Monday, March 14, 2011

Bovine Beauty

Where: The Comfy Cow, Louisville, KY

I have another twofer for you!

The Comfy Cow is a local ice cream joint run by Tim and Roy Koons-McGee, who make all the treats in-house. The whole place is adorable and cow-themed, and I advise checking it out if you love yourself at all.

The women's room is very playful, with the color scheme from the rest of the
restaurant inverted-- where in nthe dining room, the walls are a warm
brown with pink and cream polka dots, in the women's room, the walls
are pink with brown and white polka

dots. (The distressed white wood
theme runs throughout.)

Despite the little-girl decorating scheme, everything is rather simple
inside-- fixtures, sink, etc. all very common and expected. Other than
the gilded mirror, there is no art on the walls, and the only other
major decoration in the room is a mannequin dressed as an employee,
in a uniform with an apron, and a wig made out of a mop head. (I apologize for the quality of this photo.)

From this experience, I expected the men's room to be like the women's room, only different-- blue with polka dots, I guess, and a male mannequin.

Little did I know there was to be no mannequin at all. Or polka dots, for that matter.

Both the men's and the women's restrooms at the Comfy Cow are singles, so there aren't any stalls. The aged white-painted wood remained constant, but the men's room was solid brown. Next to the toilet in the men's room-- but not the women's room-- was a rack with newspapers in it. The mirror in the men's room was white distressed wood to match the walls on the lower half, which I actually liked better than the mirror in the women's room.

But the big changes were still to come. Instead of a cutesy mannequin and dots, the men's room decorating relied on novelty art prints of cows in funny situations-- things I suppose men are more likely to find funny? One of them was even an advertisement specially created by another establishment in the same shopping center, Westport Whiskey and Wine.

I loved these prints, and I wish the women's room had something like them.

I was confused, however, by some of the other decorating choices.

The lone shutter mounted strangely on the wall I must assume is analogous to the wall of shutters in the dining room which act as a bulletin board.

The hose... must be... there for some reason, right? Are we supposed to feel like we're in a garden shed? Or, better yet, peeing outside? I will probably never know, and I think I like it that way.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Where: Thai Orchid Cafe, Lexington, KY

This is basically the best little restaurant. Located in a strip mall that appears to be a former warehouse (next door to a Jalapeno's), it's a small family-owned restaurant with the most amazing, authentic cuisine. (For certain values of authentic which I, an American who has never been to Thailand, am able to judge.)

The whole restaurant is adorable, painted a classic pale orchid purple, and photographs of orchids line the walls of the dining rooms. All kinds and colors of orchids-- for whatever reason, this is their gimmick. (It's continued in the bathroom-- above is pictured the lone attempt at bathroom decor.)

The bathroom, however, is disappointing, and it totally breaks the charm of the place. In the first place, it's very Spartan (very econo-closet chic) and doesn't seem to be cleaned very often (or at least very well.) The floor was wet with some unknown substance when I entered.

The mirror was literally a piece of glass mounted on the wall-- no frame of any kind-- and the light, a long fluorescent bulb, was covered with cheap clear plastic. It was doing that awful flickery thing, which I loathe. (The picture below attempted to capture this effect but instead my camera made some weird stripey thing as a reaction to the light, so you can see neither the light nor the mirror clearly.)

Most perplexing of all: on one of the taupe walls was mounted two 8.5" x 11" pieces of clear plastic. Held in with screws, they seemed to be meant to hold some kind of papers in place-- but there were no papers of any kind in evidence.

To conclude, I'd have to judge this a very confusing bathroom experience, and might suggest to the owners of this restaurant that their establishment could become THE Thai dining venue, if only they would class up the restrooms a bit.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Elegance and Fun

Where: Holly Hill Inn, Midway, KY

For my aunt's birthday a few months ago, we all went out to dinner at one of her favorite restaurants: Holly Hill Inn. To quote from their website: "A warm welcome awaits you at the Holly Hill Inn, a charming restaurant in the heart of Bluegrass Horse Country. The Inn, built ca. 1845, offers fine dining in an historic country setting just minutes from Lexington, Kentucky."

It is, quite frankly, adorable. But adorable in a sophisticated way. (It's a very nice place.)

Pictured above: the plate on which her chocolate-orange torte (?) was served.

To get to the bathrooms, you have to walk through at least one dining room (depending on where you've been seated-- the restaurant is old and laid out like a house, so instead of one or two big dining rooms, there are three or four small ones.) Past the waiter's station, past the door to the kitchen, there's this little alcove where the bathroom doors are. Art, pictured here (first outer door, then inner door), tells you which is which.

There's an outer door, then a small space-- no seating or anything, kind of like a receiving chamber-- and then you are by the inner door, I guess so the bathroom line (if there is one) will be out of the way. The inner door is this adorable antique wooden thing with a wreath and an old-fashioned hook lock on the inside.

The whole bathroom was really high quality. Nice fixtures, great tiling. It was pleasant to be in. The faucet was even mounted in the wall instead of a counter, and the sink was one of those cool arty glass bowl things.

Instead of a paper towel dispenser, there was a basket of (really, really nice linen paper) napkins sitting on the toilet tank. You may note the unusual shape and size of said toilet tank.

The most amazing thing to me was how small it was. It managed to feel spacious-- they knew how to handle their space-- but it was really smaller than some of the walk-in closets I've seen. If it hadn't been for the (modestly curtained) window and the very high ceiling, it could have been stifling.

The light fixture and mirror, like the faucet and door handle, were made of a fancy wrought-iron (or something-- I'm no metalsmith.) I was particularly enchanted by the darling chandelier-- I apologize for the blurry picture-- and the little round hanging mirror with its ornamental metal tassles. The very modern-looking art brought in a juxtaposition present in the rest of the restaurant; old and new sensibilities side-by-side.

I also fell in love with this little antique corner-cabinet. It's painted with a flowers-and-birds theme, and has the cutest little handles. The first time I came to this bathroom, I just thought how darling it was, but on a subsequent visit it occurred to me to wonder if a) it opened, or was locked, and b) if it was functional, i.e. did they keep things in it?

And surprise! All the bathroom supplies, including cleaner, spare soaps, spare toilet paper, and at least six almost-finished rolls of toilet paper. I guess they removed them before they were used up for the aesthetic comfort of the patrons? And I guess the staff finishes them off to prevent waste? I mean, some of them weren't much more than three-fourths gone. This is a puzzle I haven't solved.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

To Boldly Go

Where: Third Avenue Cafe, Louisville, KY

This post is quite photo-heavy enough as it is, but I wish I could share with you all the glory of Third Avenue Cafe. It is located, ironically enough, not of Third Avenue but on Third Street-- there is no Third Avenue.

Anyway, if you could see the interior of the restaurant, you'd just know it would have a cool bathroom. It's one of those places-- very artistic, very independent. There are star-shaped metal light fixtures, blue glass bottles everywhere, and monkey see no, hear no, speak no candelabras. There is a mannequin of Elvis (wearing a crown, the white jumpsuit, and Ray Bans, natch) parked permanently in a hand-painted chair next to a table that is shaped like a fish. One of the walls is painted with the silhouettes of the old-fashioned houses across the street. It's just... that kind of place.

I'm starting with a rather lackluster picture of the mirror to make a point, which is this: there is always a mirror. Usually, as in this case, there is a light fixture above it and a sink beneath. The awesomeness and cleanliness and decorating scheme vary, but never this. It is these touches which make the public restroom familiar, even when you've never been in it before.

Oh, and you might want to look closely at the wall surrounding the electric blue mirror frame. See the cool viney thing? Did I not mention that every surface of this restroom has been painted to form an elaborate mural of the outdoors? My mistake.

I begin with these shots-- the one at top taken just above and to the left of the lights as seen in the previous shot, of the sun and a cloud. I picked that one over the perfect picture I took of a cloud and the perfect, neat, not at all disordered black and white check border, because we have to limit ourselves somewhere. Seriously I took so many pictures of this bathroom. Like thirty.

Below it is the wall above the toilet in one of the stalls. Not the handicap one. That's right, that much effort was put into a wall invisible to most of the clientele. That's detail. I have to assume the handprints belong to the owner(s) and their families, because... yeah. In other news, look at the widdle baby handprints!

These are the doors (?) to the stalls, in reverse order from how they appear when you enter the restroom, because I haven't got blogger's weird photo uploading thing figured out yet. The handicapable stall is protected from view by a hand-painted floral shower curtain, because of course. To its real-life left and photo-blog right, the second and more geometrically irregular stall has a real door with some cool star-shaped flowers on it. Just on the outside.

What was my favorite piece of artwork in this bathroom? That would be the seasonal trees inside the second stall (the one with the door.)

I placed them in order according to Carole King, because I can.

On the inside of the stall door was a mountain of graffiti and places people had scratched the paint off, because people are dicks. It's a shame that we can't see most of what was painted on the door other than those cute little purple flowers underneath where Hailey scratched her name.

The vandalism problem was evidently bad enough to prompt a baffling and passive aggressive Sharpie message from the management, which has since been vandalized over to the point that all I could make out was "scratch or" and "Thanks!! MGMT," which suggests to me that the plea was less than successful. Which I kind of feel was obvious, because anyone willing to ruin the artwork by scratching it off was not going to be dissuaded by someone willing to ruin the artwork by writing over it in Sharpie.

Now for the next part, which is a surprise:

Yes, that's right. That's a urinal. You see what I do for you.

You see, after the last post, I was issued a challenge. And lately I've been trying to not back down from challenges.

So I present to you a men's to women's restroom comparison!

I'll say this: I expected the men's room to be a little more like ours.

Like the women's room, it was painted green to about hip height, and then blue, as if to simulate grass and sky. But there were no cutesy flower and butterfly nature scenes for the men. Oh, no. For some reason cuttings from tabloids are much more manly.

It was much smaller than the women's room, though, and was a single-use, which just gives more credence to that stereotype about women going to the bathroom in packs versus men's more solitary animal.

I'd have to say the biggest disappointment about the men's room, though, was the mirror. I mean, seriously, what is that?!

Oh, what the hell. Have some pictures of the restaurant. Not the whole thing, though, or else I'd be here all day-- I mentioned I took thirty pictures of the women's room alone, right? So I have just a couple of shots from the surreal alcove outside the restrooms, set off a little from the main part of the dining room. It has lattice under the skylight and there are Christmas lights and silver glitter paint everywhere.

First, the cardboard Elvis who stood guard outside the men's room with my mom while I snuck in for my daring escapade.

It's a good thing Elvis was there. You never know when someone might sneak up on a little blogger while she is in her first men's room. (Seriously, it's awkward enough taking pictures of the bathroom you're supposed to be in if anyone else is around.) The men's room door is right in plain view from most of the dining room!

Next, the Marilyn Monroe who spooks every single person coming out of the women's room into thinking someone is standing right outside the door waiting for them to finish.

Fun fact: there's a deadbolt on the bathroom door even though there are (and have always been) stalls. So back before they took the wood panel off the doorway to prevent it, it was totally possible for someone to be forced into waiting to get in.

That's all for now. But, remember, folks: if you try to leave out the emergency exit, Barney Fife will see you. And he will give you a ticket. He's a real stickler that way.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Shot Heard 'Round the World

Where: The Safeway That Started it All, Louisville, KY.

It was just a gas station bathroom. You've been in many like it before: small, smelly, possibly infected with hepatitis. I wasn't expecting it to be anything special. I just stopped in on my way out of town.

What I found was so completely out of the norm that I busted into giggles. For months afterward, I found myself telling the story of this gas station bathroom I'd been in. That's when I knew I could no longer stay silent about the bathrooms in my life.

When I was five or six, I was really into stickers. I had a sheet of sparkly butterfly stickers which I stuck to my bedroom door (which, as you can imagine made my mom really mad.) Years later, once I had realized what a bad idea that was and wished to repaint, I had to scrape them off myself.

This bathroom reminds me a lot of that, except that instead of an unattended six-year-old, a bored Safeway employee (or an aesthetically advanced lady hobo) had put giant glittery butterflies, roses, and ivy all over. There were two kinds of butterflies used, meaning at least four packages of stickers contributed to this piece of genius. This was clearly not the work of a child, because no child could reach the ceiling.

It was equally clear that somewhere along the way someone had rethought the decision, because, as is visible in the pictures, most of the stickers had been partially removed. Finding an intact butterfly for the close-up took more than a cursory glance. Even the fixtures were covered. The toilet tank, soap dispenser, and mirror each had a hefty dose of cut-rate decorating.

Whenever you doubt that the world can still surprise you, remember that even a Safeway can have a hilarious portion of glittery magic at its disposal.