Bathrooms aren’t just for doing your business anymore. Sure, they’re a place to go #1, but they’re also great for pulling a #7 — or what we like to call “taking a break from my group for a minute to catch up on social media without seeming rude.” Restaurants and bars are starting to pay attention to the multipurpose appeal of washrooms and San Diego is no exception. When the urge strikes, here are 11 (in no particular order) of the funkiest, fanciest and altogether most fabulous facilities around town.
Kindred’s aesthetic is part death metal, part vegan hipster, and all Instagram gold. But once patrons pass the stunning metal-and-marble bar and cozy booths lit by gas lanterns in order to hit the head, they’re greeted with the droning chords of sludge metal gods Sleep on a perpetual lavatory loop. Legend has it the everlasting riffs are broken once a day by Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, but the gold-framed portrait of Danzig and his cat hanging next to the sink (in the ladies' room) will neither confirm nor deny the rumor.
1503 30th St., South Park, 619.546.9653, barkindred.com
Grand Ole BBQ, Flinn Springs
With a sprawling indoor/outdoor space specifically designed for guests to spend long periods of time lounging in meat comas, Grand Ole BBQ Flinn Springs (rightfully) anticipated their facilities would host the majority of patrons at one time or another. Each festive restroom features wallpaper portraits — color blocked à la Warhol — of famous bluegrass and country singers like Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and more for a true country feel (without resorting to outhouses).
15505 Olde Highway 80, El Cajon, 619.312.0714, facebook.com/grandolebbqflinnsprings
Craft & Commerce
CH Projects tends not to spare any expense when it comes to the nitty-gritty details of their lavish concepts (see also Born & Raised below). This is especially true at Craft & Commerce, whose famous lavatories survived a 2016 revamp to continue their best-known feature: playing audio recordings of bad Yelp reviews over the speakers. It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “talking sh*t”.
675 W Beech St., Little Italy, 619.269.2202, craft-commerce.com
Fall Brewing Company
As a brewery in a converted mechanic’s garage, Fall isn’t the poshest place for a pint (or a pee). Luckily for patrons, they decided not to completely follow in the footsteps of legendary nightmarish venue bathrooms like New York’s CBGB’s. Fall’s toilets are functional rather than fashionable, but the floor-to-ceiling neon gig posters keep their punk rock vibe authentic without the stereotypical cramped mess.
4542 30th St., North Park, 619.501.0903, fallbrewingcompany.com
Perhaps the most famous San Diego bathroom there is, Bang Bang’s shrine to heartthrob Ryan Gosling has been Instagram fodder for nightclubbers since 2013. The wait for the stall can cause issues for those who’ve had one too many vodka and Red Bulls, so consider enjoying one of the other themed stalls instead (Hello Kitty, anyone?).
526 Market St., Gaslamp Quarter, 619.677.2264, bangbangsd.com
Visitors to the loos at The Local may get a little stage fright, thanks to the myriad of eyes gazing down from the, um, unique wallpaper. From The Iron Sheik to Macho Man Randy Savage, a collection of wrestling’s Who’s Who plasters the walls of the men’s room (sorry — or maybe you’re welcome — ladies) at this downtown watering hole. Some may feel nostalgic for Wrestlemania’s early days, some might be creeped out, but everyone remembers these bathrooms.
1065 Fourth Ave., downtown, 619.231.4447, thelocalsandiego.com
Kimpton Hotel Palomar San Diego
Californians tend to be on the cutting edge of progressive ideals, and bathroom politics are no exception. The spacious upstairs communal restroom at the Hotel Palomar (which services the downstairs Curadero restaurant, as well) is open to everyone (and with cleverly disguised stalls that appear to be a solid wall, there’s an enhanced sense of privacy). Say goodbye to long lines for the women’s room.
1047 Fifth Ave., downtown, 619.515.3000, hotelpalomar-sandiego.com
Born & Raised
“It’s like pooping in the DiCaprio Gatsby movie,” a friend explained when discussing Born & Raised’s opulent johns. It’s no surprise that a $6.5 million project that literally rewrote capacity regulations in the city paid attention to every nook and cranny of the space. Their mix of highbrow/lowbrow luxury carries into the restrooms, where CH Projects always adds a cheeky (get it?) touch.
1909 India St., Little Italy, 619.202.4577, bornandraisedsteak.com
Trailer Park After Dark
In contrast to the upscale vibe of Born & Raised, Trailer Park After Dark fully embraces its trashy appeal with an irreverent take on trailer parks while nodding to the retro-kitsch appeal of classic American diners. The subterranean spot fully commits to the theme, even going so far as to stock their bathrooms with a “medicine cabinet” of pregnancy tests and fake eyelashes and beer kegs-turned-urinals.
835 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp District, 619.236.1550, trailerparkafterdark.com
Realm of the 52 Remedies
If you’re “privy” to the hidden speakeasy within Convoy Street’s Common Theory gastro-tavern, it’s advisable to explore every facet of the beautifully designed space — including the privy itself. The sleek black walls and minimalistic design choices somehow nod to both the future while also paying homage to the past.
4813 Convoy St., Kearny Mesa, 619.535.0118, 52remedies.com
It’s generally accepted that avoiding eye contact in bathrooms is the norm… which is exactly why insideOUT has embraced the abnormal. This over-the-top spot not only encourages eye contact with other bathroom buddies in the unisex bathroom, but anyone who happens to be walking by. The glass exterior walls literally break down the barriers between the inside and outside of the restaurant (making the name pretty on-the-nose).
1642 University Ave., #100, Hillcrest, 619.888.8623, insideoutsd.com
Honorable mentions: Polite Provisions, Holy Matcha, The Grass Skirt, Stone Brewing, Raised by Wolves
Beth Demmon is a San Diego-based craft beer writer whose work has appeared in BeerAdvocate, Playboy, Thrillist, MUNCHIES, Tales of the Cocktail, and more. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.