News & Politics

Can DC Snag This Year’s Best Restroom Award?

Planet Word's loo is up for the top prize. Does it deserve it?

The bathroom in DC language arts museum Planet Word is a finalist for the 2021 America’s Best Restroom award. The annual competition comes from Cintas Corporation, a corporate uniform, restroom supply, and first aid supplier, which nominated the local loo for its colorful displays of bathroom verbiage in some of the many languages highlighted throughout the museum. (The design also includes the many names for animal waste like “scat,” “castings,” and “manure.”) Washingtonians looking to show their hometurd pride can vote here through August 20th.

This is the fourth time in 18 years a DC-area restroom has made the competition’s final round. Past finalists have included the moodily lit bathrooms of Wharf Mexican restaurant Vida (2018), the rustic basins with communal hand-washing at 14th Street’s El Centro (2014), and the eclectic main powder rooms of the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel (2011). Sadly, DC has never snagged the top spot. Is this the year we show the world this city knows how to make the laws of the land AND tinkle in style?

This bathroom connoisseur should think not. As an intermittent sufferer of IBS in denial about her lactose intolerance, yours truly has made the mad dash to enough public restrooms to know what separates the good from the truly great. To enter the upper echelon of latrines, a washroom must meet my following criteria:

  1. Architecture and interior design that speak to an original, cohesive concept.
  2. An entertainment factor.
  3. A sense of security that allows one to public poop without fear of judgment or violation of privacy.

Let us examine how Planet Word’s little penguin’s room holds up to the following scrutiny:

  1. Design: Arguably the most damning factor in question. Yes, the colorful words adorning the walls add a pop of zazz and show some thought to overall theme, but the creativity stops there. The walls and floors are made from the same white tile seen in many an office loo, and the silver doors and automatic sinks are simply drab, darling. 2/10
  2. Entertainment: Clearly the good people at Cintas gave heavy weight to this criteria, as it’s really the only thing this bathroom has going for it. I will concede plastering the walls with bathroom euphemisms in myriad languages (like Swahili and Latvian) is a fun idea that promotes learning in what could otherwise be dead time. But is it really serving that different from my absentminded tapping on Duolingo during my toilet respites? No. 7/10
  3. Poop Safety. Fail, fail, fail, fail, fail. So many cracks and gaps to peek through. I know those doors have all the sound canceling ability of a piece of rice paper. Only the truly insane would drop logs here. 1/10

Perhaps DC would fare better next year should one of these stylish restaurant bathrooms be submitted (and I hear the Line’s water closet is the place for a restroom selfie). This critic’s guess for this year’s winner? Greenville, South Carolina’s Core 24 GVL which features a swing in the bathroom; Mason Ohio’s Two Cities Pizza, which models its bathroom off a NYC subway car complete with handles; or Santa Rosa’s Fancy Flush, a portable restroom “with a French Country flair” that provides TOTAL pooping isolation.

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Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.