The Christiane Chronicles: Restaurant restroom nightmares; Perfect post-meal digestifs

Rants and raves from veteran dining authority Christiane Lauterbach
Christiane Chronicles
Illustration by Zohar Lazar

In an ideal world, all public restrooms would have automatic faucets, flattering lighting, fresh linens, disposable combs, mouthwash, and those fancy, high-tech toilets from Japan. But that’s not the world we live in. Instead, we get creepy unisex lavatories (where I’ll likely find an upright seat above a dirty porcelain rim), vile potpourri, open wastebaskets filled with crumpled paper towels, and metal coat hangers left behind when staff change into their uniforms. And what’s the deal with those cute door signs and symbols that nobody can decipher? Keep it simple: Men’s or Women’s.

Bizarre locations (Sobban’s bathrooms are accessible only from the outside of the building) and long schleps (Floataway Cafe, Little Bacch, and just about every hotel restaurant) don’t bother me. What does: limited stalls at busy restaurants (Rumi’s Kitchen) and waiters escorting me to the bathroom. My biggest bugaboo, though, is tricky, flimsy locks and a general lack of privacy. I’m not sitting down if I can’t tell whether the door is locked securely, or if the gaps and cracks around it are so wide you could fit a suitcase through them.

Photograph by LuAnne DeMeo

Herbal remedies
At the end of a heavy meal, nothing clears the palate and jump-starts digestion quite like a digestif: brandy, Armagnac, eau de vie, grappa. Some of my favorites are herbal potions, like the fiercely bitter Fernet-Branca; green Chartreuse from France (the secret recipe includes 130 plants); Becherovka from the Czech Republic (a fairly new import with strong notes of cinnamon); resiny mastika from Greece; and the bittersweet Amaro Averna from Italy.

The best stomach settler, though, comes from Germany. Underberg—a bright, gentle extraction of more than 40 herbs—immediately puts me at ease after just a few drops. Sold at Decatur Package Store on Clairmont Road, it comes in a single-serving bottle that fits handily into a purse.

Field notes

  • I can’t shake the feeling that Atlanta restaurants are lately trying to channel Nashville: funky, artisanal, and full of young people in vintage dresses, cowboy boots, and ripped flannel.
  • What’s with the letter Q? Community Q (barbecue), Cafe Q (Sichuan), and Q Trinh (the owner of We Suki Suki) seem to know something the rest of us don’t.
  • I love nerding out at My Parents’ Basement in Avondale Estates, which serves homemade hot pockets, chicken “in” waffles (yes, the chicken is in the waffle), and huge sandwiches alongside a large selection of comic books for sale.

This article originally appeared in our November 2015 issue.