Food & Drink

Dear Johns

Some Baltimore bathrooms offer the best seat in the house.

Here’s something we’ve noticed: Even the best restaurants sometimes fall apart in the restroom décor department. And maybe it’s just our pet peeve, but when nature calls, there’s nothing worse than a blah bathroom with industrial-scented soap, an empty paper-towel dispenser, and a can of Mediterranean Lavender Febreze for freshening.

But lately, we’ve spotted a trend toward bathrooms with serious style points (not to mention great reading material).


The manga artwork in the lovely loos at this steamed-bun boîte offers a personal connection for co-owners Steve Chu, Nick Yesupriya, and Ephrem Abebe. “All the manga in the bathrooms is manga we actually read—Dragon Ball Z, Naruto,” explains Chu. “The whole restaurant is nostalgia for us. Everything means something—it’s not just thrown together because it looks nice.” It also helps contribute to the authentic ambience. “We wanted to give it an Asian feel,” says Chu. “We wanted the guests to come in and feel like they stepped into a small shop in Taiwan or Tokyo.” 1622 Eastern Ave., 410-558-1914

Woodberry Kitchen

Looking for a great recipe for creamy polenta with grilled vegetables, or perhaps a foolproof guide to making hollandaise? Next time you gotta go, check out the restrooms at Woodberry Kitchen, which are papered with the pages of Gourmet magazine. Though the magazine is no longer in rotation, it lives on at the lavatory. “My mom, Alice, subscribed to Gourmet for years,” says co-owner Gjerde. “And that was the source of her culinary inspiration. Those are all of her Gourmet magazines in our bathrooms. She had them bundled up in the basement for years. I was like, ‘I’ll take them.’” 2010 Clipper Park Road, 410-464-8000

Hamilton Tavern

This Hamilton haunt offers patrons not only one of the best burgers in town, but also a great chance to catch up on the classics. Co-owner Felicia Shakman has papered the W.C.’s walls with writings from literary greats, including Jane Austen, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Mary Shelley for the ladies, and Jack Kerouac and Aldous Huxley for the gents. “Some of them are my old books and a lot of them came from The Book Thing,” explains Shakman. “We wanted this place to be special and fun, and give people food for their bodies—and souls—so they feel nourished in every way.” 5517 Harford Road, 410-426-1930


The bathroom “wallpaper” at this barbecue joint is fashioned from the pages of Hit Parade and Circus magazines. After months of clipping interviews with Bon Jovi, the Beastie Boys, Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper, and others, co-owner/manager Keith Thompson, a lifelong musician, turned the pages into a Mod Podge project. “I saw all those ’80s bands at a young age, which fueled my fire to play music,” says Thompson. “[Co-owner] Josh White and I met over music, and I wanted to bring some musical flair to Smoke.” 574 Cranbrook Road, Cockeysville, 410-891-8515

Honorable Mention

While there’s no literary theme here, we’d be remiss if we overlooked the prettiness of the powder rooms at fine-dining mecca Magdalena. The walls are layered in Venetian plaster, the floors are made of limestone cement, and the ceiling, which was eight months in the making, was created by a Moroccan artist who made colorful wood carvings. 205 E. Biddle St., 410-514-0303