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Freezing Bathrooms=Omen

SOBoston Mar 24, 2011 06:40 AM

Whenever dining at a sit-down restaurant, I find that cold and/or freezing bathrooms usually lead to a bad-mediocre meal with parallel service and atmosphere. I have no idea why, but it has become more of an omen than anything than just a fluke in the heating system. I guess, in a way, I feel like the front and back of the house are equally and important---but other areas tend to be overlooked.

Has anyone else had this experience? Or finds signs previous to a meal that especially irks them or makes them wary of the establishment?

  1. u
    ukitali Mar 30, 2011 12:34 PM

    Mouse in the bathroom=bad sign. Needless to say I let the waiter know about the critter, quickly finished my glass of wine, paid the bill and left without ordering food.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ukitali
      sunshine842 Mar 30, 2011 01:20 PM

      I know you guys are going to think that Europe is overrun with animals, but it really isn't.

      But...every centuries-old building in the middle of winter probably has a few resident rodents. And going to the next place down the street isn't going to help - they have a few, too.

    2. ipsedixit Mar 24, 2011 09:32 PM

      Given a choice between a hot bathroom and a cold one, I'll go with the latter any day of the dining week.

      8 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit
        greygarious Mar 28, 2011 07:53 AM

        Amen, ipse!

        As for other omens - the bread basket. The variety, temp, and quality of the bread are tells, obviously, but my heart sinks if the butter is salted and in packaged pats. I'll forgive the package if it's unsalted butter. Extra points for a tublet of Smart Balance or similar low-cholesterol spread in addition to the butter, since it signifies a restaurant's desire to accommodate diners with health concerns.

        For breakfast restaurants, the jam/jell/preserves selection is a tarot deck. Tublets of grape and apple jelly alone says "abandon all hope, ye who order here".

        1. re: greygarious
          sunshine842 Mar 28, 2011 12:30 PM

          with you,there...and you know,I don't think in all my years of staying in hotels, I've ever seen ANYBODY eat the apple jelly! Maybe there are only 15 tublets of apple jelly in the world, and they just get rotated from place to place....

          1. re: sunshine842
            greygarious Mar 28, 2011 12:56 PM

            I do, or the strawberry or the marmalade, because for me, the only place for grape jelly is between peanut butter and bread. Whenever I see those sad little tublets, I recall how the owner of a modest pensione in Rome elevated the basic continental breakfast to something I remember fondly 40 yrs later. I loathe dark roast coffee, so every morning it was a pot of hot chocolate, accompanied by small hard rolls, curls of unsalted butter, and the ounce-sized aluminum tublets of preserves made by the Swiss company, Hero.

            1. re: greygarious
              sunshine842 Mar 28, 2011 01:54 PM

              oh, but Hero is a whole different level than those little apple jelly things.

              (so are a lot of European brands! Jam here just tastes like jam should taste)

          2. re: greygarious
            ipsedixit Mar 28, 2011 02:56 PM

            As for other omens - the bread basket.
            ____________________

            Worse yet, if the bread basket comes with only prewrapped, individualized packages of Saltines crackers, breadsticks, and melba toast.

            Or, if they give you Saltines as part of your salad appetizer.

            1. re: ipsedixit
              mucho gordo Mar 28, 2011 04:51 PM

              Forgive me for not paying attention but I must have missed the link between this post and the freezing bathrooms topic.

              1. re: mucho gordo
                sunshine842 Mar 28, 2011 11:28 PM

                things in a restaurant that serve as bad omens regarding the calibre of the food.

                1. re: sunshine842
                  mucho gordo Mar 30, 2011 11:11 AM

                  Thanks for the wake-up, sunshine.

        2. im_nomad Mar 24, 2011 08:26 PM

          Not wary or the restaurant per se, but in addition to a few mentioned here, the places with the too-thin walls that have bathrooms that open directly into the restaurant. No one needs that kind of soundtrack to their meal.

          1. rockandroller1 Mar 24, 2011 01:12 PM

            One of our very nice restaurants in my town always has freezing cold bathrooms. I think it is an architectural problem. The way the building is, you almost have to go out of the building and into a separate hall and all the way down to the end of the hall to get to the bathrooms, it's like they aren't part of the building that houses the restaurant, and there don't seem to be any heat vents in there. I suppose they're too nervous to put in space heaters, but it's very bothersome as they're nicely equipped and designed in terms of looks, but always terribly cold. I try hard to hold it if I'm dining there.

            1. Motosport Mar 24, 2011 01:06 PM

              I have found in older buildings in Southern Europe (of which there are many) the bathrooms were put in relatively recently (last 100 years) and tend to be separate from the dining area in another part of the building and unheated. No reflection on the quality of the restaurant.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Motosport
                im_nomad Mar 24, 2011 08:22 PM

                I've been to a couple of those in N.A. restaurants and bars. And tbh they give me the willies. I do not like feeling like I'm descending to a dungeon alone.

                1. re: Motosport
                  sunshine842 Mar 25, 2011 01:24 PM

                  lots of 'em in Northern Europe, too....hell, I know people who have bathrooms in their HOUSE that aren't heated.

                  1. re: sunshine842
                    c
                    chefathome Mar 25, 2011 01:42 PM

                    Heck, all over Europe! Sometimes it's an adventure just to get to the bathroom and try to find your way back. An added bonus are the squat toilets (also mentioned above).

                    1. re: chefathome
                      s
                      sedimental Mar 25, 2011 08:45 PM

                      Yup. I spent years in the middle east.....cold restrooms are the least of your concerns.....:)

                      1. re: sedimental
                        l
                        lemons Mar 26, 2011 07:03 AM

                        Will spare you the tale of the aftermath of a very, very spicy meal in Bangkok as we visited a street market the next morning.

                2. c
                  Cachetes Mar 24, 2011 11:47 AM

                  I haven't been to a place with a cold bathroom in a long, long time, and the places it occurred were always dives, so my expectations were pretty low to begin with.

                  As for bathroom cleanliness, I worked as a dishwasher at a restaurant after college. The first thing I had to do when I arrived each day was scrub the bathrooms from top to bottom. The last thing I did each evening was to scrub the kitchen from top to bottom. If the former is not happening at a restaurant, the latter likely isn't either.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Cachetes
                    w
                    Whinerdiner Mar 24, 2011 12:04 PM

                    Exactly.

                    1. re: Cachetes
                      im_nomad Mar 24, 2011 08:24 PM

                      A consistently dirty bathroom is one thing, but there is always going to be THAT person who goes into a bathroom ten minutes after it was cleaned, and who was never taught the basic rules of personal cleanliness or general bathroom etiquette. No fun to enter a bathroom after THAT person.

                      1. re: Cachetes
                        s
                        soupkitten Mar 24, 2011 08:53 PM

                        uh, unless the restaurant is one of those totally weird places that DON'T employ the same person to scrub the toilets, as scrubs the dishes that folks eat off of. . . and classically, the cooks clean the line and their own stations at the end of every shift in order to set it up properly for the next day's crew, not the dw-- who is in charge of just the dishes, the mats, trash/recylcling/compost, and mopping the floor (and that's PLENTY). am i the last traditionalist in the world who is completely disgusted by the thought of seeing a dishwasher in her/his *uniform* dealing with gross bathrooms, and THEN touching plates, silverware and barware? yuck yuck yuck :(

                        1. re: soupkitten
                          c
                          Cachetes Mar 25, 2011 10:00 AM

                          Whether a restaurant has two different people to do the bathroom and kitchen, or uses the same person, the principle remains: some restaurants emphasize cleanliness and others don't. If the place has a filthy bathroom, I don't really trust that they are doing a great job in the kitchen. And your characterization is right on - the cooks did clean up the line, the garde mange did their area, though of course not the pans, containers, utensils, etc. they used. The prep area, refrigerators, and all of the rest you mention, was left to the dishwasher. I worked at a great restaurant, so it was always guaranteed that the waitstaff and cooks would be waiting with a drink for me at the end!
                          Most restaurants do not have a full-time staff person who will be there throughout the day/night with the express job of cleaning. So, if a mess appears in a bathroom in the middle of the evening, it seems to me that there is often no one more appropriate to do it than a dishwasher. Though I agree - having to envision it all is pretty yuck.

                          1. re: soupkitten
                            n
                            nkeane Mar 25, 2011 01:58 PM

                            wait, are we in ancient India? is the person that cleans the bathroom an "Untouchable"?
                            Trust me, being a bartender, I have on scores of occasions, cleaned up some of the most horrific bathroom "incidents" your mind could possibly conjure up, washed my hands, and went back to work. That's just the way the world turns.....

                            1. re: nkeane
                              h
                              hsk Mar 25, 2011 08:22 PM

                              I think SK was being sarcastic. Most places are like that, whoever is handy or available deals with issues related to the bathroom, obviously it's better done asap.

                              1. re: nkeane
                                s
                                soupkitten Mar 26, 2011 08:35 AM

                                oh trust me, being a bt for 10 years i have quite an imagination ;-P i'm not sure you want to go there!

                                there are of course occasionally biohazards that nobody on staff has any business cleaning up, as a homicide detective once had to make a point of stressing to my disgruntled employer (who wanted the barback to just go ahead and mop up a bunch of blood that had spent hours visibly separating solids from plasma as the staff waited their turns to be interviewed)--some jobs are for the pros. hopefully these incidents are *very* far and few between.

                                a full-on scrubdown of bathrooms shouldn't be taking place during business hours by anybody who will go on to handle *anything* (including clean dishes) to do with food prep. a separate crew should come in for a restroom deep clean (in the a.m. or early afternoon for dinner restaurants, and the wee hours for bars-- even dive bars). that's why (in bars) these folks are called by a name i've always found uniquely evocative: "swampers"--it's not a nice job, but establishments pay handsomely for it so their own staff do not have to deal with (insert your own euphamisms). it's also acceptable in very small places or places with very large non-service crews (like security staff) to have someone clean restrooms at the very end of the night-- after all there is no foul in sanitizing urinals when the same person isn't going on to handle ice buckets and service trays and dishes and *food.* deep cleaning the john *before* their back-of-house job, though? i. shudder. to. think. not because i have any lack of imagination, but because i've had plenty of opportunities to see a fantastic spectrum of nightclub, restaurant and dive bar restrooms when the lights come back up at 3-4 a.m. some of the mess in "nice places" can compete with the mess in the dive bars, btw. . .although there is somewhat less of a chance in the "nice places" of folks constantly ripping the paper towel and soap dispensers off the walls, i'll give 'em that.

                                for the record, i'm not talking about an emergency plunger detail, or some fratboy or toddler puking on a table or urinating off of the balcony-- these "sanitary emergencies" obviously need to be cleaned up by somebody asap (probably by the foh as opposed to boh, ha!). no, i'm talking about the routine cleaning, where someone is on their hands and knees scrubbing toilets. i honestly fail to comprehend why people think that this person should be one of the folks in charge of sanitizing the hot line or rotating deli meat in the cooler-- or that these jobs have/should have anything to do w each other. sure, if a cook uses a restroom during her/his shift and there are some paper towels left on the floor-- pick 'em up, throw them away, wash hands, go back to work-- but if there is a real sanitary problem in there, for fook's sake, get someone else who isn't handling food to deal w it-- even a foh manager is a better candidate than the primary broiler guy, come on!

                                i may be ridiculously inflexible in holding to my old fashioned ideas like "don't shit where you eat," but fwiw my local health department agrees w me. folks who want to point to a smudge on the front window of a restaurant or a smudge on the floor of the men's room as evidence that the *kitchen* of a restaurant or any other business is unsanitary seriously need to realize that most establishments have divisions of labor and that the brunch crew comes in at 6 am to crack eggs, not wash windows and wipe down toilet seats!

                                wrt to the op-- i am apt to overlook bathroom messes that are non-life-threatening biohazards if there's a decent chance another customer has caused it *recently* (today/this evening). if it's still there the next day, then, sure! that's a problem! sometimes bathrooms trending toward messy have more to do with traffic (because the place has great food/is small but popular) than it is a reflection on the staff.

                                i'm a bit of a germophobe who doesn't touch restroom door handles, but honestly public bathrooms don't bug me, it's a sanitary facility not an atmospheric lounge (outside of vegas). places with gorgeously appointed, cavernous bathrooms that are always immaculate are sometimes that way because the food sucks but the customer can see what s/he is paying for when it's time to tinkle--whatever. often causes me to wonder if mgmt's priorities are more on the quality of the bathroom fixtures than the freshness of the fish, if you know what i mean-- it could point to the opposite kind of problem.

                                i have to say that cold restaurant bathrooms aren't even on my radar--and i live in minneapolis, where restaurant bathrooms can be seriously cold in january. restrooms are more likely to be in the oldest, or the newest, part of any restaurant build-out, it's often an architectural or engineering problem that just happens commonly. compounding the perceived problem, many restaurants wind up putting up very heavy doors to restrooms because some customers will complain if they happen to hear a toilet flush while they are eating. some customers, ahem, will complain about *anything*-- but those heavy doors are quite adequate insulators and the restroom's temp will be ten degrees low with cold tile. again, it's whether the restaurant is making pains to take care of me while i am sitting at the table, than while i am sitting on the commode, and i'll take the former over the latter each and every time. damn, enough of this ridiculous subject.

                          2. l
                            lemons Mar 24, 2011 10:28 AM

                            Where we live, the problems is nearly always in Asian restaurants, mainly Chinese. I have no good explanation for this. In a related situation, we often have really cold water at the sinks in such restaurants, even if they're heated. No answers on that, either. (Health Department must love that stuff.)

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: lemons
                              mucho gordo Mar 24, 2011 11:39 AM

                              Funny you should mention Asian restaurants. There was a Thai place I used to go to. It was run by a single (I think) young Thai woman. I never said anything about her letting her toddler roam freely but I did draw the line when I saw her father or g'father sleeping on the floor behind the counter. I guess it's one of those "cultural" things we're supposed to tolerate.

                              1. re: mucho gordo
                                arashall Mar 24, 2011 11:50 AM

                                It is a cultural thing! That's completely normal for Thailand. Many, if not most, businesses are an extension of the family home. It's not uncommon for space to be cleared away for the family to sleep, watch TV, cook, whatever after the business closes. And it's also fairly normal to sleep between customers, since you are at home ;-)

                                1. re: mucho gordo
                                  SOBoston Mar 30, 2011 05:02 AM

                                  Late return to the party. There's a restaurant here in Boston that allows their "security" cat roam freely and sleep on the booths out front. Even if I loved cats, it would still make my screen crawl---and the food is pretty good. Hopefully sans cat hair.

                                  1. re: SOBoston
                                    sunshine842 Mar 30, 2011 06:39 AM

                                    that one doesn't faze me anymore, either -- in Europe it's more common than not in small places to have a resident pooch, and people bring their dogs in all the time. Most of the time, they nap under the table and you never even know they're there unless you happen to see them.

                                    When you're sitting outside, all the neighborhood cats (most are well-fed and housed, just greedy) wander by to see who might hand out a taste of something.

                                    1. re: sunshine842
                                      SOBoston Mar 30, 2011 07:59 AM

                                      You never worried about them jumping up on counters/tables and wandering into the kitchen?

                                      1. re: SOBoston
                                        sunshine842 Mar 30, 2011 10:36 AM

                                        Never seen one do it.

                                        and there's birds on most terraces (the cats don't chase them, because the cats are looking for easier work than that...and it usually works)

                              2. Motosport Mar 24, 2011 08:53 AM

                                To me it is a general indication that money is tight and the management is scrimping on what they consider "non-essentials". Similar to a restaurant keepin the A/C off on a hot day to save a few bucks. If it's 80 degrees in Manhattan turning on a fan and opening the windows and doors is not going to cut the hunidity.

                                I haven't noticed a connection with the food quality.

                                1. b
                                  beevod Mar 24, 2011 08:11 AM

                                  Never had that problem. The restaurants I frequent have indoor plumbing.

                                  1. w
                                    Whinerdiner Mar 24, 2011 07:58 AM

                                    Bathrooms in general are a good indicator for me.

                                    I have to say, I'm not a fanatic when it comes to house cleaning. I have simple criteria. For me, if the dishes are done, the litter boxes are changed, the dog toys are in their basket, and the birds have fresh cages, I'm happy. We tend to do "commando" cleaning once a week. Work like mad for one hour, and then out the door.

                                    However, if I go into a bathroom in a restaurant, and it's not spotless, I get worried. It shows me that the owner is not on top of things. - That basic hygiene is slack. We went into a place once that had the same dirt on the bathroom floor that it had on the previous visit. Ugh, we left and never went back. It makes you wonder what the areas that are off limits to customers look like.

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