In a city that prizes space so rapaciously, it’s really a shame how many establishments waste the real estate of the bathroom. So many people visit it, every day! Shouldn’t we aspire to something better than that generic “ambience” with the awful watery pink soap and scratchy toilet paper?
Here are seven of the quirkiest places that made more—a lot more—out of their commodes. Turns out that from Long Island City to Midtown to Prospect Heights, creative lavatories abound in NYC!
Photos via Toilet Guru
Bulgarian bar Mehanata is known to be pretty wild—it features three floors of bars, music stages, hookahs, stripper poles, and sex swings. There’s even an ice room, where for $20 you are given a Soviet military uniform and a shot glass made of ice, and have two minutes to drink up to six shots of vodka. The men’s room in particular is special here, showcasing bright red lipstick-mouthed urinals and leggy sinks.
One of the more famous bathrooms in Brooklyn is the TARDIS loo at steampunk-themed bar Way Station. If you’re not a Dr. Who devotee, TARDIS stands for “Time and Relative Dimension in Space.” In the show, the machine, disguised as a police box, can transport one to any point in time and space. While the TARDIS bathroom can’t quite do that, rest assured that it’s definitely bigger on the inside.
This basement sake bar is notoriously difficult to find—you have to enter through an under-construction office building, then wind your way down several unmarked hallways and staircases. One you’re in Sakagura though, the spot boasts a variety of Japanese tapas and over 200 kinds of sake, with bathrooms that continue the theme: each stall looks like a gigantic sake barrel.
Williamsburg prop shop and photo studio Acme Studios is an impressive exercise in organized chaos. The whole place is just teeming with things—figurines and furniture and statues and taxidermy and instruments and tchotchkes of all shapes, sizes, and hues. And the bathrooms are just as beautifully dense: one is a miniature art gallery, and another is basically a curated jungle filled with statuary. You can take a virtual tour of all the bathrooms (and the rest of the space too) here.
Located in a former carriage house, restaurant Smith & Mills is heavy on turn-of-the-century details, including antique dishes and blueprints of old ships on the walls. And then there’s the bathroom: not only is it housed in an elevator car (built in 1902!) that was moved piece by piece from a nearby landmarked building, but the sink was taken from an old railcar, and you have to lift it up into the wall to drain the water.
This art collective, housed in a former greeting card factory in Queens, is known for immersive, interactive art installations, and the group often involves their bathrooms in the fun. As part of “iSpy,” a surveillance gameshow, one collective member built a “Flush Capacitor” that tweeted every time the toilet was flushed. During “Housebroken,” a building-wide exhibition, another member, Brendan, installed dozens of hook-and-eyes on the inside of the bathroom door, and during the opening, yet another member, Adrian, performed opera in the shower with the door open, wearing nothing but gold trunks.
This Minneapolis-themed bar (named for one of that city’s main thoroughfares) is owned by a bunch of Midwest rockers, including members of the Hold Steady, the Wanted, and w/o. Lake Street has a rocker theme, including hanging lights made of old tom drums. And the bathrooms? One is covered in seventies black-light posters, and the other is wallpapered with pages from the diary of Hiro Tanaka, photographer and roadie to dozens of bands, who learned to speak English on tour buses.
A few honorable mentions go to:
Secret Project Robot, Bushwick
The Secret Project Robot art collective started in the basement of the old Monster Island in Williamsburg. Now they have a big space in Bushwick where they showcase art, music, installations, drag revues, and lots more. The actual bathrooms aren’t so exciting—though you do have to hop up a step to the raised throne, which can be a bit challenging. What’s much more interesting is waiting in line for the bathroom, which you do standing in a hallway where the walls and ceiling are completely covered in stuffed animals.
The previous most bizarre bathroom in Soho was Bar 89, which had clear glass doors that became opaque only when locked. Since that bar closed, Peep Thai restaurant has surely taken over the top bathroom spot in the neighborhood. The conceit? Peep’s bathroom doors are one-way mirrors, so you can “peep” at the other diners while you’re doing your business, but they can’t see you while you’re doing so.