Monday 12 May 2008

Soho South Cafe Toilets Offer Plenty of Artsy and Fartsy Qualities

Soho South Cafe
12 West Liberty Street
Savannah, GA USA

Where is it?

There are two bathrooms to be found here, both of which are a bit tricky to find because the place splits itself into both a cafe and art store.

The first is in the dining room. From the main entrance on Liberty St., head inside and approach the maitre d' station. While facing the station, look to your right and you will see some doors along the side wall with a divider wall in front of them. These are the dining room bathrooms, one for each sex.

For the art store bathrooms, walk in from the entrance on Liberty but don't approach the maitre d' station. Instead, turn right into the store, which will be on your right (about 10 feet inside, after entering), and walk to the back right corner of the place. The bathroom is a one-bagger for both sexes.

These second toilets are the ones reviewed below. I didn't visit the dining room ones because the line to them was too long.

What's it like?

This warehouse-like restaurant works two angles: It serves up semi-trendy bistro fare (including a slew of upscale sandwiches and soups, which were delicious and well-priced) while showing off original artwork by Savannah's bustling arts community.

All the art here is on sale, and this is a great place to visit with an artist, like I did with local artist Grant Nelson, because it seems every artist here has some connection to the place, whether it's an exhibition they once held or a kindred spirit they met here. As a result, the atmosphere is decidedly bohemian and art spills from all angles, making a visit both eye-opening and inviting.

Given that, the interior is a bit chaotic as well, and while that makes it a great spot to take a date, I'm not sure if it would be my top pick for a quiet one-on-one conversation with someone. Then again, this somewhat chaotic design is purposeful in order to increase the level of energy emitted by this place, which the restaurant exudes in spades, so really I can't fault it for that.

The gift shop attached to it, which sells a lot of the art found in the rest of the place, extends the design conceit, with art flowing around you from every possible angles. The store provides a great way to finish your meal and perhaps take home one or more of the items that caught your eye while dining.

Likewise, the bathrooms also work the art motif quite heavily, and as a result they make a strong first impression. The walls are made either of red bricks with rustic mortar work or are painted bold colors to serve as accent walls. The floor is a dark slab of linoleum over concrete. The toilet and sink are the standard white porcelain variety. A wrought iron stand sits beside the toilet and sink, holding many spare rolls of toilet paper, and some makeshift wooden pieces serve to hold other bathroom-related items, like air freshener and such.

Also, of course, the walls come covered with paintings, including funny bits of folk art and homemade novelty signs, among others. Certainly this is not a boring toilet.

On the flip side, there was some lingering smells here from the previous user, along with some serious bits of disrepair, including a door lock that looked like it's been hacked at several times with a knife or saw and lots of peeling paint, especially around the sink. Not sure if that is part of the design here, to make it look like the actual bathroom of a struggling artist, but it sure extended the idea to me -- and not in an entirely appealing way either.

Also worth noting: The noise level was a bit high, no doubt the result of the number of people in the gift shop, many of which seemed to be waiting for me to finish my go around and use the toilets themselves. Not much of a gap between you and the public, I guess, or is that the point? Now I'm confused.

Marks out of 10:

7. Like a more artsy version of Polk's Fresh Market, only a little more worn down and less smelly and homey-feeling. But then, it's also more genuinely artsy than chain-restaurant artsy-fartsy places like Cafe Tu Tu Tango and World Beat Cafe, so for that I commend it.

Comments to the Management:

A little more ventilation could be added to reduce the stink from previous users -- if Michael Mina in Las Vegas can do it, so can you. Also, how about touching up some of that paint to make the place look a bit less ragged -- unless of course I'm missing the point and that's the intention here.

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