Wanted: A local restaurant serving good food at reasonable prices with an ambiance that’s conducive to conversation. Long, involved conversation that can be clearly heard in between bouts of laughter. It should also have a good bathroom.
I’m taking recommendations before making reservations, though I’d prefer a place that doesn’t require them, since we’ll probably reschedule a few times.
That’s what usually happens when my group of grade-school friends tries to get together for a girls’ night. This month we finally succeeded, after scheduling and rescheduling since summer. Conflicting schedules, work obligations and viruses kept getting in the way.
It was worth the effort to keep trying. We’ve known each other since we all had baby teeth. When you’ve been friends that long and seen each other through the good, bad and ugly, getting together is a tonic.
It’s comforting and energizing to see someone who knew you when you wet your pants at the baseball game and when you dated that dufus, but still stuck around to see you grow up. Someone who has celebrated your successes and grieved your setbacks. Those words scrawled in notes that we folded like origami before passing in class came true. Friends forever.
But I’m wondering if there’s a better venue for our girls’ night gatherings. While our homes are comfortable, they’re filled with family. We need to escape into another understanding, where we can catch up and reminisce for hours, enjoying the inevitable mix of tears and laughter that comes with sharing the past and present of our lives without the sugarcoating we feed acquaintances.
We’ve eaten in many good restaurants but most aren’t designed for our kind of evening. Frequently, music blares, as if unwilling to stay in the background. Conversely, subdued settings are often offset by steep prices.
Sometimes waiters interrupt, hoping to turn the table, or they disappear with our water glasses left unfilled. We promise to tip well. Just keep those glasses unobtrusively topped off, please. We drink a lot of water. Which brings me to the bathrooms.
In today’s age of entertainment sections, online review sites, five-star rating systems and old-fashioned word-of-mouth, there are a plethora of ways to prejudge a restaurant before taking the first bite.
But nobody seems to mention the unmentionable. Bathrooms. Something so simple yet important shouldn’t be overlooked, especially when establishments seem to be trending toward trendy with lavatory design.
An uncommon topic, our conversation turned to commodes at our recent girls’ night gathering after one of my friends returned from the restrooms, a perplexed look on her face.
I’d suggested the new Hop Jack’s Valley location, thinking it might mirror the well-priced yumminess I’ve found when meeting North Side friends. As expected, the happy hour specials and service were good. But those bathrooms. What were they thinking?
You couldn’t call the ladies room a powder room or washroom because it wasn’t. The only place to wash up, check your teeth for food and make any required wardrobe adjustments was at a shared sink and mirror sandwiched between gender-specific rooms for taking care of business.
It’s as if the designer had envisioned a modern school lavatory on a bigger budget. But customers aren’t children who can’t be trusted around running water. All forms of freshening up, as any woman knows, isn’t an activity meant for a mixed-sex audience.
We speculated that perhaps the public washing station was an attempt to pressure all patrons into the sanitizing practice that keeps germs from spreading. Everyone should wash their hands well after using the facilities, a fact that some still fail to follow.
Still, if the design was a subtle attempt at social engineering, I don’t think it worked. The guy next to me only wet one hand. Eww! That’s not the kind of situation that whets one’s appetite.
This unfortunate observation led us to compare the hygienic amenities at other eateries. The Davenport wins for the pristine privacy it offers in a row of rooms that keep any sounds or smells secret. Plus, they provide real towels for hand-drying.
One of my friends asserted that a recent visit to Beverly’s proved its amenities are equally upscale if you’re eating in Idaho. Unfortunately, our dining budgets rarely afford that level of luxury. They’re more casual than fine.
For another across-the-border bathroom experience, I told them about the nearby Crafted Tap House in Coeur d’Alene; the artistic steampunk vibe of its restrooms is creative, though the heavy use of metal might make you calculate the date of your last tetanus booster. But at least the sinks are where they belong.
Not that the bathrooms really matter. Or anything else about the restaurant. We could eat anywhere, as long as we’re together. After all, most of our shared meals were school lunches.
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