Dining editor Lisa Arnett may have reviewed the ground-breaking restaurant "Next" and movie reviewer Matt Pais might get RedEye's first look at "The Hobbit," but, dear readers, this reporter lucked into the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the restrooms at the Radisson Blu.
Please stifle your overwhelming jealousy.
Why the Radisson, you may ask? Well, Cintas, a company that designs and builds "full-service restroom programs" for companies, has scoured the nation every year for the last decade seeking the nation's best bathrooms.
In 2011, the restroom at the Field Museum took top honors, but the city's only 2012 nominee in the top 10 is at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in the Loop. The Radisson battles it out this year with tough competition like the Virginia Tech stadium bathrooms and Liberty Market in Gilbert, Arizona.
Voting on Cintas' web site ends Oct. 26, but in the meantime, RedEye could hardly pass up a shot at judging the city's entry.
I visited both downstairs womens' bathrooms at the Radisson Blu in an undercover operation that would make Woodward and Bernstein proud.
On my way to the restrooms, I ambled past a piece of art featuring a young woman smoking a joint, prompting high hopes for the relaxing experience inside.
Not entirely to my surprise (I cheated and looked at pictures before I went), I found the bathroom walls were floor-to-ceiling mirrored tiles, accented with floor-length mirrors and more mirrors over the sinks.
I mean, there are a lot of reflective surfaces, so if you're really self-conscious or believe mirrors steal a piece of your soul, this might not be the bathroom for you.
There was a distinct lack of smell in the premises, the best-case scenario for any restroom, and the music was a soothing blend of space-age Yanni and the soundtrack to a David Lynch movie, sort of what you might expect to hear while getting a hot-stone massage on the Starship Enterprise.
Other than the dizzying amount of mirrors, there were few decorations. Potted aloe plants weren't forced to share counter space with much more than the piles of hand towels.
I didn't have to do much sharing, either, being the only person in both bathrooms. The good news, though, is that I had 573 of my reflections to keep me company.
Inside the dark-gray stalls, things could have been fancier. Yes, there was a sensor-activated toilet, but what self-respecting showpiece bathroom doesn't have those?
The toilet paper was two-ply and quilted, a bonus to be sure, but nothing outrageous.
I washed my hands (hey, I've seen "Contagion") with the gardenia-scented hand soap, which was harder to extract from the dispenser than it should have been. Five pumps for one tiny dollop of soap? If mirrors could kill germs, we'd have no problem.
After my exhaustive examination of the facilities, I sat on the couches before the fake fire in the lobby and sweated for a little bit.
What kind of verdict could I give the finest restrooms in Chicago, I asked myself.
Did the Blu Aqua compare to the medieval grotto-like environs of Da Marino Ristorante in New York? Could it hold a candle to the Art Deco simplicity of the Hollywood Bowl in California?
After some deliberation, I reached the following conclusion: The Radisson Blu's bathrooms may not be the fanciest in the country, they may not be the most technologically marvelous, and they may not dispense enough hand soap for the tastes of one reporter, but no bathroom (and I do mean, no bathroom) has more mirrors.
That has to count for something.
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