Monday, April 25, 2011

Wendy's, Erie, PA

5902 Wattsburg Road, Erie, PA 16509-4034
Grade: C-

No surprises here. This Wendy's off of Interstate 90 features a very standard men's room. The facilities are a little on the dirty side, the hand dryer offers very weak performance and the toilet paper dispenser is a bit of a reach from the toilet itself. Not much more to say, really.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

State Tower Building, 16th Floor Stairwell

109 S Warren St # 102, Syracuse, NY 13202-1798
Grade: A+

While there is nothing particularly special about this restroom in terms of appearance, convenience or features, it's the location that makes it so unique. This tiny bathroom -- and many others in the State Tower Building -- is  located in the stairwell. As seen in the second picture below, the door opens directly off of the stairwell itself. Many of the restroom doors are locked, and presumably can only be accessed by people with offices on the corresponding floors. The 16th floor women's room was open, though, allowing me a peek inside. (Note: I did not realize it was a women's room until after I was inside, so please don't think of me as too much of a creep.)

Again, this is fairly standard stuff. But the view from the large window is absolutely spectacular, and quite unlike any you will find from most bathrooms.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


936 Freeport Rd., Pittsburgh, PA 15238
Grade: B+

If you don't mind waiting 2 hours on a weekend night, Burgatory is an excellent spot to partake in the eating of creative/customizable burgers (mine was organic beef on focaccia with chipotle sour cream and avocado... right??), washed down with a cucumber/rosemary gin and tonic or alcoholic milkshake.

If you don't mind navigating the establishment's inexplicably slick floor through a thick crowd of people, you may even have a chance to visit their perfectly decent men's room. The facilities are decorated in a somewhat industrial fashion, with gray floor and wall tiles and a light fixture that seems as though it is made of iron pipe fittings. The glass/stone mosaic liner tiles on the wall are a very nice touch, as is the above-counter sink. The only real drawbacks here are the lack of a hand dryer and a proper, built-in soap dispenser.

There is something I would like to mention, though it is somewhat embarrassing. This goes without saying, but the usual labeling system for men's and women's restrooms is "Men" and "Women." Certain establishments do tend to get cute with this sometimes (take the Rex Theater, which instead uses images of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe to differentiate between its bathrooms), but generally it is spelled out and pretty clear. With Burgatory, though, I almost walked straight into the women's room. Their restrooms are marked with "B" and "G," which in retrospect quite obviously means boys and girls. Myself, having just imbibed one of these aforementioned cucumber/rosemary gin and tonics, first saw the "G" and took it to mean "guys" (the women's room is at the end of the corridor and is the first that is immediately visible, with the men's room only coming into sight as you move further into the corridor).

Don't ask me why I thought this; wouldn't one restroom being labeled "guys" mean that the other would most likely be labeled "gals," hence leading to great confusion in their abbreviated forms? Still, I did not immediately find the "B" and "G" to be sufficient in pointing out which restroom was which, especially when the "G" was the first thing I saw.

Anyway. I'm not sure the point I'm trying to make here. Maybe some readers will see where I am coming from, and maybe others will think I am completely daft.

Also -- if the pictures below are somewhat underwhelming, it's only because my phone is horrible at taking photos in low-light situations. And to say that the restroom is a "low-light situation" is not a bad thing; it is a pleasant dimness.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Park Bruges

5801 Bryant St., Pittsburgh, PA 15206
Grade: A

While at first glance I found Park Bruges' men's room disappointingly plain, a closer inspection revealed beauty in the subtle details. The white-on-white color scheme is somewhat generic, but the restroom's decorative touches -- the light fixture above the mirror, the trim where the wall tile meets the painted wall, the modern urinal and top-mounted sink designs --  offer a classy appearance nonetheless. The facilities are clean and temperate, and the soft lighting (from the fixture above the mirror, as well as from recessed bulbs in the drop ceiling) lends a comfortable ambience. And then there is, of course, the Xlerator hand dryer, otherwise known as the greatest invention of all time.

The one slight drawback was the roll of toilet paper sitting on the back of the toilet, though that might have been a way to get around the somewhat frustrating toilet paper dispenser (detailed here).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sheetz #299, Grove City

1931 Butler Pike, Grove City, PA 16127
Grade: D

Well, now we know that this was not a fluke.

I could be wrong, but it has always seemed to be that Sheetz attempts to differentiate itself from other convenience stores/gas stations with its focus on food service, incidents involving intoxicated athletes (RIP)  and all-around hugeness. I worked in the wholesale grocery and tobacco distribution industry for some time, and it does seem that, in general, Sheetz wants you to think of it as something other than an everyday gas station.

But based solely on their men's rooms, it isn't. This is an entirely different location than the one that I visited in March, but it suffers from many of the same problems: water and paper towels all over the floor, a dirty sink, a "wet floor" sign despite the fact that the facilities did not seem to have been thoroughly cleaned anytime recently. This restroom had the added bonuses of a toilet that had not been flushed and whose seat was sprayed with urine (I spared you a close-up photo), as well as an extra toilet paper roll perched, for some reason, on top of the condom dispenser. Also, this Sheetz has decided to display not one but two signs promising the cleanliness of its restrooms. I contacted them regarding the state of the last one I reviewed, and I am certainly going to contact them about this one. But come on, Sheetz. This is getting old.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Starbucks, Wexford

100 Vip Drive, Wexford, PA 15090-6928
Grade: B

Though this Starbucks men's room is fairly nice (as expected), it was slightly on the stinky side upon my viewing. I would also think that a company like Starbucks would at least attempt to give off an image of environmental friendliness by providing an automatic hand dryer as opposed to just a paper towel dispenser, but this is not the case. There are also no automatic fixtures to speak of, and there was a high amount of condensation on the urinal lever, making for an unpleasant flushing experience (which, perhaps, is why the patron before me did not bother to flush it at all).

The dual-colored walls are pretty though, as are the decorative wooden mirror frame and vanity light.

This might be the occasion to bring up an annoyance I have been experiencing (but not really menitoning) in several restrooms recently. The toilet paper dispenser used in this bathroom is of the dual-roll design, with one roll being stored on a track above the other. The idea is that when the first roll is empty, one moves the second roll into place and it slides down the track so that the user can retrieve the paper. The problem with this system is that when the second roll drops down, it sits on top of the first (now empty) roll, which causes a good deal of friction and prevents the new roll from rotating smoothly. As a result, I often find that several small amounts of toilet paper are accidentally torn free at a time. These small amounts then need to be collected and wadded into a larger, useable portion, which is somewhat inconvenient and frustrating. Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

KFC/Taco Bell, Dunkirk

10517 Bennett Road, Dunkirk, NY 14048
Grade: D+

Here we have a relatively plain bathroom with enough minor drawbacks to knock it into the realm of below average. Though the facilities are mostly clean, there were some paper towels on the floor around the garbage can. The toilet paper dispenser seems to be coming apart, and it is mounted so far from the toilet that one needs to lean way forward to access it. The original lock on the stall door is missing and the hole left in its absence has not been covered up, so you can see straight through to the toilet from the outside of the stall. The base of the stall has also become detached from the floor.