When you are on the go do you ever need a public restroom in the Chicago area? Ask me, I probably know where one is. I don't like to brag but I have lots of experience seeking them out. If I am not around, look for a lady about my age; chances are she will be able to help you find one.
General tips for your best bet
Fast food restaurants - This is where most people seek relief. Am I right? Some require a food purchase, most do not. Everyone I know looks for a McDonalds. Their restrooms are more or less clean and near the doors. If you enter a door and they aren't there, go to the other set of doors. Bingo.
Grocery stores - In the suburbs, they are near the entrance/service area. Marianos are my favorite as they are so darn clean and have fresh flowers. In the city, I have had to go upstairs in Marianos. Signage can be elusive.
Coffee shops - Starbucks always have them and are often behind the coffee ordering or serving area. City and suburbs, Chicago to NYC, I have never been asked to make a purchase to use the facilities. I buy a lot at Starbucks so I wouldn't mind.
Oasis - Many times there are only washrooms at one end. It is never the side where you enter. Every so often, there are Mens and Ladies rooms at both sides. Those are like special days to mark down.
Service Stations - Once the favorite of many, these are trickier now a days. If there is a mini mart connected, you are golden. They will be in the back and generally have a yellow sign telling you the floor is wet. If it's an old fashioned gas station, you get a key from the desk with like a hubcap attached and use a bathroom you wish you had never seen. How bad do you have to go?
Department Stores - They always have them but if there is more than one level, it's either down or up. The Macy's on State Street has the most and cleanest. In the Burbs, Kohls and Homegoods have them way in the back. However, Bed, Bath and Beyond have them right as you come through the door. Easy to use and be on your way or shop, your choice.
More challenging areas
Restaurants - If you are eating there, no problem, They are by the bar if you are lucky. If you are not they are up stairs or down stairs. I am not fond of this nonsense. If you are not eating there, it is really hard to use their washrooms but I have done it.
Restaurants with a heart - I once leaped out of the car and ran into the Rainforest Cafe in Chicago around 5:00 on a Wednesday evening. I threw myself on the mercy of the Maitre D' and begged to buy a coke to be able to use their bathroom. The nice young man took pity on my soul by graciously and quickly showing me where I could go, on the house. His mother would be proud.
I also got to use the bathroom at Kuma's by begging the hostess and she was like of course. The line was so long I never ate there but it is not impossible to use a restaurant washroom without ordering anything.
Legitimate theatres - So many theatres were built in like 1910 when people didn't use toilets apparently. If you are a true patron you will either have to climb millions of stairs or dash down along with a thunderous herd at intermission. At the Oriental Theatre in Chicago, you can buy an upgrade which provides a private room, open bar, snacks and PRIVATE BATHROOMS. Totally worth it.
Movie Theaters - The lavatories are near the entrance and refreshment stand. A few are curiously before you have shown your ticket which makes me nervous. Keep your stub in your pocket. If there are two sets (cross your fingers) cross the lobby and use the set not near the movie which just ended. No line! You're welcome.
Worst Bathroom in Chicago - I love Rick Bayless and all his restaurants. But have you ever used the facilities in Topolobampo? It's just through the kitchen, a very busy area, down some pretty yuck stairs and there you are. Reverse the process to get back to your table. And this is his fanciest restaurant. They're better in the other two.
Most improved bathroom in Chicago - Metra Station at the corner of Michigan and Randolph. When this was an IC station, this was the nastiest bathroom I had ever used before I went to Europe. Now it is really nice and you don't need a ticket to go down and use it.
Best bathrooms in the Suburbs - Quilt stores - I have personally never frequented a quilt store that did not have a charming powder room. Cute pictures of quilts and projects can adorn the walls. I love quilt stores.
And not just because of their bathrooms!
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Here's another post you might enjoy! It's about NOT having a bucket list. Most of my posts have to do with quilts, I swear!