Food Porn Pondering the smuttiness of D.C.'s restaurant bathrooms

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Kuller eventually found his own copy of the portrait at a discount poster shop in Rehoboth Beach and put it up in his bathroom at home. The photo later took on greater significance when Kuller’s general manager, Michael James, came over to his house one day. At some point, James walked into the bathroom and noticed the Sackman photo. “He looks and says, ‘I have this in my house also!’” recalls Kuller.

When Kuller decided to open Proof, which debuted in 2007, he wanted to do some sort of homage to his beloved Montrachet restroom. “I wasn’t really doing anything other than taking something that I always enjoyed when I went to a restaurant and figured other men would enjoy it at this restaurant,” he says. “But I didn’t want to copy them, so I didn’t want to have the same photo.” He spent hours searching for a comparable backside to display. Eventually, he came across the works of photographer Christian Coigny. Two “beautiful shots” caught his eye: one bare-assed beauty standing upright and another lying on a bed. Now both butts hover over the flushers at Proof. (The leggy lady wallpapered, at the suggestion of Kuller’s architect, Griz Dwight, along the opposite side of the room, is originally the work of some anonymous artist, Kuller notes.)

Contacted for comment, photographer Coigny says the model now turning her back to countless male patrons at Proof is an old friend that he hasn’t seen in years. He also says he takes no offense in finding out that his precious works of art now inhabit the same general ecosystem as air fresheners and urinal cakes. In an email from his home in Switzerland, the photographer writes, “What people do with my photos is my smallest concern as long as they are considered and looked at.”

The photographer will be happy to know that his portraits draw stares from more than just leering men. “Women would go in there and bitch,” Kuller says, “because their guy friends or husbands would come back and go, ‘Oh my god, do you have pictures in your room?’”

The ladies’ room at Proof, it turns out, is not quite as racy as the men’s side. The chamber is bathed in hot pink in tribute to Kuller’s daughter’s room at home, though he did jazz things up a bit. Look closely at the shiny wallpaper and you’ll see tiny fishnet stockings in the pattern. In some ways, Kuller may have wished he simply stuck up nudes in both bathrooms. With its original stainless-steel touches and fancy Italian Bisazza tile, he notes, the ladies’ lavatory “cost way more money than the men’s room.” (For a brief time after opening, management offered tours of the men’s room for interested women.)

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For some patrons, however, the nudes hold greater value. One customer, in particular, became a little too possessive of Coigny’s handiwork. One night, Proof hosted a large dinner party from the French embassy. After their meal, Kuller recalls, the group headed over to the restaurant bar to continue their revelry. Later, the manager, James, spotted one of the male embassy staffers sneaking out the back door with one of the framed nudes from the restroom. James chased after him, shouting, “I know who you are!” The next morning, the manager called the embassy and threatened to contact authorities if the provocative photo was not promptly returned. Later that day, Kuller says, the apologetic thief sheepishly returned the goods.

For his next restaurant, Kuller tried to better bridge the gender gap with his restroom designs. “When we opened Estadio, my feeling was I wanted to do something that addressed all the bitching I got from the women about unfair treatment,” he says. That olive branch arrived in the form of shirtless soccer players—true to the restaurant’s Spanish theme—displayed in the ladies’ room. “My wife is, like, you have to put up [Cristiano] Ronaldo,” he says.

At least one other man’s wife approves: “More than a little surprised to see Cristiano Ronaldo occupying the same space with me while I was attending to personal business,” reports Estadio patron Adriana Thelkeld. “In a shirtless and sweaty pose, Christiano had my husband waiting a little longer at our table for my return while I admired the artwork!”

Still, it remains a controversial call. “Of course, no one’s ever happy because, you know, I put up Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s widely regarded as the hottest guy in soccer, and he plays for, obviously, Real Madrid. But we’ve had women writing on Yelp, ‘He’s Portugese—not Spanish.’ It’s unbelievable.”

Photo Slideshow: D.C.'s Smuttiest Restaurant Bathrooms

Our Readers Say

I can dig these folks pushing DC's conservative envelope. Let's keep the conversation pieces going!
You should check out the wallpaper print in the Brasserie Beck Men's room. Not quite as graphic, but tittilating nonetheless.
Leave the priests with little boys out of it.
Interesting, I hadn't thought of it from the nostalgia angle before. I feel like it's meant to seem both provocative and playful. All of these things are sexy, but sexy in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way, like the peeping Tom pictures at Proof. It's meant to surprise you and then be something you can laugh at and tell your friends about. Sax was going for that angle but much of it was just downright offensive.
Ladies, we're getting jacked. These people need to step it up in our loo, or I'm going to start going where the guys go...
i'd rather just have a trough for in/out efficiency, higher volume, and saving water.
I am super annoyed that the ladies' rooms at Proof and Thunder Burger are so lame! What sexist decorated those bathrooms? Why don't women get to oogle men's buns? They're also very nice to look at. Let's start with Cristiano Ronaldo's and go from there. I'm not going to either establishment until they're more equal-minded.
I agree with Julie. Women are definitely getting the short end of the stick. That was literally my first impression when I decided to take my own tour of Lincoln's men's room (back in September). By comparison, my first impression of the women's room was *ugh*... "what's this all about?!" It's blindingly, shocking pink and non-sensical swirls made me feel: a) dizzy, and b) as though I was inside of a box of some random feminine hygiene product. And that's how it started. I came back and shared with my friend (quite randomly) the horror of the decor in the "Ladies" room. It was enough to make me lose my appetite, although I did enjoy the "Lady Lincoln" and whatever it's called that they serve in that cool little metal cup -the Lincoln Sour? YUM! He responded, "oh...it's not like that in men's room at all." When he described it, I flat out didn't believe him and went to see for myself (with his assistance, of course). It was a giggle (I "get" the joke) but at the same time, I was also absolutely incredulous, stunned, and mildly outraged. I even took photos with my phone camera. In my 'humble' opinion, the message was crystal clear -women, you're supposed to be all sugar and what? since there was no "spice" there! Keep your libidos in check? I couldn't decipher it. Did the "pink" have a whole other subtext (I'd prefer not to contemplate too seriously)? Really? I mean really? The decor and "vibe" in the men's room? I could appreciate it (on one level) for what it was. Well done -even though I felt the message ultimately suggests that women are simply objects or to be objectified. The space and lighting was warm, relaxing, an oasis, a sanctuary -Zen, almost: Enjoy them (women), fantasize about their 'parts' (while you take take care of business), just make sure you "Keep Your Tools Clean." So, what are you saying -be safe about "it"? Which tools, exactly, are you referring to (since recent stats suggest most men do not wash their hands -a whole other issue)? The juxtaposition could not be more sexist (and even humiliating). I confess, Estadios' women's room was a much more pleasurable experience and at least the 'object' of attention is a real person - A "Marilyn Monroe" of hot boys, if you will. "Like." A+ for the attempt at 'art' and providing customers with a pleasurable experience in "The John." Very cool and much welcomed. There are establishments in Paris that mastered that years back and I'm pleased we've finally 'caught on' -but dear Lincoln, your women's bathroom is not 'art' or 'pleasurable.' Maybe I'm just not enlightened enough? The "illusory paintings of "friends" did indeed illude me, altogether. It's a shock to the system (visually, psychologically and emotionally). How about another attempt? A re-do (which I heartily suggested to one of your employees that night). How about a message for all the single and/or married ladies that also encourages them to indulge their fantasies as well? Heads up! We have one (or many) and they are definitely more vivid than your interpretation and perhaps even more vivid than the average male for that matter? I'll leave it to you to figure out what that is. But all signs currently point to "clueless." And just a bit of additional advice, I'd take a pass on a theme featuring "cartoonish woman" the Thunder Burger in Georgetown apparently employes (and advocates?). Webster's defines cartoonish as "a ludicrously simplistic, unrealistic, or one-dimensional portrayal or version." Nuf said. I truly feel for the woman who's on a date with a guy she barely knows. She goes to "potty and powder" and gets one experience while her date gets something all together different. If they barely know one another, she will likely never know this. But since they've both been "marketed" to and hence, stimulated based on your interpretation of what men and women 'want', in entirely different ways...the end result could likely be an epic fail. Yet, who can say for sure since I did enjoy my meal and my company. The thing is, if I come back, it would likely be for the sole purpose of exhibiting the disparity of the restrooms.

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