Young and Hungry

Oh, the Noise, Noise, Noise, Noise in Restaurants


Zaytinya: You practically get a metal concert with your mezze.

Y&H still remembers, more than  a year ago, when the dining critic at Brand X wrote a Sunday magazine cover story about noise in restaurants and even instituted a special feature measuring decibel levels at every restaurant he reviews. What a waste of time, I thought, writing about something that's so subjective. One diner's noise, after all, is another diner's buzz and excitement. (OK, critiquing food is totally subjective, too, but go with me here.) Only old folks and babies, I figured, care about noise in restaurants.

Well, I'm officially a geezer now.

Two recent dinners have convinced me that noise levels in restaurants have entered Motörhead territory. The first was at Ristorante Posto, where I sat across from my wife trying to read her lips over my platter of Margherita pizza. Then just last week, right before the Labor Day weekend, we snagged a two-top at the new Ray's the Steaks in Arlington and proceeded to yell at each other as if we were trying to conduct a conversation at an Indy 500 pit stop.

I'm sorry, but part of the dining experience is the ability to communicate with the folks at your table, not watch them eat their dinner as if they were zoo animals. But maybe I'm being a crank about this, which is why I want your input, readers. Tell me about your noisy dining experiences and whether they turned you off or not. E-mail your tales to me at Give me your age, too. I'll post the best responses on the Y&H blog.

Photo by Daquella Manera via Flickr Creative Commons

  • Lou

    There's a reason why I don't go back to Brasserie can't hear ANYTHING.

  • Fred

    All the fancy pants restaurants are loud as hell. It's meant to disorient the "diners" so they don't notice slow service at the end of their meal, and they keep getting drunker.

    It's ridiculous. People have been noticing it for years, though.

  • Fred

    Also, since you feature take out food too, it'd be great to see another kind of meter - a plastic meter.

    When we order take out, we are also contributing to the trash pile in the Pacific. There should be some meter measuring your meal's contribution in weight. I don't understand how people can with good conscious order takeout and then throw away the plastic.

    Maybe someone who does this can enlighten me.

  • KMango

    Another burr in the side of tranquility are restaurants that allow wait staff to slam through their closing sidework by banging silverware or plates together at a service station. This is especially common at ethnic restaurants. Frequent and maddening!

  • esthermiriam

    The list of restaurants I avoid because of noise level is too long to list.At most I just had to open the door to know I'm not going in, from noise level coming out and from a glance at interior design created to make it echo.

    I am able to visit some at late lunch time, or even for very early dinner, if I really want to taste and enjoy
    -- and when it's still relatively empty don't mind asking for the music to be made lower, but it is a pity that one has to strategize when inviting guests or having a working meal, let alone eating with friends
    to be able to hear them and even hear oneself think.

  • kodak

    Noisy restaurants drive me NUTS, and not just as a patron, but as an interior designer too, because I'm stuck sitting at my table, looking around at all the ways the dining room could have been built to absorb noise instead of reflect it. It doesn't take more than a few well-placed acoustic panels (which can be covered in any number of attractive finishes--fabrics, painted finishes, even wood) to make a dining space more enjoyable for the patrons.

  • Lani

    The Palm, before it was redone, was a damn Saloon. Not sure how it is now, because my experience at the "OK Corral" led me to not return.
    Georgia Browns. Loud as hell! Could it be all that metal in the ceiling?
    B Smiths at Union Station. Kinda Loud. Big Open Room which could explain it.
    Marvin on 14th St. is small and Loud!

  • monkeyrotica

    Never understood why having to scream over your meal was considered "hip" and "trendy." Maybe it's because people with so little of any value to say feel the need to compensate by yelling? Anyway, this is exactly why I avoid eating on on Friday/Saturday nights, and usually take lunch/dinner early. The as the meals drag on, trendy places end up being packed with screaming idiots; add alcohol, and the volume becomes deafening. Between the braying, swaggering horsecock jackasses, the dozens of televisions behind the bar, the cackling "I'm soooo drunk!" crowd, and the cellphones going off nonstop, I'd just as soon eat a fistful of dog$h!t.

    I used to just be irritated at the family style/nursery restaurants, with the screaming brats rolling on the floor and racing around the restaurtant. Then I realized they're just doing what kids do. Maybe it's the parents of the screaming kids who are now doing the screaming? Either way, I go out to eat, not to be treated to the inane screams of navel-gazing twerps who wouldn't know a good meal (or intelligent conversation) if it stood on a buffet table and peed in their faces.

    PS: Parking was ample.

  • dan riley

    A lot has to do with the popularity of tin ceilings, concrete floors and the like. I agree with kodak...the situation is easily fixable to proprieters who give a damn.

  • dc foodie

    Fred - what about recycling the plastic from the meal? Wash it out and throw it in the recycling bin. That's what we do.

    Now, recycling those crappy chopsticks is a different problem...

  • Fred

    DC Foodie - restaurant plastic is not 1 and 2, and generally is not recyclable. At least not in apartment buildings. Perhaps if you live in a house in DC, you can. But just know that "recycling" that restaurant plastic just means it is shipped to Asia to be burned for fuel. Imagine the pollution from that. When I have to get plastic from restaurants, I re-use it until it cracks (about 15 times) and can't be used anymore. Sometimes I put tape over it anyway. People think I'm crazy. That plastic should be outlawed. And people should bring their own dishes/containers to get take out.

    Generally only 1 and 2 plastics are recyclable - at least in the District.

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  • RestaurantZoom

    Noisy restaurants can be exciting or they can be a real pain. I love to go out to eat with my wife, family and friends...especially when we can have some great conversation.

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  • inDC

    This is one of several reasons I avoid the Argonaut now.