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Sep 19, 2009 05:15 PM

"Heard it was good, but it always seemed dead, so..." [moved from General Chowhounding boad"

Just read the above phrase from a poster explaining why he'd never gone into a particular restaurant, and was wondering why that should be. Seems to me that restaurants tend to be jammed or not depending on location or trendiness, not necessarily food quality, and I particularly treasure the ones whose charms include my always being able to score a decent table and to eat amongst little if any riotous hubbub.

As a matter of fact, the place that poster was talking about, Akasha in Culver City, is unaccountably lightly populated during any lunch hour I've been there, but my only objection to that is the possible threat to their being able to continue lunch service. The food is not cheap but affordable, considering how seldom I get there, and it's all been very good indeed. I also love the large but comfortable room, and wonder why so many people seem to prefer being crammed into the rather pretentious-looking Italian joint down on the next corner, and what the fun is in eating amid such clatter you can't hear yourself think, much less carry on a normal conversation. I've read accounts of restaurant owners deliberately choosing hard surfaces and cheek-by-jowl seating to promote a hard, rattling vibe, and have to say I

Have I awakened on another planet? Is my species no longer interested in dining in calm comfort? After relishing the sheer civilization of the Maison Akira dining room again recently, and reading reviews declaring the place to feel tired and dead, I'm beginning to think so.

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  1. I'm inclined to agree with you, as long as I'm not the only occupied table in the place. In fact there's a Chinese restaurant next to my nail salon whose food I just love and will put up with being the only person in there (they're across from a mall and do a lot of takeout business), although DH and DS dislike the solitude even more than I do. But I just want to see them succeed so I will eat there- and pay in cash, too.
    But I digress. I do prefer a quieter atmosphere than the current volume level that tends to prevail. I can't hear worth a crap any more anyway.

    1. My job is in chaos and noise. When I go out to eat, I want relaxation...Peace and quiet. Same with my DH. We are thrilled when we ARE the only people in a place quite honestly, and we've walked out on ones that were too noisy/crowded before. Some might think that's an un-Chowish attitude to take, but i'm not concerned about that.

      I love a quiet, civilized meal. No trendy, loud/too crowded places for me.

      1. Right there with you, Will. One of our favorite local (30-min. drive) Chinese places is often quiet as church at lunchtime. We both enjoy the peace and the ability to converse without the constant, "What? Say again?"

        I do not like hard surfaces in a restaurant and am honestly shocked to read people actually knowingly chose the "hard, rattling vibe" you described above. I always chalked it up to whoever made the design choices didn't realize how loud it would be. To think it was intentional is really beyond my understanding. I *do* like--no, love--and appreciate dining in calm comfort--with appropriate music at the appropriate volume, if you please. I enjoy it enough that I'll mention it when I'm posting about a place that gets it right. The setting does add to our overall enjoyment of a meal and I am thankful there are still places out there who strive to make it so.

        1. Count me in the calm and quiet camp. I want to be able to hear the server, my dining partner and myself while thinking. The environment is part of the experience. Ideally all aspects will enhance - whether it's a lobster pier or high end dining.

          I see this trend fairly often. It seems to be a bit of a lemming effect. The noise creates interest, then the crowd draws more people in....On a slightly different note, my uncle was known in his field as an amazing salesman. One of his hard and fast rules was that the front door to the store be propped open, regardless of the weather. It works - some people are uncomfortable crossing the barrier of opening a shop door. I think the noise/rattling vibe are designed to do the same - allow curiosity to override any hesitation the diner may have!

          1. Funny, we just ate at Los Mariachis and we were the only customers. It was quiet as death when we came in. The manager quickly turned on the satellite music station and it was pretty loud. Not so much that we couldn't talk, but loud enough that we could not ignore it. I thought about asking him to turn it down. I think some don't think or they have a certain mindset and typical crowd.
            I feel the same as Kattyeyes. I want quiet or non-intrusive music. Jazz is good.

            11 Replies
            1. re: Scargod

              One of the things I immediately loved about restaurants in France and Italy was NO MUSIC. I must also admit that Mrs. O and I are both strongly mariachi-averse, and avoid places that advertise such (as well as the ones advertising "Kids eat FREE!"). We have enjoyed such things as a popular brunch place in Chicago that had a live string quartet doing Haydn and stuff. Maison Akira, which I mentioned above, plays classical chamber music at a level that can be heard, but also can be talked over easily.

              1. re: Will Owen

                I feel the same way. My quote, from a local Mexican restaurant we tried: "The mariachi band was a (really laughable) joke and just made it difficult for us to talk. "
                They were awful, butchered songs and did (badly), supposedly humorous versions of a few classics that had nothing to do with Mexico or their music. They were loud and in your face. Who needs that? They belonged in a Chucky Cheese.
                I was shocked by the televisions blaring in some restaurants in Italy and Greece. Then I found the same thing in a Thai restaurant, here in New Haven. I think the restaurant's family members and employees would rather watch soaps than have customers.

                1. re: Scargod

                  Remember the soaps in Spanish, too, while we were at the (ahem, authentic!) Mexican place in New Haven?!!! Maybe it's a New Haven thing. KIDDING!

                  On the other hand, I don't mind having the TV on in my local favorite Vietnamese spot in Middletown. It's never loud. It's almost like being in a friendly neighborhood bar and watching TV in a community. Plus the food is delicious!

                  1. re: kattyeyes

                    Yea, I remember. I guess if you're bored and there's no customers, you gotta do something. Still, it's a turnoff if I go into a place with few or no customers and the TV's going.
                    Sorry, I don't eat in front of the TV. Halfway kidding. Occasionally if it's just the two of us at home.
                    I couldn't do that TV bar scene--bar food very often. When I go out I want it to be a little special. No TV.

                    1. re: Scargod

                      Not bar food or bar scene--Vietnamese food.

                      1. re: kattyeyes

                        Same thing as one Thai restaurant experience in New Haven. That's what they were doing at Rice Pot one evening. Like we didn't matter or were interfering in their evening. They kept watching noisy TV, a few feet from us. Had run out of almost all wine, too. Cold in there, TV noise and no decent wines. It was a pitiful excuse for dining out.

                        1. re: Scargod

                          Nope, not the same thing (for me, anyway) you describe in the places I'm talking about. None of the places where we're regulars in the less fancy mom & pop shops ever make us feel unwelcome in the least...and we don't mind the TV. It wouldn't work in every dining scenario, but in one of my favorite "joints" downtown, it's just part of the charm.

                          1. re: kattyeyes

                            Old curmudgeon.. who doesn't like TVs in restaurants, regardless. Charm!?! Phooey.

                            You go out to dinner to eat at what you don't cook, be in a different environment from your home, hear soothing background music and see beautiful views. You are paying for all of it. I don't want TVs in the dining room, let alone hear them!

                            1. re: Scargod

                              Methinks thou hast too many rules about going out to eat.
                              There is plenty of wonderful food you'll miss if those are your strict criteria...oh, that and a wine list. I enjoy good food. It doesn't bother me if a place doesn't serve wine. I don't have it with every meal. I am less fussy about how to find good food--especially when it's affordably priced. Not every experience must be fine dining for me. I like options. In the fine dining realm, yes, I have higher standards...but not for little holes in the wall I love. Paraphrasing Mr. Rogers, "I like them just the way they are."--TV, lack of wine and all.

                  2. re: Scargod

                    Wonder where this mexican restaurant was at. I can't picture it as being in San Antonio. With all the hispanics here that would not go over good.
                    One of the little local places here puts on the tv, like sports or whatever,but i don't mind,the food is good.
                    And I know what you mean about places being noisy.Salsalito on Nacogdoches road in San Antonio has a lot of tiled surfaces,the place gets noisy when crowded,plus it them gets hard to hear what people are saying.

                    1. re: HollyDolly

                      It's in Seymour, CT. I'm trying not to continually disparage them by name.