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Noisy Restaurants: A painful experiance

Twice in the last few weeks I have been to good restaurants with great food that have been so noisy that I couldn't participate in conversations with my fellow diners and in the end my ears actually hurt by the time the meal was completed.

It's a pity, but I will not be returning to these establishments in so much as a very nice meal has been turned into an unpleasant experience because restaurateurs will not spend what it takes to provide their customers with a pleasant dining experience at a reasonable noise level.

Most recent on the list of never to return; Voltaire, Umi Sake House, Olives Wine Bar.

Has anyone else had similar experiences? Care to share the names of offenders?


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  1. In Portland, The Alberta Street Oyster Bar and Grill has great food, but gets terribly noisy. I have not been back for several months.

    1 Reply
    1. re: BellaDolce22

      I can relate, because my husband just hates loud restaurants, and that is one of the biggest criteria in selecting where to eat. Even if he loved it, he won't go back if it is too noisy. There are many that are way too loud.

    2. It's not fancy or anything but I won't eat at Gordito's in Ballard
      again due to the earsplitting music they always play.
      It's at dance club decibels in there.
      And no, I'm not an old fart.

      1. Quinn's and Black Bottle both have awful acoustics. Depending on the crowd and where one is seated, the noise can be quite unbearable.

        I still put up with it at Quinn's, though.

        1 Reply
        1. re: terrier

          I have to agree and it's really too bad the food at both places is just great. I assume they calculate that the buisness lost is not worth the expence of an accoustic engineer, some fabric and carpet.

        2. Mama Melina's - really loud piano player last time we went. Will never return.

          Pesos at brunch - very strange time for LOUD dance music. Oh well, I love the carne asada & eggs!

          1. Cactus Ya Ya in Vancouver, WA
            Crow on lower Queen Anne in Seattle

            Just invest in a little sound baffling! The noise pings all over the ceiling and walls and I end up nodding and smiling with no idea what's being said.

            1. On Capitol Hill (Seattle), the new Olivar (in Fork's old space) and Monsoon, both serve great food but the the acoustics are terrible. Sound dampening material on the ceiling would lower the loudness problem significantly and not be terribly costly.

              1. Simpatica in Portland used to be like this, but they did a lot of work on their room to try and reduce the volume. It has worked really well and folks like me who loved the place but hated the noise (used to be you could not hear the person next to you speak) - and who actually said something - are really happy that they "heard" us! ;o)

                1. having taught classes in restaurant design and hospitality management, it is unfortunately true that many restaurateurs equate a noisy dining room with a successful dining room. while the background babble of others' chatter, modulated music and the clinking of cutlery adds a pleasant atmosphere to a meal and utter silence would actually be uncomfortable, the idea that having to shout to at your companions means you are in a 'hot' joint may work for the generation that has lost its hearing to ipods and such but i believe that the vast majority of people prefer the ambiant sound level to be just below the level at which you are concious of its existence. sadly, many owners purposely plan their dining rooms with hard surfaces to amplify clatter in the belief that it makes their place feel 'alive'.

                  1. Joule in Wallingford is a very noisy restaurant....it was impossible to carry on a conversation there both times I dined there.....it's a very small, dining room with many close-to-each-other tables and an open kitchen that is placed down along one side of the room...so alot of 'dominant' kitchen noise, too.

                    1. In Portland, Clyde Common was an offender the last time I was in, about six moths ago. Not sure if they did anything to improve the situation. Nice place, nice vibe, but not a place to take mom or grandma if they like quiet.

                      1. I have to second Black Bottle. Yikes. I have to yell to be heard and it makes my throat hurt and my ears ring. If there are more than three of us it's overwhelming. Sad because it's a fun place with interesting menu. We wanted to try Steelhead Diner last night, but it looked as frighteningly loud. Sigh. And I'm not even spending that much time in my rocking chair. Yet.

                        1. I'm an architect and I've heard or read that hard surfaces are chosen to speed up turnover. I will never return to a restaurant that I leave with my ears ringing, and another pet peeve of mine are tables that are too small, packed too closely together. All of these factors show that management/owners have utter disregard for patrons. Very common here--less so in Europe?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: cassis

                            No, not less so in Europe, at least not in London. Table are typically very close together here and it is often very noisy.

                          2. Would anyone care to share their favorite restaurants who have figured out the noise issue? In Seattle, I like Boat Street Cafe.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: frygirl

                              I've always been impressed at how well calibrated the noise levels are in the Palace Kitchen. The atmosphere is lively - yet I never leave hoarse or deaf even after hours of conversation.