Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Il Fornello, Grazie, Scaccia, Toronto

The bathroom signs of several Italian restaurants share the common theme of classical nudes.

Il Fornello
214 King St W, Toronto
Many other locations

Grazie is home to my favourite pasta dish – their "Tasca" is a lasagna made with fresh pasta filled with ricotta, spinach, mushrooms & brie baked in a creamy tomato porcini sauce.

2373 Yonge St, Toronto

55 Bloor St W, Toronto

Café la Gaffe, Toronto

Café la Gaffe is a French bistro on the eclectic Baldwin St. that offers lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.

Café la Gaffe
24 Baldwin St, Toronto

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bell Lightbox, Toronto

Malaparte, the 6th floor event space at the TIFF Bell Lightbox run by Oliver and Bonacini, has beautiful floor to ceiling mosaic tile images of what looks like a young Robert Deniro and Meryl Streep at the entrance of their washrooms–the perfect bathroom signs to reflect this cinephile's mecca.

Bell Lightbox, Reitman Square,
350 King Street West, Toronto

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Rahier Patiserrie, Toronto

The French patisserie Rahier is one of our favourite places to go for cakes and pastries.  My favourite cake is the Dumas, made with  hazelnut mousseline, dark chocolate mousse and hazelnut dacquoise. 

Rahier Patisserie

1586 Bayview Ave, Toronto

Bishop and Belcher, Queen Mother Café, Queen and Beaver Toronto

Photos of British royalty seem to be a popular choice for bathroom signs, although the use in some restaurants make more sense than in others.

The Bishop and Belcher is a traditional English pub serving typical fare such as bangers and mash, fish and chips, liver, bacon and onions, and even Indian curries, which is what you actually find in London pubs.  Therefore having a portrait of King Edward VII as the male bathroom sign and one of Queen Elizabeth II as the female sign seems completely apropos.

On the other hand, the most British things about the Queen Mother Café are its name and its bathroom signs that depict King George VI and his wife, the Queen Mother, Elizabeth Duchess of York, and not its menu, which is more Asian fusion.

The restaurant which you would think definitely should have portraits of British royalty as its bathroom signs is the Queen and Beaver, whose walls are filled with images of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II.  But for some inexplicable reason, the bathroom signs are merely the letters "M" for male and "L" for "ladies", abeit very stylish letters covered with sleek, red leather.  At least the mens' urinal has a sense of fun and whimsy.

Bishop and Belcher
175 Bloor St E, Toronto

Queen Mother Café
 208 Queen St W, Toronto

Queen and Beaver
 35 Elm St, Toronto

Fuzz Box, Toronto

The hippyish, slightly irreverent terms of "dudes" and "chicks" on the washrooms of The Fuzz Box seem a bit out of place for a vendor of Nova Scotia styled donairs.  I would expect to see such signs in a dive bar rather than in a place that sports a Nova Scotian flag in its front window.  But the donairs are really good, so who cares!

Fuzz Box
1246 Danforth Ave,Toronto

Coffee - Balzac's, Second Cup, Toronto

The Balzac's Coffee location in the Distillery District seems to always have long lineups, sometimes out the door.  They have a great second floor space that displays rotating art and serve a delicious café frappé.

Balzac's Coffee Roasters
Distillery District, 1 Trinity St. and many other locations

The coffee chain Second Cup uses their company logo as the basis for their bathroom signs, again reinforcing the company brand.

Second Cup
1560 Yonge St.
Many other locations

By contrast, the boring generic bathroom signs of some of Second Cup's competitors do nothing for their corporate brands.

Fox and Fiddle, Toronto

The chain of pubs named "Fox and Fiddle" use their bathroom signs to reemphasize the name of the establishments by using "Foxes" for the male sign and "Vixens" (which are female foxes) for the female sign.  This could also remind tipsy patrons which bar they are in.

Fox and Fiddle
1535 Yonge St., Toronto
27 Wellesley Ave. E, Toronto
Many other locations

La Petite France, Toronto

The traditional, turn-of-the-century images on the bathroom signs of the French bistro La Petite France reflect its menu of traditional French cuisine such as steak frites, coq au vin, and boeuf bourguignon.

La Petite France
3317 Bloor St W, Toronto

The now defunct French restaurant called Matignon had the same idea with their signs.

Frida, Toronto

The high-end Mexican restaurant Frida is named after and inspired by Mexican artist Frida Khalo, with examples of her art decorating the walls throughout.  It is therefore aptly appropriate that the bathroom signs should be two iconic self-protraits which she painted, including one where she had cut off all her hair and dressed herself like a man in a suit.  While the images are more than sufficent, the signs are labelled with the Spanish terms "Hombres" for "men" and "Mujeres" for "women.

999 Eglinton Ave W, Toronto

Bahn Mi Boys, Toronto

The bathroom signs at Vietnamese sandwich shop Bahn Mi Boys (the original one on Queen St), reflect the youthful, hip, manga vibe that the restaurant itself exudes.  Bahn Mi Boys has elevated the traditional Vietnamese sandwich to the next level with their trendy gourmet offerings.

Bahn Mi Boys
392 Queen St. West
399 Yonge St.

C'est What, Toronto

It's a good thing that the gender symbols on the bathroom signs for trendy brewpub C'est What are accompanied by the text denoting "Men" vs "Women" since I always get those symbols mixed up.  In a recent survey of local pubs, C'est What was one of the few found to pour an full 20oz pint of beer.

C'est What
67 Front St E, Toronto

Bymark, Toronto

The bathroom indicators at Bymark were a challenge to photograph because they were large figures painted down the entire length of the washroom doors, situated down a narrow hallway where you could not get far enough back to get the whole image in the frame.  Mark McEwan's high-end "business-man's expense account" restaurant in the financial district is home to one of Toronto's most expensive burgers–the 8oz P.E.I. grass-fed burger with brie, porcini mushrooms and crispy onion rings or fries for $35!

66 Wellington St W, Toronto

Bathroom Sign Collection - The Red Tomato, Toronto

For a long time now, I've been fascinated with the interesting and creative ways that restaurants and other establishments depict men versus women on their bathroom signs.  So I've made a hobby of collecting photos of unique signs from washroom doors mostly found in my home city of Toronto, Canada, but also from my travels around the world.  I've also got friends and family on the lookout for me and they often send me photos of a good "bathroom opportunity" as I like to call it.   My bathroom sign photo collection spans back multiple years so unfortunately some of my best finds are now obsolete as the restaurants have since closed.  But new restaurants always open, and it is like a fun treasure hunt to be on the lookout for the next great discovery.

The hobby of bathroom sign photography is more challenging and even danger-prone than one might think.  Many washrooms are located in dark narrow hallways where it is difficult to get at the right angle or achieve the proper lighting for a good photo.  Using flash often makes it worse since you get a big glare spot that obscures part of the photo.  And you want to be quick about it or else you get weird looks from the waiters or other patrons, especially if you catch one of them coming out of the washroom as you snap the photo.

A well-thought-out set of bathroom signs not only add charm and whimsy to an establishment, but can also be used to promote the company brand.  The brilliant images from the washroom doors of the Italian restaurant The Red Tomato visually reinforces the name of the restaurant, and doesn't even need words to differentiate the "men" vs "women".

The Red Tomato
321 King St W, Toronto

I will be adding my current collection to this blog and then will continue to add more as I find them.  If anyone has some cute examples that they would like me to include in my blog, please send them to retiredat48book@gmail.com with details of what establishment and city it came from.