The Metro’s Greatest Bathrooms1/7/2015
Let’s be honest: It doesn’t matter how hardcore or badass you are, nobody relishes the idea of being in a bar and realizing “I have to poop.” For most places, restrooms are an afterthought, a section of floor space that makes your business absolutely no money, but that you pretty much have to have anyway. That is why “10 Worst Toilets” columns are so easy to write. They are low hanging fruit.
But sometimes, shining out like lighthouses in the darkness, you’ll find a place that puts some thought into their throne room. They may be rare, but an establishment that cares about your comfort level while you take the Browns to the Superbowl has a distinct advantage over its less accommodating brethren. So, to kick off the new year, we thought we’d pay a little homage to the places that get it right. The spots where getting to siphon the python is more than just a bodily function, it’s a bodily privilege. There’s no rhyme or reason to the order of the following list, because when you’re when you’re sounding your foghorn in one of these stalls, everyone’s a winner.
Von Maur, Valley West Mall
Von Maur has been bringing fancy to your pantsies for nearly 40 years now. Since its opening in 1976, the most upper-scale of Valley West Mall’s anchor stores has carried a well-earned reputation as THE place to deposit those food court leftovers. As an extra bonus, Von Maur is one of the few places where the men’s rooms are as decadently appointed as the ladies’ facilities. With white tile, wood paneling and brass-plated drinking fountains, the Davenport-based department store continues to show people that walking the extra three minutes past the public restrooms is worth it.
Von Maur’s individual stalls aren’t the biggest in town, but they make up for it with solid dividing walls and full doors, making you feel like you’re baking your brownies in a cozy little cabana. In addition, the store gets extra points for having a big waiting area for people who don’t actually need to go. Big, wooden benches, well appointed walls and those brass drinking fountains make waiting a pleasure, no matter how much Sbarros Dad is getting rid of.
Jordan Creek Mall Food Court, Jordan Creek Town Center
The bathrooms at Jordan Creek’s food court have a lot in common with Von Maur’s. Full-length tile dividing walls for the stalls, wooden doors, and a huge waiting area with vending machines make the Jordan Creek depositories a worthwhile experience. The big difference between Jordan Creek and Von Maur is that while the latter is built to handle one department store, the former is made for a whole mall’s worth of sewer sundae. As a result, these bad boys are huge. The men’s room features a dozen stalls and another dozen urinals. The area also includes not one but two family restrooms, both of which come equipped with tiny toilets for your crappers-in-training.
Other lavish additions to the Jordan Creek experience are the two baby changing stations that are located off the main waiting area. These chrome-plated diaper dorms are like Escalades for your baby’s butt, complete with padded changing tables and wall-to-wall mirrors so Junior can watch himself get his swag on. YOLO.
Lifetime Fitness, Urbandale
Fitness centers always kick the bathroom bling up a notch, thanks to being equipped with showers and personal lockers. But even within its subset, Lifetime Fitness stands head and totally ripped lats above the rest. Lifetime Fitness gets its boost thanks to two important categories: square footage and towels.
Just like everything else at the new Lifetime complex, this Club Med for your caca is gigantic. Featuring dozens of day-use lockers and row after gleaming row of shower stalls, Lifetime makes sure that you can get get your sweat on, make a post-workout protein purge, and still come out smelling like roses. And once you’ve washed off a hard day’s effort, Lifetime doubles down on decadence with unlimited towels, ready and waiting to swaddle your swag wagon in soft, cottony goodness.
But don’t feel like you can just waltz on in for a mid-day shitz-and-spritz. Like any exclusive venue, Lifetime’s porcelain paradise is blocked off by the velvet ropes of membership. But for those willing to pony up and join the club, Lifetime will make sure you come out looking and smelling like a P.I.M.P.
Wasabi Tao, Hotel Kirkwood
Just like the Little Engine That Could — or Ron Jeremy — this downtown sushi spot is small in stature but big where it counts. At barely 3-foot by 6-foot, the actual square footage of this john makes it the least spacious squat on the list. But while you’re there, it’s like a zen garden for your growlers. Black marble, bamboo and a basin sink made from rough-cut limestone combine to ensure that getting rid of Wasabi Tao sushi is almost as enjoyable as taking it in.
There is one thing to watch out for, though. The tiny restaurant is packed to the gills with seats, and just like in the Lord of the Rings, there’s only one of these things to rule them all. So if you’ve got to make room for more California rolls during the dinner rush, you might have to take a number, kemo-saki.
Joker’s, Court Avenue
It’s about time we get a club up on this list, because like any club kid or frat row bro can tell you, just because the music’s bumpin’ and bodies are thumpin’, doesn’t mean someone’s not dumpin’.
There’s nothing about Joker’s bathrooms that could be called “fancy.” Unlike most of the other spots on this list, the club features no marble or fancy tile, and the black painted rows of stalls are pretty basic. The ceilings sport exposed piping, and both rooms are moodily lit by blue and purple lights. The biggest knock against the place is that none of the stalls in the men’s room have doors. This means that if you’ve got some kids to drop off at the pool, you better make it a drive by, unless you want your posse to see you riding dirty.
However, the most noteworthy feature of the Joker’s lounge is best experienced after the soiree in your slacks is over. On your way back out to the dance floor, the mirrors at the sinks are all off set from one another, allowing you to get a gander at the person of the opposite sex scrubbing up on the other side. It’s fun, flirty and gives you single fellas the chance to say “Hey there, little lady. I’m reasonably interested in hygiene, and I’ve very recently touched my genitals.”
Django, 210 10th St.
Django, along with Centro and Malo, is part of downtown Des Moines’ holy trinity of “places to go when you want to feel fancier than you maybe should.” But while any of the three will provide you with a great dining experience, it is Django’s pit stop that takes the cake, along with anything else you’ve eaten that day.
Not as big as some of the others on the list, Django makes up for it with clean lines and lots of travertine tile, which give the whole place a refreshing European feel. On top of that, full, tiled dividing walls between the stalls and oak doors that feature brass coat hooks help round out the experience. Sure, everyone actually goes to Django for the food, but make no mistake: with Warm visuals and a welcoming feel, this brasserie’s bathroom is the single best place in town to drop a French loaf. Sacre Bleu!
Star Bar, 28th and Ingersoll
As the first place on the list with bathrooms that are almost nicer than the rest of the joint, Star Bar comes out swinging. The experience starts right from the outset with a deep-stained oak door accented with a frosted glass window that combine to make you feel like you’re about to step into someone’s private reading room. You can practically smell the leather bound books and rich mahogany from here.
But the swagger doesn’t stop at the door, as all that dark wood gives way to the bright, blue and white interior. The spotless white tile is nothing special but makes the place feel extremely clean. The blue accent tiles and lighter blue paint scheme, along with the white marble counters, gives the place a vaguely Mediterranean feel. Are those pants around your ankles linen? Because you just took a five-minute vacation, my friend. With two urinals and two stalls — that’s four stalls for you ladies — a line can build up on the busy days, but waiting never looked so good.
Prairie Meadows, Altoona
Hey, High Roller, is that a stack of $100 chips in your back pocket, or do you need a little quality time? If the answer is the latter, then, tiger, you’ve hit the jackpot. The Altoona horse track and casino has some facilities that need to straddle a fine line. As such, these little beauties are utilitarian enough to be able to stand up to the 24-hour, never-ending stream of users while still having enough class to say, “Hey there, big spender. Who just won a ticket on the Fancy Poo Express?”
Sure, there’s going to be your standard, high traffic issues — that floor is always going to be just a little sticky — but the ever-present sound of the ringing slot machines serves as a constant reminder that you’re never far away from your next big deposit.
Flix Brewhouse, Merle Hay Mall
It doesn’t matter if you’re a movie fan, a beer fan or just got lost looking for that angel guy on the tricycle, Merle Hay Mall’s center court has got you covered when it comes time to sit and think. The newly opened Flix Brewhouse admittedly makes the list primarily because it’s all so brand spanking new, but don’t underestimate the allure of virgin porcelain when you’re giving back all that movie soda.
Des Moines’ oldest mall hasn’t been a place known for its bling-bling lifestyle for the better part of two decades, but Flix is hoping to help change that with its home-brewed beers, comfy leather chairs, and bright, clean potty places. The interior is aimed more at function over form, and there’s nothing in the design itself that will remind you of being in a Biggie video, but the spacious stalls, clean counters and close proximity to the theaters will have you feeling like a star in no time.
Gas Lamp, 15th and Grand
Let’s be honest, the word “greatest” means something different to everyone. While most people look for the opulence that will let them live that campaign lifestyle, for others, it’s all about being true to who you are. And for that, Gas Lamp’s indoor outhouses win in spades.
You are not going to find anything plated with brass here; Gas Lamp is not that kind of place. But as a bar with a decidedly CBGB sensibility, the bathroom’s décor is designed to make your inner scum bag feel right at home. The place is well-used, but not dirty; it’s covered in graffiti, but never feels seedy. But Gas Lamp’s biggest calling card is the wallpaper. Like a perverted version of Haley Joel Osment, take one step into Gas Lamp’s honey buckets, and you’ll see naked people.
The Final Word
There are plenty of other swag-tastic places in the city in which to chuck a little mud. From Miss Kitty’s to Exile Brewing Company or from Red China Bistro to Pal Joey’s, there are literally dozens of places in Des Moines where brewing up a batch of Mello Yellow doesn’t have to be a pedestrian affair. They say that life is too short to drink bad wine. Well, friends, I say that life is too short to give that wine back in squalor. Thanks to these places, you don’t have to. Here’s to you, you Lords of the Loo. Without you, Des Moines would be a little crappier. CV