Earth except in Las Vegas.
Restroom Rating: [rating=3]
We held our big evening event at XS at the uber-classy Encore, just a short walk down the Strip from the Palazzo.
The restroom at XS is on par with the hotel and club itself; it’s over-the-top and tacky, for sure, but with a side of high-end allure. A yellow “RESTROOMS” sign glows between palm fronds, and leads you into a vestibule area with curved copper ceilings, and illuminated starbursts and leaves. Metal tubes bulge out of the walls, and cut-out lights indicate “MEN” and “WOMEN.” Inside, the restroom was decorated with endless black-and-white marble all over the floors, the sink counters and the walls inside each toilet stall. The stalls and stall doors themselves were constructed of this marbled, zebra-ish stuff that was really fantastic, but clashed with the more organic grain of the marble. Round mirrors with softly glowing frames hung above the sinks, which were fully stocked with lotions, hairsprays, deodorants and more – I normally don’t care about this, but my hands were cracked from the dry, desert air, and I desperately needed lotion.
We’re all still talking about how awesome XS was, thanks to LA Riots, a fantastic DJ who kept us moving for hours. The catered menu was also quite tasty, including raw fish on little spoons, and scalloped potatoes that I topped with bacon and bleu cheese crumbles. I’m loath to admit it, because I hate Las Vegas so very much, but I had an incredible time at XS…and all of that late-night fun made me miss New York City a little bit.
Restroom Rating: [rating=5]
After eating at TAO, our team headed back to the Palazzo for a last night out at LAVO, TAO’s sister nightclub, before the work part of our trip intensified. I didn’t actually use LAVO’s restroom, but was highly amused that the passageway you take to get from the entrance to the club is decorated like a bathroom – because, you know, sinks are standard interior decorating fare…
The bridge over LAVO’s dining room has glass walls lined on both sides with beautiful marble sink basins. Brass faucets are embedded into the glass walls, and a steady trickle of water drips into each sink. At the far end of the bridge, is an antique-style bathtub, flanked by candles in hanging metal baskets. A painting of Rubenesque bathing beauties hangs above the bathtub. So bizarre.
LAVO’s nightclub was pretty lame. Highlights included watching lots of really drunk girls “dance” (read: fall all over one another) on a ledge near where we were sitting, and hearing this summer’s delightful “Bubble Butt” hit by Major Lazer (I’ll spare you a link to the lyrics and music video). Oh dear goodness. Yeah. Vegas. Yuck.
Restroom Rating: [rating=5] … simply because they have a bathroom, with amazing fixtures, that isn’t actually a bathroom!
One thing that sweetens the pill of working in Las Vegas is the team dinner before our event officially kicks off; we get a last hurrah of Vegas five-star cuisine before switching gears to three meals a day of hotel-catered food. This trip, we went to TAO at the Venetian, where we enjoyed endless courses of Asian fusion food, watched over by an enormous Buddha, along the lines of the one at Buddha-Bar in Paris (which I’m sad to see I didn’t blog about…)
TAO’s restroom was pretty incredible, both inside and out, with lots of beautiful artwork, making it seem almost like a mini Asian art gallery: photos of monks in red and yellow robes; paintings of ladies dressed in silk gowns; a line of wooden statues; a candle-flanked shrine. Dark floors and bright-orange walls were a beautiful backdrop for the art, as well as red velvet Dr. Seuss-like chairs in the area outside the men’s and women’s rooms. Which brings me to one of my favorite Porcelain Press moments. Both doors had identical yin yangs on them, and neither door was stamped with a giant “M” or “W.” I paused outside, wavering, uncertain which door I should push. One of the doors swung open, and a guy walked out. He laughed. “The statues,” he said. Aha! A wooden statue stood sentry at each door, and one was clearly a woman and the other was clearly a man. Problem solved.
We had a family-style meal, so I didn’t read TAO’s menu and therefore don’t know what we ordered, but it was all fabulous, especially the fish on a stick. Best of all, the meal at TAO ended with chocolate fortune cookies. I’m a sucker for a trashy, cellophane-wrapped fortune cookie – even though I always get the worst fortunes – and a chocolate version is even more delicious.
Restroom Rating: [rating=5]
I hate Las Vegas, but every couple of years, I have to go for work (recall 2011 entries about the Cosmopolitan and Bellagio). This year was one of those years, and we stayed at the Palazzo, where my palatial suite was practically the same size as my one-bedroom apartment.
One thing I enjoy about fancy hotel rooms is the crazy luxurious bathrooms, which generally have multiple sinks, separate showers and tubs, and little rooms for the toilet. When you’re staying in the room alone, it’s a fun game of “Which sink should I use today?” I used one sink for washing my face and brushing my teeth, and the other for putting on lotion – and I had a vanity on the other side of the bathroom where I dried my hair and put on makeup. Seriously, the Palazzo bathroom was so big you could have a dance party in it and skip going out to the Vegas clubs.
The bathroom was very posh, with black marble counters, wall-to-wall mirrors, a red velvet cushion on the vanity stool, and gray wallpaper in the toilet room printed with black and white flowers. The bathroom also had a TV and a telephone; when in Vegas, why not revel in unnecessary excess even when you’re flossing your teeth? My favorite part about luxury hotel bathrooms is always the all-glass showers with beautiful tile floors – it’s so refreshing and exhilarating to shower with light pouring all over you, even if you’ve gotten only five hours of sleep. Which is pretty par for the course when you’re in Las Vegas for a work function…
Please also enjoy the tiger photos. One of my responsibilities in Vegas was to oversee a “Hangover”-themed photo shoot, and I used my own stuffed tiger for inspiration one evening when I was deliriously tired.
Restroom Rating: [rating=5]