Buc-ee’s still has the best restrooms in America. Here’s why

Editor’s note: We are embarking on the Great Texas Buc-ee’s Trip (#BuceesRoadTrip). Stay tuned as we find out why the beloved beaver has taken over Texas and the South.

One thing struck me in 2012, and it says a lot about the year that brought us “Gangnam Style” and, uh, KONY 2012? Buc-ee’s in New Braunfels won America’s Best Restroom from Cintas, the company whose logo you must have seen on the side of a white van.

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That bathroom prizes even existed blew my mind. Did anyone make money traveling this great country, going into every stall and cleaning every urinal in America from Aberdeen to Zephyr Hills? But then the best bathrooms were apparently in Texas. And they were at a gas station.

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Having just moved to Texas from the East Coast last year, I had never set foot inside a Buc-ee’s, much less the lofty men’s room at the store in New Braunfels. How can a store with a big smiling beaver have better options than Chicago’s four-star Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel (third place)?

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Every big Buc-ee men's room is on the right... except Wharton.

Every big Buc-ee men’s room is on the right… except Wharton.

Chris O’Connell/MySA

After winning the award, chain co-owner Arch “Beaver” Aplin even said (perhaps jokingly, but still): “Maybe Buc-ee’s will be our city’s new claim to fame, the Taj Ma-Stall. Texas … is a tourist attraction in itself.” “

Trust me, I’ve been in some awful bathrooms: the cramped, graffiti-covered mess at the punk dive bar Marss in the East Village; the fainting urinal at the original Emo’s on Red River; in every apartment I lived in before I met my wife. I’ve driven across this country holding my nose, breaking records at backwoods gas stations, diners, dive sites, motels and more. But after all, who cares about a retail store bathroom? How could this move the needle from “not disgusting” to something actually worth considering for more than the minute it takes to get in and out?

Calm down, I’ll tell you.

These do not count.

These do not count.

Chris O’Connell/MySA

Waiting is…the easy part?

During my stay in Texas, I visited 33 Buc-ee’s locations, about half of them busy, larger stores. Not only did I never wait for a urinal, but there were often so many open urinals that I couldn’t imagine a scenario where anyone would ever do that. It would take a perfect storm.

Let’s say the next time Texas and UTSA meet, in 2024, Jeff Traylor hasn’t left the Roadrunners for greener pastures, but has built a Juguenaut team into the Top 10. Meanwhile, Arch Manning is redshirting. freshman and has taken over for Quinn Ewers at quarterback after being taken first overall in the 2024 NFL Draft in the Longhorns’ national championship win. Half of San Antonio has climbed I-35 to be close to the Sept. 14 game at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The game goes into four overtimes, but it doesn’t matter who wins, we’re here for traffic.

Back in San Antonio, everyone is dehydrated from drinking 19 Miller Lites and yelling, but they all need to rest. Maybe — just maybe — the New Braunfels Buc-ee’s would have enough San Antonians crammed into the men’s room to warrant a little wait.

Would you bet on this scenario? If not, I wouldn’t be able to hold it at the big Buc-ee’s. And for the record, I only once saw a line form for the booths at the big Buc-ee, and there was only one guy waiting there.

At large Buc-ee's locations, like this one in Terrell, Texas, employees are constantly cleaning the bathrooms.

At large Buc-ee’s locations, like this one in Terrell, Texas, employees are constantly cleaning the bathrooms.

The Washington Post/The Washington Post via Getty Im

You could eat off the floor

Actually, don’t do it.

Some of the people I interviewed in Melissa and New Braunfels talked about how Buc-ee’s was just plain clean. For the record, this was in the middle of a four-day rainstorm that seemed to follow me around the state like I was an angry Eeyore or something.

The fact is that the bathrooms were not supposed to be very clean. Many people rushed in, shoes and boots soaked, many rushing to finish and get back on their way to avoid being trapped at Buc-ee’s. (An idea for a movie?)

But everywhere I went—from Bastrop to Katy to Madisonville to Ennis—the bathrooms practically glowed. The floors around the urinals didn’t have the shiny look that many rest stops have because the men can’t aim. I didn’t come across any stalls that resembled bathroom scenery Trainspotting. There were no clean paper towels at the sinks that touched the floor or countertops. In other words, these bathrooms in America did not look like public toilets.

Cleanliness can mainly be attributed to dedicated cleaning staff whose job it is to basically keep an eye on visitors with a mop and broom.

“There’s literally someone all the time,” Aplin told Texas Monthly in 2013. Weird, but convincing, I think.

But I have another theory. I think the reputation of the Buc-ee’s bathroom precedes the seed of Buc-ee’s cleanliness being planted in every patron’s mind, encouraging them, even subconsciously, to be tidier in the beaver shop. I will believe most psychics, including this one.

Buc-ee's sells everything, even the bathroom.

Buc-ee’s sells everything, even the bathroom.

Chris O’Connell/MySA

Stall privacy

I’m so obsessed with new patio furniture or beers I’d like to try, every appliance I own has a link that can be purchased within hours. It is safe to say that there is no respite in this world.

That being said, the private wall stalls in Buc-ee’s large bathrooms are like a hideaway from the universe. Each stall feels huge, with space for a spread, hooks for a bag or coat, and most importantly, the feeling that you’re basically in your own bathroom when you close the huge door. The fact that you can’t see another pair of shoes under the stall next to you – the floor-to-ceiling partition is so clutched – is enough to make a fellow forget about his home throne. It is a difficult task.

A Buc-ee toilet in Roys City, Texas.

A Buc-ee toilet in Roys City, Texas.

Kelly R. via Yelp

Everything works

Listen, nobody in this country wants to work anymore, but Buc-ee’s premises sure do. Yes, I ran across the haphazardly taped urinal and broken sink, but in 33 bathrooms, that was rare.

In fact, with so many urinals — 33 in New Braunfels alone — it’s almost impossible for five not to be broken at any given time. In most rest areas, if there are four urinals, there is a plastic bag over them. Not here.

There is something psychologically reassuring about almost never having to see a defeated toilet. The image conjures up visions of overuse and abuse that need not be described here. But when everything is in working order, the mind can relax – once and at least for a few seconds.

Medium sized store boxes need some love too

I refuse to go on about the small, disappointing Buc-ee’s locations in Lake Jackson and Alvin that have one or a small bathroom. I’ll just say that these bathrooms aren’t always up to the Buc-ee standard, but thankfully they’re the exception rather than the rule.

But many stores, especially on the Gulf Coast, are medium-sized stores with three or four urinals and a few stalls in the men’s room, and almost every one of them was inspected. In fact, as I mentioned in an earlier article, I overheard a woman exclaiming how good the bathroom smelled when she walked into the tweener Buc-ee in Freeport.

A OK good does the bathroom smell? Neutral is the high goal.

It might be a little overboard—well, it’s in the damn ocean; it’s a bathroom, but this comment either shows how nice these bathrooms are, or maybe it’s just confirmation bias. We hear these bathrooms are top shelf, so we tell ourselves they are.

Either way, Buc-ee’s bathroom is a destination. How many bathrooms can you say that?

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