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Noise LEVELS in Restaurants

There was recently an article in the Globe about how restaurant noise is becoming a real issue in the dining industry. Diners are starting to complain about the level of noise, which can mar a good meal and is often so bad they can't even hear the person on the other side of the table. Restaurants are starting to hear these complaints and some are actually trying to do something about it (imagine that?)

It seems like this is the norm now, though. I am looking to treat 3 friends to dinner tonight that I haven't seen in a while and want to enjoy some good conversation in a mid-priced restaurant, but all of my choices seem too noisy. Does anyone have any recommendations for mid-priced restaurants ($40-75 per person, with tax, tip & wine) where you can actually have a nice conversation and not shout?

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  1. Gina Mallet has a positive review of Sidecar in today's Post and she made a point of mentionig it was still possible to have a normal conversation even when the restaurant was full and music was playing. Reasonably priced. -

    577 College St., Toronto, ON M6G 1B2, CA

    1. I had dinner at the Drake where I had to shriek my order to the server two feet away.

      Will never go back.

      1. Worst experience ever for me was the Rushton on St. Clair... we gave up trying to talk to each other because it was just so loud. Also, don't think there is any carpet, drapes, etc. in there to absorb the sound... it really is as loud (at least) as a nightclub.

        6 Replies
        1. re: abscissa

          My last time in Seven Numbers, I wore my Stihl chain saw hard hat with the ear muffs and took with me a flashlight. I think that their ambiance is just in your face ( literally, ears, eyes) rudeness and they stick it where the sun never shines and I don't mean their restaurant. I have not ventured into their other not so restful restaurants.

          1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

            Went to Niagara St Cafe tonight for the first time with 3 friends. Everything was great but it was hard to hear the people across the table. Way too noisy.

            1. re: Flexitarian

              That's interesting because NSC is often suggested/recommended as good for a romantic place. Having to shout across the table doesn't sound very romantic to me.

              1. re: Flexitarian

                Niagra St. when I went was very quiet and pleasant too.

              2. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                Vinnie, my experience EXACTLY -- at Gios Nose, part of the same resto family. Never went back.

                1. re: Dean Tudor

                  Yeah but ambience: festive and boisterous is the reason to go to the Nose imho, over the food. It feels more like a bar to me.

            2. I found Batifole extremely noisy - one of the reasons I won't go back - even for the food :):)

              1. I've only been to Beer Bistro once (as disclosure) for dinner and found it too noisy to have a normal conversation with people at my table, except for the person right next to me.

                Beer Bistro
                18 King St. E, Toronto, ON M5C 1C4, CA

                3 Replies
                1. re: JamieK

                  The nosy part of it comes from the bar, especially after work. They need to seal off the bar. The resto part is ok, if they could just baffle the bar.

                  1. re: Dean Tudor

                    agree. beer bistro is SO noisy. been there twice, both times were hard to have a conversation with people at my table.

                    1. re: helen0505

                      Yeah, appallingly loud sound levels - impossible to communicate with your dining companions without SREAMING!

                2. It seems to me that diners have to make a difficult choice. Generally, most busy restaurants will have higher noise levels: a product of a full dining room, conversation levels, music, staff, etc. These restaurants are busy because the food, service, and ambience are good. In my experience, it is usually the big budget restaurants that are able to spend the money on noise reduction solutions.

                  On the other hand, the quiet restaurants are usually quiet for a reason: the quality of food, service, and ambience isn't that great.

                  So what are our choices:

                  1. Go out early in the week when the restaurants are generally less busy and consequently quieter.
                  2. Go to the big budget restaurants and pay the price to sit in a quiet environment.
                  3. Bite the bullet and accept that a busy restaurant is going to be a little noisier, but it's worth the visit because the overall experience is good.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: sloweater

                    Well said, sloweater. As we were shouting to hear one another at a restaurant whose food and service I like, a friend of mine commented that the restaurant still hadn't dealt with their noise problem. Looking around the packed restaurant and noting that they are packed pretty much every day and night they're open, it seemed to me that the noise isn't a big problem from their business's perspective.

                    True, diners will enjoy the experience more if it isn't so loud. But as business owners, the restaurateurs probably find it hard to justify the investment in sound baffling when the noise clearly isn't slowing business down at all. Maybe we need to find some research indicating that the more profitable clients prefer quiet?

                    1. re: sloweater

                      It's not the basic customer noise I and many others are complaining about. Its the frickin music. I've been in some restaurants that have it so loud, my ears actually hurt. When i have to shout the music is too loud.
                      I have to disagree with you about the ambience - noise does not equal ambience. I'm not looking for a silent restaurant, just one where the staff and owners know enough to lower the music to a tolerable level. I've found some restaurants keep turning the music volume up as the place fills, thus creating an intolerable level of noise. Just keep the volume where it is, and let us enjoy our meals.

                      1. re: scrooge

                        I agree with everything you are saying.
                        I totally avoid restaurants that assault my ears, and do not allow for pleasant conversation.
                        I have probably mentioned this problem about a dozen times on this site.

                        1. re: erly

                          Me too - and as I said, I'm simply voting with my wallet!

                      2. re: sloweater

                        This is utter nonsense. Noise is a function of the physical design. Anyone who knows even basic acoustics can drastically change the noise level through relative simple design alterations. It's a functions of the room aspect ratios and the surfaces. Put up a few dividers in the right places and some noise absorbing surfaces and you can drastically cut noise level.

                        These restaurants are designed to have a high noise level.

                      3. The worst place for noise in my experience was the defunct Spoon (now Libra Lounge) near King & Spadina. The ceiling was low and flat and the space was narrow.

                        1. Personally I don't mind high noise levels in restaurants, though I do want to know what I'm getting into, one of the benefits of this very website, there are times when it is the vibe and you want to be a part of it and other times when it isn't appropriate, as long as loud places are what they are (Gio's, Tomi Kro, Trevor, Terroni, Blowfish...) then I partly am going for a more exciting night out, if I was at Splendido, George, Amuse Bouche, Thuet (...actually happened once due to a large party and it did detract from the experince) I'd be put off...just pay attention to what the proprietor is "selling" and maybe check out sources like Chowhound if you are that concerned...don't buy a Ferrari if you are going off roading...right?

                          I might add, I have damaged my hearing slightly thanks to the advent of the Sony walkman (remember those "cool" yellow tape players?!) and too many loud live shows so I am quite suseptable to not being able to hear people in a dull roar...

                          1. Worst I've found is the Irish Embassy. Something about the accoustics in there you can scream at someone 1 foot in front of you and they still can't hear you.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Mila

                              Bar none...the Irish Embassy is the noisest restaurant/bar in Toronto. It's not that they play loud music or anything but the domed ceilings reflect the noise back down onto the diners. Was there the other week and literally could not hear the person sitting across from me. The cacophony was so much that we paid for our drinks and left

                              1. re: Finnegan

                                I had the same experience at Ki last summer. Now I know how rats feel in stress experiments... never went back.

                                1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                  Ki is brutal through the week but pretty quiet on a Saturday night when all the bankers have gone back to the burbs. It's been quite pleasant on the Saturdays I've gone there.

                                  1. re: idnas

                                    Yeah, but the prices for what you get?

                            2. ViVetha Bistro in the Beaches on Queen Street near the Neville streetcar loop is ideal for good food and a quiet atmosphere where you can hear each other.


                              My worst experience with noise in a restaurant was in New York's Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station.Its seafood is wonderful, but it has a curved tiled ceiling which reflects noise back down at you. We took an old friend there for lunch a few years ago, the legendary folk singer Oscar Brand. He had many fascinating things to tell us about himself and other musical greats, but it was very difficult to hear him over the noon-hour racket.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Bob Catt

                                Is this the same legendary folk singer who dines with you at Nevada?

                                1. re: Edith S

                                  That's the one. I don't know many legendary folk singers, but quite a few who think they're legendary, but aren't.

                                2. re: Bob Catt

                                  Great story - the NYGCC Oyster Bar has been on my list for a long time, so I'll keep the noise level in mind!

                                3. We were at The Riushton tonight for Dinner...it was full and busy...had no probs conversing with friends at our table...great place to discuss...and food and service were amazing....Miranda

                                  1. We eat at a lot of Chinese restaurants, and have never had a problem with excessive noise. Same thing with most of the Greek spots on the Danforth (Ouzeri being a very loud exception). And, come to think of it, most of the Italian places we frequent are relatively noise free. Perhaps it's because we go to restaurants, and not restaurant/bars?

                                    And, back in my courting days, when I really liked a girl, I either took her to Paul Drake's piano bar, the Rooftop, or the Aquarius 51 (now Panorama). All three spots let me actually hold a conversation with her; sadly, the initial attraction often paled after that.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: KevinB

                                      I agree Kevin. I think it's always quite obvious which places will be noisy and which won't (usually corelates with price but not always) especially when you take into account neighbourhood/style of dining/time and day.

                                      One thing though, weird acoustics: the Irish Embassy really amplifies the ambient sound. It's like one of those cooking shows with all sizzles etc cranked up! But it is such a lovely space I couldn't exclude it.

                                      1. re: Sui_Mai

                                        One of my 'still' favourite places to eat is Bistro 990...but man, oh man...it is a total 'soundwave' and as much as I like the Steak Tartare (which is why I like Bistro 990 in the first place) I cannot bear the noise at dinner...have taken to going at lunchtime when I get 'the craving'...also did not like Splendido for the same reason ...I think it was (certainly at Splendido) the 'hard' wood floors and lack of sound baffles, I wen twice and never went back.

                                        1. re: Sui_Mai

                                          I disagree. I've gone to certain restaurants not expecting them at all to be noisy, and was quite surprised. Example: Matahari Grill can be very, very noisy at times. Perhaps I'm just not good at estimating noise levels, but even if that's the case, I suspect I'm very much not alone in this.

                                      2. Sometimes I suspect restaurant of purposely designing rooms to be noisy, in order to look busier and help drive the hype machine. The O&B places in particular come to mind.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. Actually what we now do is go to the earliest seating, there seems to be a bit of a lull before the later seating (if it's not possible ie no space...we simply choose a different restaurant)....works for us most of the time. I do think however, that 'busy' as a place might be, there are ways to tastefully 'baffle sound' and more restaurants should consider that fact...

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: pearlD

                                            I like this idea.
                                            The noise levels probably increase as the wine is poured, which would also make the earlier seating quieter.

                                          2. A few friends and I had dinner at Weezie's a couple of weeks ago. Although we were sitting really close to the neighbouring diners, I barely heard them. Mind you, it could be that I wasn't really paying attention to them...!
                                            As a bonus, the food and service were great!

                                            1. Absolutely noisest place is the Irish Embassy on Yonge. Former bank with curved parabolic ceiling sections which basically redirect sound back onto diners. Last time I was there my dinner guest and I were literally yelling at each other and we still couldn't hear each other. It was funny for about 5 minutes, then became irritating, then we left.

                                              Second Place goes to Gio Ranna's...another former bank. Tables are packed so close and the crowd gets quite loud that it is extremely difficult to talk to or hear your dining companions. I like the energy of the place, but for a relaxing meal, forget about it.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Finnegan

                                                The Irish Embassy is incredibly loud. Great place if your drunk and like yelling to the person beside you. The place down the street isn't much better (PJ Obrien's) but it caters to a more traditional Irish pub crowd who are loud and boisterous during quiet moments. Great place for drinks with friends but not for late night dining. The BierMarket is also very loud.
                                                A nice quiet restaurant that we go to is The Old Mill off Bloor street. Very nice place with good food and atmosphere.
                                                I find with age that I'm more sensitive (or crusty?) to noise in restaurants. I'm going to go shake my fist now.

                                                1. re: TheGimp

                                                  You can add me to the "old, and crusty" category. I get no joy from a noisey resto with young diners talking on their cellphones, etc....Irish Embasssy has all the ambience of eating in a crowded subway car

                                                  1. re: Finnegan

                                                    I'm "old and crusty" too - went for dinner to the Irish embassy once and had to BAWL and YELL and SCREAM at my dining companions. Very undignified of me, and very bad for the digestion (of the appalling food - but that's another story - lesson learned)

                                                2. re: Finnegan

                                                  I really hate when tables are packed so closely. If it's a communal table, that's one thing, but having separate tables just centimetres apart makes me feel like I'm intruding on someone else's space... and I feel like I'm in a food court.

                                                  The trend towards hard polished surfaces in decorating doesn't help with the sound either. Almost nobody does carpet anymore.

                                                3. i have always had peaceful meals at Quince and 93 Harbord.

                                                  i recall Coquine and 5 Doors North being loud-ish.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: LemonLauren

                                                    I actually find that Quince can be very loud. The tables are quite close together in some cases and there is lots of echo.

                                                  2. It's really sad that we can't have the combination of good food in a civilised dining room and not be deafened.
                                                    Table 17 on Queen East will turn down the music if asked, and their food is good.
                                                    Otherwise you will have to go way upscale and dine at Scaramouce, or Chiado.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: KitchenVoodoo

                                                      NOT an exclusive option.
                                                      Try Actinolite - excellent food and verycivilised.

                                                      1. re: estufarian

                                                        Or Edulis.

                                                        Even Hopgood's isn't that loud. Or avoid the super-trendy and go somewhere like Zucca uptown. Most of the restaurants on Harbord aren't painfully loud either.

                                                        This is a straw man.