Friday 18 July 2008

Upscale Outhouse -- That's Essentially the Vibe of the Toilets at the Abbey

Abbey Wine & Beer Bar
117 1/2 N Woodland Blvd
Deland, FL USA

Where is it?

This is a somewhat modes storefront set off the main road in downtown Deland. But it turns out to be a spacious spot and it's got a somewhat straight forward layout to it, making finding the toilets easy.

From the front entrance, head to the back of the place. Once there, look for a hallway opening in the back wall. Head down that hallway, and you'll see the toilets on your right, men's room first, then the women's further back, towards the end of the hallway.

What's it like?

This is a dark, somewhat sophisticated upscale beer and wine bar. While you can get your standard mass markets here, the beer- and wine-savvy staff and vast collection of hard-to-find titles make it a great place for the more adventurous drinker -- especially one with a love for Belgian ales, in which the place specializes. (Hence the name.)

A large, heavy wood bar sits in the front left corner of the place. A roomy dining room spreads out behind it. At the bar, you'll find plenty of coolers holding various bottles of beer and wine, as well a tap with about 20 beer selections ranging from hard-to-find imports to several unique American micro-brew selections. If you're unsure of what to have, work with the bartender -- he/she will let you sample a number of items until you find the perfect match.

The place also offers a handful of sandwiches and other various munchies, which are good filler for the beer, though if you're looking for a substantial meal, you may want to visit somewhere else before or after, since the portions here tend to be a bit on the small side.

The beer and wine are the focus here, after all, and if you enjoy good beer and good company (such as my friend Ayal Wolf, pictured above), then this is the place for you.

Given the dark, sophisticated nature of the interior, you'd think the bathrooms would be similar in design -- like the elegant Davio's in Philadelphia, or, on a smaller scale, the homey Las Brazas Chicken. Ironically, they are not like that at all.

More than anything, they look the the sort of bathroom you'd find at a BBQ joint (like Cecil's, for example).The walls are covered in unfinished wood planks, and the floor is covered in that standard rust-colored tile you see at many other places.

All the fixtures kind of serve as piece-meal extensions of that wood paneling. The urinals and vanity just look like add-ons that were included after the fact, like matted chrome faucets, decorative iron wall hangings, cheesy framed mirrors and more.

And then there's the toilet, which comes set behind a saloon door and is set into a wooden shelf, making the stall itself look very much like an old-country outhouse. (It should be noted that the stall is somewhat small and that saloon door that doesn't quite open all the way -- making it hard for people who are larger than 5 feet in height to get in or sit comfortably while they are inside.)

In fact, the overall vibe of the place is that of an outhouse -- a complete 180 from the interior, if you think about it. It's very rustic and Southern and backwoods in inspiration, and clearly the design is purposeful, funny and kitschy. So much so that I wondered if the toilet serves as a statement, saying that while we aim for sophistication on the outside, inside we're all the same and we all have to use the toilet and that's that.

I like the message, to be honest, and I like the kitsch of the design. But I'm just not sold 100% on the execution. Like I said, the aforementioned stall was a bit too tight of a fit -- it should be a bit more comfortable to use and enter and exit. And the toilet water in the commode was alarmingly blue in color -- almost like well-chlorinated pool water instead of water colored by a Tidy Bowl insert. What's with that?

Also, one of the urinals was not working and the lighting was a bit dimmer than it needed to be. A place this kitschy requires bright lights, so people can marvel at the effort taken by the designers to put it together and laugh with it. It's not a place for subtlety, such as the bar and dining room areas.

Another note: It's also a very clean bathroom and practically odor-free, which is an accomplishment worth mentioning since it's a beer bar at heart and it's located in a college town.

Marks out of 10:

7. As mentioned earlier, I like the attempt, but I'm not sold on the execution. Sorry.

Comments to the Management:

Make the lighting a little brighter. Fix the broken urinal (maybe already a moot point). Make that stall a little larger and easier to get into. And what's with that blue water?

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