Field Museum's thrones crowned
10/26/2011 10:00 PM
Here’s a smattering of recent local press reports about one of our most esteemed South Loop institutions:
“… Finest in America” (Chicago Sun-Times); “… flushes the competition” (NBC Chicago); “… sits atop a throne” (WGN-TV); “… so special (CBS Chicago); “… drawing power” (WTTW); “… top in America” (Chicago Tribune); “… named America’s best” (FOX Chicago News).
What in the South Loop has garnered such hype and praise and acclaim? The ground-floor bathrooms at the Field Museum. They just won the 10th Annual America’s Best Restroom Contest, sponsored by Cintas Corp. (a maker of bathroom supplies).
The voters liked things such as the adorning artwork, the floor plan, the roominess, the eco-friendliness, the faucets and hand dryers, the cleanliness and the family-friendly amenities such as a tot area, nursing facility and small toilets for the kids.
Listen up South Loop community organizations, restaurants, hotels, condo associations, realtors and others who have reason to pump up the area: I guess there’s a good reason to come, eat and live in the South Loop now. The Field Museum bathrooms. We are currently the best john neighborhood in the country!
I was surprised to see this news. As a frequent user of South Loop restrooms, I have always felt that the Field Museum’s were a little creepy. They seem too bright, too eco-friendly (I wouldn’t be surprised if the toilet water is somehow being recycled in some way that would give one pause) and the artwork is a bit of overkill.
It’s only a restroom, for gosh sakes. And just outside the doors are dinosaur skeletons that are millions of years old, intact full size Native American abodes from centuries ago and the real insides of an Egyptian tomb, the stuffed outsides of Bushman the Gorilla and a Hall of Gems worth more than the whole South Loop put together. My advice is not to spend too much time and energy experiencing the Field Museum loo.
But I suspect that people will come from miles around in the coming months to see the award-winning WC, listing it as just another exhibit to check off the list at the Museum Campus.
But let me tell you, visitors interested in seeing bathrooms: There are other South Loop toilets that are just as fresh.
Looking for clean? There are no cleaner examples in our neighborhood than the first-floor restrooms at the Chicago Hilton on South Michigan Avenue. In fact, about the only company I ever have when I use them on my way home to Roosevelt and State is the cleaning staff. (Which can be a bit annoying.) The Hilton havens are adorned with marble, upscale fixtures and attractive lighting. Compared to the Field Museum, you will feel like you are in the home of a Hollywood show-off.
Another restroom I like in the South Loop is the one adjacent to the Custom House restaurant at Dearborn and Congress. You can come right off the street, and not even have to enter the restaurant if you need the facilities on the way home. Just turn the other direction from the dining room, and the tucked-in spacious bathroom is probably going to be all yours.
The Custom House bathrooms are clean, comfortable and almost always deserted, giving neighborhood residents a place for peace and quiet — especially right after crossing that dangerous concrete mess called Congress Parkway.
The restrooms at the Blackstone aren’t bad either. One set is tucked into the far end of the lobby, which requires walking a few steps up from street level. The other set is below the lobby and down a few steps from street level. The downside is that there are steps involved no matter what you choose — but as for privacy and cleanliness, they can’t be beat.
All the bathrooms in our South Loop restaurants and bars are nice — I can’t think of a bad one — so there’s no need to run to the Field Museum when you are out and nature calls. But they all have different atmospheres. Lou Malnati’s, for instance, resembles a hospital. Gioco’s looks like a French cave.
Some are totally private like Flaco’s Tacos and Caribou. And some are a little short of space for the purpose (ie, Blackie’s and Bar Louie).
Some local bathrooms have trouble keeping up with the traffic. For instance, between the students from the surrounding colleges, the international hostel across the street and the Auditorium Theater patrons who all patronize Panera (not to mention the neighborhood residents and general Loop visitors who do, too), the staff has to be on their toes to stay a step ahead in terms of cleaning, toilet paper, soap and towels.
One thing I’d like to know: how come our local Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts have no public bathrooms? Come on guys, even Jewel and Whole Foods offer some relief. I think a place that sells barrelsful of coffee per minute could do the same.
And what’s more, you will never win the best bathroom in America contest if you forego a bathroom. Maybe you are devoting your efforts to the best skinny caramel no whip decaf latte contest or something, but don’t forfeit the one that requires the good toilet paper and the spiffy no-hands soap dispenser. If the Field Museum can do it, so can you!