Restaurant design right now – and what’s next

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Since the early 2010s, apologizing in a restaurant’s bathroom has offered the possibility of entering a unique soundscape. You might find a different musical genre than the one played over the dining room speakers. Or you might be greeted with an oral performance or a single song on repeat. Unlike the main space of the restaurant, which is indebted to the demands of culinary comfort, the restaurant bathroom is really a place of play. And the soundtrack doesn’t have to be music at all. At René Redzepi’s Noma in 2015, the bathroom played a 67-minute ‘sound piece’ that was recorded on a farm and in the restaurant and featured both the bucolic sounds of chickens chuckling and the whispers of a reunion. Staff.

Whether these are the noises most customers want to hear when meeting their bathroom needs is almost irrelevant – a unique soundtrack makes a trip to the bathroom obligatory, that you have to go. or not. And years later, even though we may not remember anything else from the dining experience, we will likely remember the bathroom echoing the sounds of barnyard animals, from a TV theme song. or a Korean fairy tale.

theme songs for tv

In the early days of my blog on Eater – we’re talking about Spring 2013, when Obama was president, Cronuts was new, and the Hunger games the film series was still ongoing – one of the coolest places was at Mission Chinese on the Lower East Side. (This was before we knew how much cooking culture was completely dysfunctional.) And as far as I know, the Mission Chinese bathroom was the first to make full use of an unexpected pop culture soundtrack: an endless loop of the Twin peaks theme song. It was also a bathroom that was fully engaged. It was dark and tinged with red, and there was a framed portrait of Laura Palmer on the wall. The general atmosphere was also kitsch and hip; Angelo Badalamenti’s iconic theme provided the background music to a reveler’s coke line just as well as the escape from a bad OkCupid date. It was totally out of left field, transporting and ironic. He reigned. Then Mission Cantina, which opened later that year, arguably got weirder and marked the postage stamp-sized bathroom with the Friends theme song. Peeing, for me at least, was suddenly a timed sport – it’s not an easy song to listen to, and in a confined space, I can’t say it made me linger. But it made me laugh. – Hillary Dixler Canavan

A bedtime story

The Arlo Gray bathroom at the Line Hotel is a loving tribute to Chef Kristen Kish’s mother. When Kish, who is adopted, was younger, her mother read it Cinderella. And since the restaurant is truly an expression of the chef’s life story, a Korean version of the fairy tale is played over the bathroom speakers. The English translation of this specific story is also written on the white walls and the bathroom stalls. There is something intimate and soothing about hearing a woman tell this story in a language that is foreign to me. As Kish had predicted, it was as if I heard a mother read a story to her daughter before falling asleep. – Nadia Chaudhury

The single song playlist

I couldn’t tell you about many of my first special New York dining experiences. But it would be virtually impossible to forget the experience of stepping into the bathroom at Lalito for the first time. The since-closed Californian, Mexican and Southern restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown has undergone many culinary transformations during its time, but its bathroom has never changed. The closet-sized room was almost too dark to be used without fear of a terrible accident. Fake plants covered just about every square inch of the real estate, and when you tried to use the hand dryer, the hot air pushed the entire wall of plastic ferns, whipping you in the face. But the most incredible aspect of this bizarre bathroom was the soundtrack – which was actually just one song, Jennifer Lopez’s “Waiting for Tonight,” played over and over until the last call. Lalito might just be a memory, but that bathroom and his one-song playlist live on in the minds of every New Yorker who has had to pee over dinner. – Elazar Sontag

Language course

There is no better reminder that you are inside Seattle Coastal cuisine than a visit to the toilet. The Coastal Kitchen gimmick is a rotating breakfast and lunch menu featuring seafood dishes that highlight regional cuisine from around the world. This means that one day you could take a Spanish course after dining on Barcelona specialties and another learn French before returning to a table filled with French Caribbean cuisine. I’m not sure it’s exactly “transporting”, but it’s a fun touch that stuck in my memory for a long time afterwards, much like a good vacation. Brenna Houck

A voice from beyond

During the four years I lived in San Francisco, it seemed like restaurateurs would do anything to come together, especially when it came to the bathroom vibe – no potted plants, paper towels. hands with high thread content or aggressive patterned wallpaper were not spared. But it wasn’t until I visited Bird Dog, a meticulously appointed restaurant in Palo Alto, that I realized how high the stakes had become. When I entered the bathroom, I was greeted by the melodious chuckle of Julia Child, a recording of her voice over the speakers. It was shocking and deeply strange: I felt less like I walked into the bathroom and into another dimension, one in which Julia Child watched me pee like Moaning Myrtle. But it was also strangely heartwarming, like a lullaby sung by a benevolent ghost. Although I have no idea if this was the effect that whoever decided it would be the bathroom soundtrack, another goal, perhaps more obvious, had been achieved: although I can’t remember anything that I ate in the restaurant, I will never forget her toilet. So to whoever was responsible for this design quirk: Congratulations, you won. – Rebecca Flint Marx

Hillary Dixler Canavan is the editor-in-chief of Restaurant Eater; Nadia Chaudhury is the editor-in-chief of Eater Austin; Elazar Sontag is a writer at Eater; Brenna Houck is responsible for Eater Cities; and Rebecca Flint Marx is Editor-in-Chief at Eater.


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