WASHINGTON - Using public bathrooms is like Forrest Gump and his box of chocolates.
As Gump would say, "You never know what you're gonna get."
But every year, the very finest are nominated for Cintas' America's Best Restroom contest.
This year, a restroom in Georgetown is one of 10 finalists, and the region's votes can help it win.
"The theme of our restaurant is Marco Polo's travels on the Silk Road, so each room is a different country of Marco Polo's travels," says Mike Cherner, general manager of Mie N Yu on M Street NW, where intricate Asian décor rules.
Tables are topped with tents of fabric and bench seats are filled with colorful pillows.
There's even a table known as "the birdcage." It looks like a giant cage with a table and seats inside, and it has its own staircase leading to it.
If you need to use the bathroom you're directed downstairs, but you won't find doors marked "Men" and "Women."
Instead, there's one large room.
It's a unisex bathroom, and on busy weekend nights a restroom attendant stands at the entrance to help uninitiated patrons.
"People come in and they say, 'Oh, where's the men's room?' or 'Where's the women's room?' and they get a little lost when they come down. So, to some degree, we can sort of call them your tour guide for your experience," says Cherner.
Server Sera Nush says when she meets someone new at the restaurant she encourages them to check out the restroom, but doesn't give away its secret.
"I let them stumble into the situation where it's a female and there's a guy in there," says Nush.
When that customer inevitably returns to her table and Nush asks them her impression of the bathroom, she often hears this: "I saw this guy there, and I thought I was in the wrong place!"
The restroom is designed after an Indonesian boathouse and stalls with ornate carved wood doors open into a central sink area.
Turn on a sink, and water pours over river rocks into hammered copper basins that appear to be perched atop wooden barrels.
The public is invited to vote online in the America's Best Restroom contest through Oct. 26.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
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