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Why do so many people tolerate noisy restaurants?

My hearing is normal (it's been recently tested). I can't understand why so many of the most popular restaurants in the U.S. are so noisy that it's almost impossible to carry on a normal conversation. For example, CUT by Wolfgang Puck and Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles are deafeningly loud with both loud conversation and raucous music (at CUT). This is not the case at most nice restaurants in Europe where a civilized conversation in normal tone of voice is possible. I know that this will sound terribly elitist, but I'm beginning to think that many people who go to these "in" dining places in the U.S. are only interested in the "scene" or maybe the food, and have no interest in either serious or meaningful converstion when they dine out. Am I wrong...or is there another explanation as to why noisy restaurants seem to be so popular?

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  1. You have brought up a major pet-peeve with me - restaurant noise levels.

    I always add a comment on this, in every review, as it bothers me greatly.

    I do not know what the draw is, but many feel that it indicates a "happening" place. To me, it indicates that there may well be a lot of ill-behaved people dining there.

    I want to hear all at my table. I do not care to hear all at every other table.

    Though I can project my voice to the "cheap seats," I do not wish to do so, when dining.

    We love a couple of local restaurants, BUT I cannot hear, and neither can my guests. In one instance, one owner will always come by and ask, "other than the noise, how was everything?" He knows how I feel, but the surfaces are all very hard, and reflective.

    Love the food, the wine, the service and almost everything else about it - but the din of the noise.

    Hunt

    7 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      I think its all personal perception. I live in San Diego and have been to many restaurants that others rail against as being loud. Cucina Urbana comes to mind. I have never been bothered by it or had my dinner effected by it. Doesn't make me right and others wrong but it's some thing that doesn't bother me.

      1. re: Bill Hunt

        I prefer a quiet place but prefer noisy place to a quiet place that has one noisy table ....usually next to mine..sometimes we just turn our chairs and face the table and watch the conversation go back and forth like a tennis match.... I hate it when I have to listen to someone and hear every detail of their trip to Thailand or how much they hate their Boss or the details of what they threw up the last time they ate at this restaurant and sort of prefer a loud roar of undefinable noise. Maybe there should be a place outside next to smokers for extremely loud people ...or maybe a table can request a cone of silence ... that would be nice.
        one rare occasions I just use my cell phone to call my wife on the other side of the table but sometimes she doesn't pick up because she cant hear it ring.

        1. re: Inukun

          Ah, that is a VERY good point.

          There is a lovely little restaurant with great food and fun wines in San Mateo, CA, USA. Normally, it is nice and quiet, just as I like. Not that long ago, there was one table of 8, IIRC, who were screaming and shouting. I can only guess that they were celebrating something, and that all were drunk. Twice someone from the FOH asked them to quiet things down, and twice they ignored the request, possibly even screaming more loudly. On the third trip to the table, the host/GM/whomever, told them to pay the bill and leave immediately. As they paraded through the full dining room, every patron stood and applauded - quietly.

          Reviewed a nice restaurant in New Orleans. Lovely setting, quiet demeanor, and great food and service - except for one table of about 10. They were just like the San Mateo group. I have heard a quieter crowd at the Ole Miss vs LSU games. We were separated from them by a partial wall. We could not carry on a conversation, and were perhaps 25 ft. from them. I felt so very sorry for a table of 4, just beyond that partial wall, that was there for a business dinner. I cannot imagine trying to make a presentation to clients, or potential clients with a rodeo going on a few feet away. That party of four tolerated the din, and then grabbed a waiter, paid the bill, folded up the presentation, and stormed out. I doubt that any will ever be back, and therein is the shame. The restaurant is great for a business dinner, the food excellent and the service is very good. However, one "over-the-top" party ruined it for most diners, including my table.

          In PHX, we have two great restaurants, that are just flat too noisy to enjoy. Again, the food is great, the service excellent, but you cannot hear yourself think, much less talk. We tried having a business dinner in one's curtained, raised "board room," and could not hear, due to the noise from behind the thick curtains.

          This is not just a US issue. When dining in Mayfair, we were seated upstairs at a nice French restaurant. One table for four was acting like they were at a rugby match, and their team behind. We were seated in the opposite corner of the dining room. We were astounded at the clamor (clamour, if you are in the UK). As patrons began leaving, mostly pointing at that table, one group of four, kept moving to any vacant table, farther from the 4. Every time that a table vacated, they grabbed their plates and wine, and just moved, even before that table could be bussed. They'd stack the used plates on their previous table, and keep moving away. Finally, the 4 left, and all was quiet. Though the two men appeared to be from the UK, or maybe Australia, the two women were definitely from the US. As we left, I apologized to the moving party of four, since half of the noise came from US diners. I told them that such was not that common in the US either, and expressed my displeasure.

          No, I am just not a fan of trying to dine amid noise. I have also noticed that many professional reviewers have started adding comments on the noise level, and that some dining sites have included a dB meter in their reviews. I think that too many are just ill-bred, and there is a revolt brewing. Also, restauranteurs are trying to create the illusion that they have a "happening place," with highly reflective, hard surfaces, is starting to backfire.

          Hunt - just the old guy in the room, who likes to be able to speak to his wife, and his guests without shouting.

        2. re: Bill Hunt

          Bill,

          We share a devotion to a certain tile & mirrored joint in the Crescent City that, as we both know, can be awfully loud on occasion but I try not to let that detract from my fun in there. However, in that locale as in others, I have noticed noise that I ascribe to a lack of standards of public behavior. Have a great time at your table, sure...but don't annoy everyone else.

          People now take their children out to restaurants---and they should do so to get the kids accustomed to dining out---but parents let the rug rats run about and "be cute." Sorry, they are not cute...they are, in the main, annoying. THis is the fault of the parents. Again, lack of standards of oublic behavior.

          In other palces, as mentioned in this thread, the house turns up the so-called "music" to gin up sales. There is simply no need for this but it is now customary. People expect it....

          I am on record as saying that I will go to Mario's hash house "Babbo" only of someone else is paying and only if I can get in-and-out early. And, truth to tell, I'd rather be at old family favorite places throughout Manhattan(dwindling though they may be)

          You should run to Wilton's when next in London. Busy, but respectfully murmered, if there be such a word.

          1. re: hazelhurst

            That noise level is another reason that I will often opt for upstairs (along with the reservation aspect). Once, people had fund downstairs, but did not intrude on the dining of others. Now, it seems that everyone is standing, screaming "look at me!" As the surfaces have not changed in my lifetime, it has to be the clientele that has. Same for my country club - the kids and their children carry on like an LSU homecoming game (or ASU in this case). They have even taken to stopping by the putting green to relieve themselves in the bushes. Just bad, bad form, but it seems to be a sign of the times.

            I will look into Wilton's. We're set for Gordon Ramsey's at Claridge's, and are on standby for Savoy House, if they get it opened in time. We're hosting two board dinners too, and the sites have not been chosen, to my knowledge. We're dining atop the hotel on the first night, when our head of Philanthrophy arrives. I think that leaves one more night. As Wilton's is just up the street from L'Oranger (on St. James), we know the neighborhood well. Thanks for reminding me, as we head over in October.

            Now, L'Oranger has hard surfaces too, but the dining experience is very quiet and subdued. Think that it's the patrons.

            I'll report on Wilton's on the UK board, if we get there.

            See ya'

            Hunt

            1. re: Bill Hunt

              It is indeed a sign of the times but I think you'll agree that the problem largely comes from the arrivistes and they are famously fickle and tend to migrate elsewhere...they just pop up like a plague from time to time.

              October is a fine time at Wilton's..oysters should be excellent. I am certain the you, of all people, will revel in it.

              1. re: hazelhurst

                Since we might miss some of the oysters in NOLA in mid-Oct (remains to be seen?), maybe we'll make up for it at Wilton's.

                OTOH, there will be much to dine on in NOLA, and we hope that the restaurant noise is not too high. We only get to add one new spot on this trip, due to familial matters/events, but I hold out hope for quieter and more accommodating environs. Will report.

                Hunt

        3. Short answer: Because they want to.

          I hate it too, but we all know the research shows it raises the average check and hastens table turnovers.

          6 Replies
          1. re: lemons

            Wow...that's an insight that never occurred to me! If patrons can't get involved in conversation, they will not hang around as long...makes great sense that restauranteurs might use this tactic to increase turnover.

            1. re: josephnl

              There have also been studies that show the pace of the music directly influences the pace at which people eat. Put on rock n roll and your tables will turn faster and order more drinks. Classical makes for a slower, more deliberate experience.

                1. re: mojoeater

                  But which is the more enjoyable?

                  If I want fast, I will grab something at Del Taco, and eat it in my AMG, while driving at 150 mph. That is not how I enjoy my dining, regardless of what some Pavlovian stimuli might wish to induce in me, and others.

                  Luckily, I can vote with my reservations, and let those folk find others to "turn" quickly.

                  Hunt

                2. re: josephnl

                  What would be next? Perhaps chairs that deliver an electrical jolt at say 20 mins., so the patrons flee?

                  Hunt

                3. re: lemons

                  " and hastens table turnovers."

                  You could be correct here. However, if the Board of Health sees all the patrons running, with blood streaming from their ears, maybe something will be done?

                  Hunt

                4. I think it's really a personality thing . . . strong extroverts prefer the "energy" of large crowds of people. It's how they recharge their own battery. The "happening" places tend to be filled with extroverts.
                  That said, and me being an introvert, I much prefer something quieter where I can hear others as well as hear myself think. Introverts don't do well for very long stretches in loud noisy environments. Sometimes I really enjoy the loud noisy vibe just to people watch and observe, and of course to hang out and enjoy the company of an extrovert friend, but it really kind of drains me after a time.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: vday

                    Was just thinking that as I scrolled down vday. If the place is too noisy I do an about face usually, unless I can spot a quiet corner somewhere. There are so many more extroverts than introverts, and the world is becoming more extrovert oriented every day. I'm looking at you cell phones and face book.

                    1. re: givemecarbs

                      We had worked hard to get a hot reservation some years back. We arrived and were greeted by a very, very young hostess. The dining room was filled with people, and most were screaming into perhaps two cell-phones - lot of high level business deals going down, and each wanted all to hear of their monetary gains. The hostess looked at our faces and said, "I'll bet that you would like to be seated in the quiet room." How perceptive of such a young lady. She led us to a room, that had a view of the open kitchen and of that dining room, but it WAS quiet. She went on to explain that the chef wanted to create a "vibrant dining atmosphere" with the open kitchen and hard surfaces, but understood that not everyone wanted to be shouting into cell phones. He had succeeded. We were quite happy, and the food and service were excellent. Had we been forced to sit in the fray, we'd have left and missed what the restaurant did best - serve some of the best food in all of Hawai`i.

                      This chef/owner got it right. He provided one restaurant that served two different groups well. Unfortunately, many just go for the Mardi-Gras atmosphere, and some will just never dine there.

                      It would be like having a roadhouse, where you have a "fighting" area, and a "non-fighting" area. One could pick and choose. Been in too many of those, where there was only a "fighting" area. Unfortunately for some, I do not fight fair.

                      Hunt

                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        Heh. Love your comments Bill. Yesterday after reading this thread I went with my friend to an Irish style pub during happy hour. My friend really hates noisy restaurants. The joint was jumping with people at the bar watching a ball game on the one rather small tv and families and couples grabbing an early dinner. I spied a four top that appeared to be an oasis in a desert of noise and asked for and got it.
                        I was worried that my friend would be uncomfortable but it turned out to be the perfect spot. We had a leisurely meal and were able to talk easily. I'd like to pat myself on the back and say that over the years I've learned to be assertive about getting a good table and developed a knack for picking one out, but it really was the acoustics. They were amazing, the ceiling was so high. It felt like we were on a small island in a rushing river. The chatter from the diners blended with the bar patrons commenting on the game to make a happy buzz. We were near the entrance, a great place to watch the people entering and being seated.
                        I think a lot of times the bar can be more sedate than the main dining area. It was helpful that the tv wasn't huge. Was actually going to post about the bar area being comfy in the thread about dining alone: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/730526
                        I was so disappointed to find it locked. Sniff.

                    2. re: vday

                      I'm a huge extrovert. I loathe noisy restaurants. I think what you're picking up on is a bit more narrow than just being extroverted.

                    3. you are wrong.

                      i love a nice quiet restaurant sometimes. sometimes i like a more raucous and "trendy" place. Or something inbetween. Or a pub to watch a game and have some ale and grub. (Of course presuming the food is good in all. ) And i've had "civilized conversations" in all of them. Sometimes even "serious or meaningful" ones

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: thew

                        Obviously, your ears are much younger than mine are. Also, I'd guess that you did not grow up photographing rock groups from inside the barricades. Oh how I wish I had adopted earplugs back then. OTOH, the noise from my 45's might have done the job too - even with earphones?

                        I can speak over almost anything, this side of grenades, but hearing the reply is an issue - poor deaf, old Bill...

                        Hunt

                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                          no, but i did spend the 90's as a VJ at all night raves and trance parties around the world that made the preceding 30 years of rock and roll sound like a whisper in comparison

                          1. re: thew

                            which would make a loud resto more tolerable to you. half-deaf n all.

                            1. re: thew

                              I guess that rock got even louder, from my roots!

                              Hunt

                            2. re: Bill Hunt

                              Just so long as we elders get some respect. Sir :)

                          2. I agree with previous posters that it is personal perception. My tolerance for noise is low including many restaurants, movie theaters, public transport, etc. My partner is the opposite and we constantly adjust the volume of the stereo and TV to our own liking.
                            And some of it is cultural. When I go out with my family to a Chinese restaurant, it has to be noisy, otherwise, it is a no go. And everyone talks louder and louder. Noise equals a good time.

                            1. studies have shown that noisy restaurants are perceived to be more successful, and do generate higher revenues per square foot. restauranteurs want them, and the public wants to go there.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                I seldom have any disagreement with anything that you say, but will make on minor correction here, if you do not mind - "and the public wants to go there." I would add one word to read, "and SOME of the public wants to go there."

                                Given the popular designs of newer restaurants, I would say that most have read the same studies. I just happen to not subscribe to the notion that if I am not screaming, I am not enjoying myself. Guess that I am in the minority on this one. Still, I get to pick the restaurants in the family, and for most dining events. [Grin]

                                Aloha,

                                Hunt

                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  perhaps i should have said "hoypoloy" (or however it's spelled)

                                  by the way, which restaurant in Hawaii had the quiet room?

                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                    Chef Josselin's A Pacific Cafe in Kapa`a Kaua`i. To us, it was a great design. The "quiet room" was a square, attached to the corner of a larger square (or squarish rectangle), and it had two openings to the main dining room, with a full view of that open kitchen. The surfaces made all the difference. We could whisper to each other, and be heard. Nice touch, and the hostess was greatly commended.

                                    Hunt

                              2. Because I am Chinese. Chinese restaurants are notoriously loud. In a Chinese restaurant (especially dim sum in the SGV) If you want to carry a conversation, make sure the table next to you can you hear you too.

                                1. Maybe it's the other way around: Restaurants that are popular tend to be crowded and that makes them noisy. But, yes, more restaurant tend to go for being too noisy rather than too silent. Here's my take: The noise level of a restaurant is a function of the design of the restaurant and how crowded it is. Design considerations that have an impact include hardwood floors vs carpets, table cloths or not, distance between tables, existence of exposed brick walls, acoustical tiling, etc. A restaurant designed to dampen noise may well appear dead when it's half empty and the last thing a restaurant wants to do is to appear dead. A less noise-dampening restaurant may well seem vibrant even when half empty. Of course, such a place may be quite loud when it gets crowded, but if you're a restaurant owner and your restaurant is too loud because it's packed -- well, that's a pretty pleasant problem to have. So add to the fact that many restaurant have small margins and that many of the noise dampening measures are costly, I don't think it's very surprising that a lot of restaurants tend to err on the side of noisy even though there is obviously a niche for the hushed (mostly upscale if intentionally hushed) places as well.
                                  Here is a link:
                                  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001...

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: nocharge

                                    Exposed brick or mirrored walls are a design trend, so yes, "trendy."

                                    Paintings, wall-coverings, folliage, all would dampen the noise.

                                  2. Makes me think of an occasion this summer-- we were having a family reunion/birthday celebration for my father-- two 40-something couples, 2 preteens, and my 80 year old father. The restaurant was an upscale place in a resort area with an eclectic menu. Not linen tablecloth, but nice. We walked in, are pointed to our table, which we found was directly in front of a guitar singer, with the amp on *high*. It would have been completely impossible to speak to one another, particularly for my father. We spoke up, explained our problem, and fortunately a large table was finishing up near the back so we decided to wait for that table. The restaurant was perfectly nice about it (even gave us a plate of antipasti while we waited). But I couldn't understand why *anyone* would want to be blasted by (perfectly nice) music while they're having dinner. Sure, if you go out specifically to hear music, but not while eating.

                                    1. It's all about creating a "buzz" which in turn makes the restaurant seem lively, happening and trendy. This in turn increases profits and turn over. For the record, I don't care for it.

                                      1. It does not bother me. I enjoy both quiet and lively restaurants. I don't believe that people cannot have meaningful conversation in lively restaurants. That just not true.

                                        56 Replies
                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          Wait until your over 50. My hearing although fine under normal circumstances suffers with a lot of ambient background noise.

                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                            i turn 50 before the year is out. i still enjoy conversations in loud restaurants. and even places louder than that

                                            1. re: scubadoo97

                                              I'm 63. I like both type restaurants. It just depends on what I'm in the mood for at that time.

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                It's great if all types of restaurants are available. But I find that I can't go to most any new restaurants, ones with food I want to try, because they are all loud with music I hate (and have always hated). A variety would be nice.

                                              2. re: scubadoo97

                                                Scubadoo,

                                                I don't get it. If the hearing does down at age over 50, won't the noise be less of an issue? I cannot tell you about age 50 because as you have guessed, I am under 50. However, I remember my hearing ability being extremely well when I were a little kid. I could heard conversations over several tables away when my parents could not. However, I also get easily distracted for that reason, whereas now, I can easily tune out conversations -- maybe even too much sometime. I would only guess that at age 50, I cannot really tune out a lot of noise.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  older people often have a hard time hearing a companion over the ambient noise. I've seen this from lots of personal experience.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    You might be aware of chemicalkinetics, but do not understand human hearing. If the ambient noise floor is high, then one cannot hear human speech. Why bother trying to communicate?

                                                    If you wish to dine, virtually alone, then a very noisy restaurant is a good place to go - all you can hear is a screaming din, with no ability to pick out human speech.

                                                    For me, I want to hear my wife, hear my guests, hear the waitstaff, and enjoy myself. If I need cacophony, I can go to a pub to watch a soccer game on the TV.

                                                    Hunt

                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                      Hunt,

                                                      I think we are confusing ourselves here. There is the pure hearing ability and there is the filtering ability. Human hearing has the ability to filter out background noise. It is an unique ability which allows our brains to home in a certain frequency range, which is why you can hear selectively conversations in your own table while not remember any conversation from the other tables.

                                                      What you described is called King Kopetzky syndrome and can happen to elderly people. Basically, the patients can have perfect pure tune hearing, but they cannot filter out background noise.

                                                      http://www.drtbalu.co.in/kks.html

                                                      I guess what I am saying is that some people have better ability to filter out noise and some don't. You probably notice these people around you as well. Some people keep asking you to repeat in a noisy environment, but they have no problem picking up the sound of a fly in a quiet room. These people have King Kopetzky syndrome or something very close to it.

                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        "Human hearing has the ability to filter out background noise. It is an unique ability which allows our brains to home in a certain frequency range, which is why you can hear selectively conversations in your own table while not remember any conversation from the other tables."

                                                        I think that you have been totally misinformed about the ability of the human hearing to filter out a high ambient noise floor, especially with older humans. Someone done told you wrong.

                                                        Sorry to be the bearer of bad news,

                                                        Hunt

                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                          Hunt is correct. Our ability to filter out background noise is limited. Study after study shows that things like noise cause interference that impedes our ability to concentrate or attend to our environment.

                                                          http://www.livescience.com/culture/09...

                                                          1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                            Zen,

                                                            Your link suggests that people who listen to a cell phone have trouble spotting a clown because cell phone is a heavy effort task. It takes more concentration and focus, whereas listening to music is a lighter effort task. I don't disagree with that, but not sure why you point to this link.

                                                            Human has limited mental ability to handle multiple tasks. If you listen carefully on the cell phone, then you may not notice a clown. If you focus closely at the clown, you will miss the phone conversation. If two persons speak to you at the same time even in a very quiet room, you will have problem picking up both conversations.

                                                            That is why human can focus on a specific conversation by filtering out the background. We filter out the background because we cannot focus on multiple conversations, just like the fact that we focus on a cell phone conversation by filtering out the clown. Your link actually supports my point. This ability is also known as Cocktail Party Effect.

                                                            Quote "Although we are fantastically good at tuning in to one conversation over all the others, we seem to absorb very little information from the conversations we reject. That's where it can get embarrassing."

                                                            http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/03/the-...

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              Actually the study showed no difference in the ability to attend to the environment between the condition of listening to music and talking on the cell phone.

                                                              The point being that distraction makes it difficult to attend to other tasks in the environment. Hence the weaving around of cell phone users as they negotiate the task of merely walking across an open space.

                                                              When noise is TOO loud - and I hope you don't equate a noisy sports bar with your average cocktail party - it becomes far too difficult to even decipher the conversation of those near to you, let alone to selectively attend to it.

                                                              As an (admittedly anecdotal) example, I was recently in one of these noisy environments where the noise level was so high I literally could not make out what was being said by a server within 3 feet of me. After many shouted "WHAT?"s back and forth, I finally got through to him that I wanted to make a take-out order (not my original intent, but I was afraid my ears would start bleeding any second).

                                                              He said something about the noise being too high, I shouted back an agreement (we were having to lean in close and shout almost directly into each others ears to be heard at all ).

                                                              At which point he looked highly offended and shouted something to the effect that he didn't have to listen to my foul language.

                                                              To this day I have NO idea what he thought he heard. I DO know that the F-bomb was being dropped with sonically explosive regularity all around us by the barely college-age males crowding the establishment, and could clearly be heard even in the din, like spikes of rock sticking up occasionally above a heaving, stormy sea. I don't see how whatever he thought he heard in my agreement that the place was far too noisy could possibly have been any worse. But rather than stand there and argue with him in an environment that was already threatening to blow out my ear drums, I just turned around and walked out and haven't bothered to go back since.

                                                              There are tons of studies out there that show that loud, continuous noise detracts from our ability to track other conversations, "cocktail effect" notwithstanding. The Cocktail Effect is not about noisy environments, but rather about background noise of low to moderate levels. The truth of the matter is that while we have a certain amount of ability to filter low to moderate noise levels and attend to a one-on-one conversation, this does not extend to noisy environments. Even in the less distracting sorts of environments where the Cocktail Effect can come into play, we still lose some of our ability to attend and concentrate on the conversation at hand as opposed to being in an environment that is less distracting. The cocktail effect does NOT say that we can give the same amount of attention to a conversation even in a noisy environment; it says that we don't totally lose all ability to pick out the gist of a close conversation when presented with surrounding distractions. The cocktail effect begins to fall apart as noise levels and distractions increase.

                                                              My point is that many of these noisy restaurant environments constitute such an environment. In fact if I have to go to one with friends, I literally cannot hear what is being said, let alone make any sense of it. You have to be able to hear something before you can interpret it, and when you can't hear the strands of an individual conversation over the background noise, the Cocktail Effect doesn't come into play at all.

                                                              1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                You wrote: "Actually the study showed no difference in the ability to attend to the environment between the condition of listening to music and talking on the cell phone."

                                                                Not completely. From your article:

                                                                "It took cell chatters nearly 83 seconds to cross, while single participants without any electronic devices crossed in about 75 seconds and those with music players took some 74 seconds on average."

                                                                also "the cell-phone users were less than half as likely to notice the clown as those listening to music players"

                                                                Hyman specifically said "So it's not the conversation that's the problem; it's not an electronic device that's the problem. It's something about a cell phone conversation is where the problem is." then he said "I think in addition to that, a cell-phone conversation is just harder to maintain; it takes more effort; it's harder to understand the other person; it's harder to get the timing right. It's just a much more difficult task."

                                                                You wrote "When noise is TOO loud"... that was my point, different people have a different idea of what consitutes being too loud. Of course, no one can listen to a conversation when a bomb goes off. That was not my point. There is a window of "noisy" where some people cannot focus on conversations and some people can. So you can have two persons walk into a restaurant and one person can still have a meaningful conversation and the other cannot.

                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                  Certainly there are individual differences in hearing. Also in the ability to attend despite distractions.

                                                                  Nevertheless, it boils down to whether or not you can actually hear a conversation before you can start talking about one's ability to attend to, and extract meaning from, said conversation. It's my contention - and I think that of several others as well - that IN GENERAL, people who frequent very noisy places are not interested in having a meaningful conversation. Otherwise they wouldn't go there, they'd be complaining about the noise, LOL!

                                                                  1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                    My understanding is that the study suggests both. Cell phone chatters were less able to focus on the surroundings than people listening to music or people walking in pairs. It cannot just be the electronics sound as you mentioned, but it also cannot just be conversation. Hyman said "when talking to someone in person you both can modify your conversation based on the environment... That's not the case with the cell-phone conversations... "

                                                                    I think that are some truths to this. This is why people argue that "using cell phone during driving" is more distracting than "listening to music while driving" or "talking to the passenger while driving". No one will think of outlawing you to listen music in a car or ban you from talking to your daughter while driving her to school.

                                                                    Anyway, I am pretty sure I know what you are trying to say about noisy restaurants and you probably know what I wrote. I don't think I can say anything (really) new that I haven't said already.

                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                      jfood needs no article to confirm his research from >50 of self observation since he is deaf in one year since birth.

                                                                      at some point at a cocktail party or at a restaurant the the increaing level of the ambient noise makes conversation impossible. you become completely deaf as all the noises co-mingle to the point of causing a minor form of dizziness since the brain is trying to lock into one conversation and the various conversations are all at the same decible level and the ear and brain do the same thing as your wireless looking for a signal in a new place. It almost feels like a minor case of virtigo. very uncomfortable.

                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                        jfood,

                                                                        "he is deaf in one year since birth."

                                                                        Your experience makes perfect sense. The fact that one of your ear is deaf makes it very difficult for you to filter noise compares to people with two healthy ears.

                                                                        "Your brain calculates the location of the person that you eyes are focused on. Next, it instructs your ears to listen for any sounds coming from that particular point in space and filter out all others. ... Both ears have to be able to hear the sounds for this to work."

                                                                        http://www.astrahearingcare.com/quest...

                                                                        "The cocktail party effect is a binaural effect, which requires hearing with both ears. Persons with only one functional ear are much more disturbed by interfering noise than people with two healthy ears."

                                                                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocktail...

                                                                        Actually I had (not have) positioning vertigo for 4 years, and I understanding how unpleasant it can be. My visual image was spining. I threw up, I had to lie down for 2-10 minutes to recover, and I had to lie down only on one side. I had these off-break every week in the beginning and then become every month and becomes less and less frequent.

                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                          wow very cool url's C, thanks buddy.

                                                                          since you seem to like this stuff you will also like the following. jfood's periphery to his good ear side extends about 20-degrees beyond and to the back side of his shoulder (he can literally see behind him) since he always keeps people on that side while his periphery to his deaf side does not even extend to his shoulder, major blind spot. the body and brain are a wonderful thing.

                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                            You can see behind yourself? What kind of an animal are you? (just kidding).

                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                Oh so you are Blinkly. For a moment, I thought you are a Chalarodon madagascariensis (aka three eyed lizard)

                                                                                http://www.mobot.org/mobot/photoessay...

                                                                                http://www.petlifeforms.com/liz3eye.htm

                                                                                :)

                                                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  If the guests all shout, you are probably correct. Otherwise, I would disagree completely.

                                                  Hunt

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    I don't believe that people cannot have meaningful conversation in lively restaurants. That just not true.
                                                    ~~~~~~
                                                    How can you make a blanket statement like that without having visited every noisy restaurant in the world? It *is* true. I am a regular at a tapas restaurant near me, and often the bar gets noisy. But it's the bar area - of course it's going to get noisy. But even more noisy is a room in the back, which I've dubbed "the party room". That can get screamingly loud - so much so that you're not just shouting anymore and it becomes uncomfortable for all. Your ears are practically ringing when you've left the restaurant.

                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                      Of course it may be possible to have meaningful conversation in some "lively" restaurants, or even some noisy bars where you are standing next to the person you are speaking to. But...it's extremely difficult to do so at a very loud and noisy restaurant where you are likely sitting across a table from other guests. In such a situation, where it is necessary to shout to be heard, I maintain that meaningful or serious conversation is so difficult that most of us will ultimately give up.

                                                      1. re: josephnl

                                                        In such a situation, where it is necessary to shout to be heard, I maintain that meaningful or serious conversation is so difficult that most of us will ultimately give up.
                                                        ~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                        joseph, I'm not disagreeing with you at all! In fact, I completely agree with you, and disagree with Chemicalkinetics' blanket statement, despite his other examples in response to me. There's "lively" and there's overbearingly loud. There *is* a distinction.

                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                          It is not a blanket statement if I have personally experienced it. Just because you cannot have a meaningful conversation with another peson in a loud place, it does not mean others people cannot. I have never said everyone can. I said it is possible.

                                                          I have never gone on fasting for more than 3 days, but I would also never accuse another person making a blanket statement for fasting for 7 days, especially he has personally tried it.

                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                            Of course, there may be some out there who can have a meaningful conversation in the loudest restaurant in the world, but as I said in my post, "most of us (not everyone!) will ultimately give up"

                                                            1. re: josephnl

                                                              Jose,

                                                              I perfectly understand your point. You said some people cannot have meaningful conversations, and I said some people can. These two statements are not mutually exclusive.

                                                              In your original post, you asked why "many people who go to these "in" dining places " despite the noise. You made the suggestion that maybe these restaurants are popular because these people don't care about conversations, which is maybe partially true. However, I suggested another possibility that maybe the noise does not bother many of these people, as it does not bother me. That is all I were suggesting.

                                                              From the replies you got here, you can see that the noise irritates some and the noise also does not bother others.

                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                I keep thinking of those guys -- you know those guys -- the ones with the gravely voices. They smoke and drink, hang out at loud bars, and they shout at football games. They talk loud and sound like cement mixers when they do. Like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, or Joe Cocker.

                                                                1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                                  I'm not being mean or sarcastic when I say "and your point is?" What???

                                                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              "It is not a blanket statement if I have personally experienced it." Then your hearing is both very youthful and unique. You choose to ignore the responses of those, who are both human, and have trouble hearing normal conversation in loud environments. Maybe give a few of them a good listen... [Grin]

                                                              Hunt

                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                Bill,

                                                                No, I didn't ignore the response of others. I said "You made the suggestion that maybe these restaurants are popular because these people don't care about conversations, which is maybe partially true." and I also said "the noise irritates some and the noise also does not bother others". I merely suggest that some people have better ability to filter out background sound and they have less trouble in a very loud restaurant.

                                                                Maybe you need to consider the possibility that some people can filter noise better than others. As soon as you understand that possibility, then you will understand why some people can go to a loud restaurant and some people cannot.

                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                  And there is also the possibility that these patrons do not have great physical capabilities, but only do not consider conversation to be at all important to their dining experience.

                                                                  Hunt

                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                    That is a possibility which I acknowledged, didn't I?

                                                                    "because these people don't care about conversations, which maybe partially true"

                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                      bill. bluntly. i love a good conversation. sometimes i enjoy a very loud restaurant. those are not mutually exclusive, and it seems to me, all you are really trying to do is make a statement that sounds like " people who eat in loud restaurants are not concerned with intellectual conversation or what their friends think and are thus lesser people" this may not be what you mean, but it is how it comes across to me

                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                        You "enjoy" very loud restaurants? It sounds like you consider noise a plus when selecting a place to eat. I can't conceive of any possible advantage of going to a noisy restaurant unless you truly do not wish to talk to your dining companion(s).

                                                                        1. re: josephnl

                                                                          yes - i enjoy very good restaurants. and some of the are loud. the volume is NOT my primary consideration for what i enjoy in a restaurant. I do not enjoy them BECAUSE they are loud, I enjoy them AND they are loud. not the same. What you can and cannot conceive isn't the point; i have had fine conversations with my companion(s) in places both loud and quiet. thats the fact, whether or not you can conceive of it.

                                                                          1. re: josephnl

                                                                            I've realized while reading this thread that my main goal when dining in a restaurant is to eat the food. When my main goal is talking to people, I generally invite them to our home for dinner. So sometimes winding up at a noisy restaurant isn't as big a deal to me as it is to you because I have a different goal. I'd also say that if you're hellbent on dining at the latest "in" spot, well, then buyer beware. Those who are there to see and be seen are likely going to be making noise.

                                                                          2. re: thew

                                                                            What I am saying is that for me, and very many diners, loud dining environments are a real turn off.

                                                                            For you, and those who enjoy dining in such an environment, I say that you are welcome to them.

                                                                            I enjoy my dining experiences in a different type of restaurant. For me, noise is a turn off. I see nothing positive to it. Obviously, others feel the same way. That so many critics are adding that element, and even TripAdvisor has added that rating too. Someone must care.

                                                                            It's similar to my general aversion to asparagus, which so many love, and so many chefs want to insert into almost all dishes. Besides ruining my wine, I am not a fan of the taste of most preps. My choice. My taste.

                                                                            Hunt

                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                              i dont question your choice or taste bill. I was just saying that in that last point you seemed to be disputing that of those who hold the opposite view. i also said, knowing you you probably didnt intend to come across that way, just thats how it read to me

                                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                                Oh no. Choosing the dining venue is a very personal choice. I choose where I do for many reasons, and the ambient noise level factors in.

                                                                                However, to say that human hearing can filter out a high dB noise floor is not correct. An average human male begins loosing portions of their hearing at about age 15, and the average human female at about age 18. For some, it goes downhill rather quickly, due to many factors. That your hearing is as astute, as it is, is a blessing. That mine began to deteriorate pretty badly in my 20's is just life, and bad life choices - no ear plugs shooting rock-n-roll.

                                                                                That hearing damage is one reason why I seek out quieter restaurants. However, for many of my younger friends, who go for the food and the companionship of the guests at the table, the feeling is shared. That is why we all vote with our AMEX cards, and enjoy restaurants, where one can carry on a conversation with others at the table.

                                                                                My wife, who can hear me say something snide, four rooms away, does not like loud restaurants. As she is often the one, trying to conduct business, she chooses wisely, and looks for quiet venues.

                                                                                Now, is "loud" a big plus with restaurants? It must be, as so many flock to them - for awhile. As Hazelhurst points out, that crowd is very fickle. The "buzz" soon wears off. They are off to the next "hot" place. Had the food been at the same high levels as the noise, maybe they would not be in Chapter X, ducking creditors.

                                                                                I just happen to be one of those people, who do not need a noisy environment to know that I am having fun. I need no such validation. I have many other criteria, and go by those.

                                                                                Just my personal observations,

                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                    im not saying my hearing hasnt suffered, due to both age and aural abuse - it has. no question. hell i think i still have one ;eel of ringing just from p-funk at the palladium 25 years ago.

                                                                                    again to be clear - not to your post ,bill, but others, i do not choose a restaurant BECAUSE it is loud, but that is not an instant reason to not go, either.

                                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                                      I do choose some restaurants because they are quiet, and have excused myself from ones that were over MY top.

                                                                                      Now, one of our favorites, food and service wise, is louder, than we'd like, but we tolerate and just do not do business there. With about four reviews to the effect that the noise level is too high for many, the owner has toned things down, regarding the music, but obviously has no control over the surfaces (he moved into a existing space). I feel that over time, he'll make a few more changes.

                                                                                      Another, also with great food and service, has just fallen off the list. Love every other thing about it, but we cannot even carry on a conversation with the person immediately beside us, let alone anyone across the table. When we did frequent it, we were always assigned the "quite table," but that only brought the noise floor down from about 130dB to maybe 125dB. Just too loud for us, and for many of our friends (many quite a bit younger, than we are).

                                                                                      Seems that many enjoy the "vibe," while many do not. If a restauranteur is filling the chairs, then I cannot fault them for their decisions. I will just not be a likely patron.

                                                                                      Hunt

                                                                  2. re: josephnl

                                                                    If I wanted to have a "meaningful or serious conversation" I wouldn't GO to a noisy restaurant. Where do you live? I travel alot and seem to not have the experience of too noisy very often at all. Are those your only options?

                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                      I look forward to interesting and often serious and/or meaningful conversation pretty much whenever I go out to dine with friends. My whole point in initiating this discussion was that it seems that more and more of the newer and most highly rated restaurants are getting noisier and noisier. My post was prompted by dinner last Saturday evening at Wolfgang Puck's CUT, the fine dining restaurant at the very upscale Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills where it was so noisy that essentially no conversation was possible without shouting. Unfortunately, I think it is becoming increasing difficult (perhaps mainly in southern CA) to find excellent and interesting new restaurants which are quiet enough to be conducive to conversation.

                                                                      1. re: josephnl

                                                                        And when you're paying that much money at a restaurant like Puck's CUT, not being able to have a conversation with your dining companions definitely detracts from the overall experience.

                                                                        1. re: josephnl

                                                                          http://www.wolfgangpuck.com/meet-wolf...

                                                                          The pictures here tell me loud :) and clear that this place is going to be loud. But, again, I suggest that a tiny bit of research on your part and you should be able to avoid most places that will annoy you.

                                                                    2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                      Linda,

                                                                      Actually, I don't have to visit every loud restaurants and I were not making a blanket statement. My statement (if you read it words for words) is a very weak and mild statement.

                                                                      Let me give you a few examples

                                                                      I don't believe people cannot have a high paying job without a college degree.
                                                                      (Does it mean every person without a college degree can have a high paying job? No. It only indicates it is possible.)

                                                                      I don't believe people of short stature cannot play good basketball
                                                                      (again, it only suggests it is possible for a short person to play baskeball)

                                                                      I don't believe that people cannot have meaningful conversation in lively restaurants.
                                                                      (again, I only suggest it is possible)

                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                        In fact, such places are perfect for certain "meaningful" conversations. Shall we say the, "it's not you, it's me," or "I think we'd be better off if we were just friends" varieties.

                                                                        1. re: MGZ

                                                                          Ha ha ha. I didn't think of that. I would also think it is also a great place to say "I hate you. I really hate you, and you know what? I have never ever loved you"

                                                                          In all seriousness, I don't have problem with loud places and I have had many open and deep conversations with my old buddies. Granted that alcohol was also responsisble for these deep conversation, the loud environment also didn't not hurt. A very loud environment actually give you much privacy as you have suggested. Nobody but the person you are talking to can hear you. I had friends bursted into tear and spoke of their vulnerable thoughts. On average, I got to know my friends much better through these very noisy places than quiet places. People feel like they can let "it" all out in these places.

                                                                          In short, I think it is absolute possible to have meaningful in a loud environment. I have done it, and I know many people have done it. Can everyone do it? Of course not.

                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                            " I have done it, and I know many people have done it."

                                                                            Almost sounds like you are talking for a group of Vulcans, all with youthful and acute hearing with the ability to provide EQ filtration to the ambient noise levels.

                                                                            I know of no one, beyond the age of 40, who share your feelings, but then I have not met everyone, over 40.

                                                                            Hunt

                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                              I didn't like noisy places when I was UNDER 40. In fact, it's noisy places that I went to when I was under 40 that I blame for my early hearing loss.

                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                bill - you know of me, as i've been loudly vocal in this thread. im 2 months from 50, and i share CK's feelings.

                                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                                  Then your ability to differentiate human speech from a high dB noise floor is much better than mine.

                                                                                  Enjoy,

                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                    3. The food critic for the Washington Post recently added a decibel rating to his reviews. I think it's a nice addition.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                        Different noise levels for different venues.....Lunchtime Jewish delis...loud, that is o.k. with me. Casual "Bar food" places also o.k. A great Italian place with a traditional dinner, maybe 6 folks at the table.....not so great if the noise level is up there like an indoor pistol range!!!!

                                                                        1. re: ospreycove

                                                                          Totally agree with you, and that is really the point I was trying to make with my post. Sure when going out to a pub with co-workers after work on Friday to blow off some steam, noisy is just fine. But, I truly can't understand why people flock to "in" fIne dining restaurants where the noise level is so high that one must shout to be heard, and any kind of serious or meaningful conversation is essentially impossible. I fully accept that others may differ, but I don't get it!

                                                                      2. Too loud? Don't go.

                                                                        I'm assuming diners who are at "loud" restaurants either don't mind, or enjoy the din.

                                                                        If the diners are, as you say simpling tolerating it, then shame on them.

                                                                        13 Replies
                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                          Totally agree. It's usually pretty easy to find out ahead of time if a place is noisy. If you find out it's noisy and you want quiet and you go anyway, then shame on you. I don't know how OP's "elitist" comment fits here at all. Oh well.

                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                            I dunno. We certainly didn't expect a nice restaurant in a resort town to have amplified live music at 7 pm. Wasn't on the website; don't know how we would be expected to know, unless we lived there (which as it's a resort, few do).

                                                                            1. re: DGresh

                                                                              We have done "homework" to make sure that we are NOT dining at certain venues, on "live music nights." If I want live music, I'll go to an appropriate club, and not expect to converse. That is just not where I will choose to dine.

                                                                              When one restaurant's Web site made no mention of the music, but I'd seen mention on another board, I relied on CH's to give me the schedule. They were on the job, and furnished me with the listings for the live music. We changed our reservations. Unfortunately, the food was not up to minimum standards, and I do not think that any band in the world could have helped that.

                                                                              Hunt

                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                Believe me, this little town in remote colorado isn't yet on CH!

                                                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                            Do you actually like loud and noisy restaurants? If so, then your points are well taken. I personally think that most people would prefer a noise level that allows easy normal conversation without the need to shout. If this is true, then certainly accepting anything louder is by definition, "tolerating it".

                                                                            1. re: josephnl

                                                                              Not answering for ipse but for myself sometimes noisy IS what I want. When we want to have a rollicking good time, then yes. A few months ago we went to a tapas place with daughter and SIL. It was noisy and great fun. We were laughing and sharing food. The whole vibe of the place added to our enjoyment. As I said above, I think if you want quieter, it's pretty easy to vet the place before you go. And if you walk in some place and it's loud, just leave. Easy peasy.

                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                When the "rollicking good time" is what I want, I head to Pat O'Brien's in the FQ, NOLA, and go to the piano bar. I will not be trying to communicate with anyone there, other than to order another hurricane from the waiter. After the first, I just hold up my empty glass and point to it. When I dine, that is something different, at least to me.

                                                                                Just different preferences.

                                                                                Hunt

                                                                              2. re: josephnl

                                                                                Like oliver, sometimes I do want a more lively, boisterous atmo when I'm dining. And other times, I want a more quiet, sedate dining room.

                                                                                If I'm at a sports bar, it had better not be so quiet as to easily carry on a "normal conversation without the need to shout."

                                                                                But if I'm taking companions on a business lunch, then, yes, I'd choose a place that is either acoustically accomodating, or provides secluded booths.

                                                                                Not every restaurant should emulate the experience of eating at the pubilc library.

                                                                                1. re: josephnl

                                                                                  Different people have different definition of "loud and noisy", just like different people have different definition of "hot and spicy food"

                                                                                  You also don't need to shout, just speak from your diaphragm

                                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                    Oh, I can do just that. I can project, as though I am singing baritone at The Met. However, all of my guests cannot do that. Also, if they are not as capable, as I, I cannot hear them.

                                                                                    That is why I stand up and leave, and seldom invite anyone to any restaurant, that I have not researched. I did that once, and a local TV station's anchors were having a party, right behind a wall, adjacent to our table. No one at our table could hear a word. As time passed, I began speaking in my stage voice. After a few minutes of this, one of the drunken anchors approached the table, and asked if I could "keep it down a bit, as they could hear every word through the wall?" My reply was "if your group would act in a civilized manner, I would not need to speak in that voice. If you can 'keep it down,; then you will not hear a word that I say." She returned, and the noise level went way down.

                                                                                    Hunt

                                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                      :)

                                                                                      Congratulation for singing at the Met.

                                                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                        If I could only carry a tune, my voice would have gotten me an intro. Too bad that I just cannot sing. However, most people who hear me speak, insist that I should be able to do so. Guess the years of VO work paid dividends, though I should have traded the $ for singing lessons - too late now.

                                                                                        Hunt

                                                                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                  I follow your advice to the letter. I also comment on the dB levels in my reviews. We have cut some otherwise great restaurants out of the mix, if we plan on actually communicating with the guests at the table. Some of these have really good food.

                                                                                  One of those is still rather noisy, but the owner opened a near-by venue, with highly reflective surfaces. The menu was about the same, but the noise level was about +5dB higher. We went once. It closed after about 9 mos. Loud is not always the answer.

                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                3. jfood hates, dispises, loathes, cannot stand loud restaurants. After reading all the responses he still cannot understand why people want to eat and shout. How can you have a conversation when half of the responses are "excuse me." It is not the energy level that rises in jfood when eating in a loud restaurant, it is his blood pressure.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                                    (I love the word "loathe." I used it this morning to describe my feeling towards biscuits and gravy.) But when you're the one making dining plans, don't you prequalify restaurants so it's unlikely to occur? And, honestly, I'm hard-pressed to think of many that are particularly loud. Now we did go to a Basque place that had parties of 20 to 30 at long tables. That was loud but so much fun. Made several new best friends. I'm on meds for BP btw :)

                                                                                  2. I guess I'm old, but I CANNOT ABIDE having to raise my voice to converse over dinner. If it's because overloud music is being piped in, I will never return. I can tolerate the noise generated by a good crowd and poor-or-no use of sound dampening structural components a little better, but it's still a turnoff.

                                                                                    1. I went to the new Morimoto restaurant in Napa last week on a Saturday night - I'm glad I went just to see the place and have a great drink at the bar, but I had a very hard time hearing anything my friend was saying and we were talking loudly to try to compensate for all the background noise. We didn't stay for a meal - only a snack and a drink. It is an extremely popular place, but I would not personally return unless it was a slow night and much quieter. I agree with the post regarding a common decline in hearing after age 50 - it's the kind of loss that makes it difficult to separate loud background noise from someone speaking directly to you. It was fun to enjoy the vibe, but at some point, not being able to participate in any meaningful conversation got old. I hear reasonably well under normal circumstances.

                                                                                      1. I had a number of ear infections as a kid and thus have a hard time hearing with noise in the background. But I still prefer not to dine in truly quiet restaurants. If the main noise I do hear is the tinkling of china and silverware, it's too quiet. I like to hear laughter, conversation and music, even if it means I have to ask my companions to repeat themselves. And my friends and I have practically all our meaningful conversations in restaurants and bars.

                                                                                        1. Well, I hang with a rather rambunctious crowd, and my man and many of our friends (including one Chinese) are serious "loud speakers" - no worries not ever catching anything someone might say...

                                                                                          That said, there's a place in Berlin that serves THE best burger (period), and it is incredibly loud, with the addition of pretty horrible music (cheesy 80s hair bands, bad rock). You pretty much have to yell at each other, even at a 3-top, but ya know -- the burger is so totally, absolutely worth it. Would I prefer it to be not as loud, with better music. Yes. But I'll still go.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: linguafood

                                                                                            Yeah, what is it with the 80's music being played all over the place? I remember the 80's (I even remember the 70's, LOL!) and the music was really not all that. I can sing along with a lot of 80's music, but 5 minutes later I'll be dinged if I can remember words, tune, title, or band. It was like, I don't know, ad jingles. Catchy sing-alongs that just don't stick and are basically fairly hollow.

                                                                                            With some exceptions obviously, but it's generally not the exceptions I'm hearing being played in these places.

                                                                                          2. Of course, if you're with a boring companion, music can be a blessing.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: beevod

                                                                                              Lesson learned - either do not invite boring people, or go to "live music" venues. [Grin]

                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                              PS - personally, I ascribe to the former.

                                                                                            2. So reading through this, one can see that some are more amenable to the noisy environment than others and do not see it as impediment to conversation.

                                                                                              Lucky them, I suppose. I was always envious of the friends of mine who could meet new people in club venues where I spent all my time smiling and nodding after tiring of saying 'what?' or, more typically, having the people talking to me tire of my asking them to repeat themselves. I don't have the best hearing in good circumstances, so I find ambient sound something that can compete with the conversation in front of me. I can't drown it out. It probably also doesn't help that I can be easily distracted.

                                                                                              Meanwhile, I also thought I'd add one of my greatest peeves-- more so than a naturally loud place (which doesn't bother so much as provide a challenge)-- and that is the empty restaurant where the music is turned up high. I suspect that the people working there do it to make an empty place seem busy, but all it does is distract from conversation whilst calling attention to how very empty the room is.

                                                                                              15 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Lizard

                                                                                                I couldn't agree more about loud music in empty restaurants. I don't mind restaurants that are loud because they're crowded and the acoustics don't do anything to help the situation. However, if I'm the only party or one of 2-3 parties in the restaurant, it seems so silly to crank the music up so loud that I can't hear my dining mates.

                                                                                                1. re: queencru

                                                                                                  But doesn't that loud music signify that this is a "happening" restaurant - one with a "buzz?"

                                                                                                  At least the bloggers can say that they could not hear the waitstaff, or any conversation at their tables.

                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                2. re: Lizard

                                                                                                  I hear ya Lizard. What about the places that have the tv(s) blaring just so the help shouldn't get bored when it is slow. Bleh. I once visited a really good bbq place, no longer in business, where they had a radio program blaring a benefit drive for Children's Hospital. My friend and I were the only ones eating because we stopped for a very early dinner. The charity drive was non-stop talk and I begged the waitress to ask them to turn the program down, turn it off, or change the channel. I asked twice. At that point I needed to just get the food to go. But I was exhausted and really hungry and it was blistering hot outside. When my bbq came I started eating, thinking I could tough it out. Then a sweet little girl on the radio started reading the poem she had written to her cancer. I started crying into my bbq and had to leave. My poor friend was stuck with getting the to-go containers while I sobbed in the car in the intense heat. I'm lucky I didn't throw up I was so upset. Even though that bbq was divine I could never bring myself to go back there again. The waitress did tell me she had been listening to the program in the car on her way to work.

                                                                                                  1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                                                    That reminds me of a time I went to a restaurant that had TVs throughout the restaurant. We were sitting by one TV that had some 30-minute toilet cleaning infomercial on and immediately complained to the server. The server then had to talk to management because servers were not given access to the remote. I cannot understand why any restaurant would have an infomercial channel on in the first place since it's often for cleaning products that aren't really great mealtime watching!

                                                                                                    1. re: queencru

                                                                                                      I HATE TVs in restaurants. Somehow, the rest of the world is doing just fine being out of the house for dinner and NOT having a TV around for a couple hours.

                                                                                                      Yeah, I know -- it's a sport-obsessed culture. Nah. More like TV-obsessed.

                                                                                                      The only time you'll see a TV brought out in Europe in bars or restos is for the World Cup. And that's for a month, tops.

                                                                                                      end of rant.

                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                        <The only time you'll see a TV brought out in Europe in bars or restos is for the World Cup.>

                                                                                                        Linguafood, it would seem you've opted not to include Britain in Europe then, given that I can assure you that many pubs and restos have televisions. In one place, there is a screen for every booth. There has to be some sport to fill the days before the World Cup is on again.

                                                                                                        1. re: Lizard

                                                                                                          God yes. In my local I can see 4 screens most places I sit.

                                                                                                          1. re: Lizard

                                                                                                            Nope, didn't include it. AFAIK, Britain itself does not consider itself part of the continent '-)

                                                                                                            1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                              I feel compelled to point out that Scotland is not half as Eurosceptic as England (so many factors including anything anti-Tory and the SNP's fantasy of splitting). Still, I need to stop stirring the pot. It's bad enough I'm also Belgian and having a go at that mess.

                                                                                                        2. re: queencru

                                                                                                          That is awful queencru! Reminds me of a time my friend and I ate at a nice diner for breakfast. We asked for the non-smoking section, but there was a large tv there, turned on to the news. I begged for it to be turned off. The waitress asked the other lone patron if it was okay, and then told us that the tv would be turned on in twenty minutes because the hostess and waitress always watched this morning show together at 10 am.
                                                                                                          She meant it, the tv was turned on just as we were finishing up and the two of them settled in with their coffee. But your experience busts my theory that the tvs are mostly for the enjoyment of the help. /shudder.

                                                                                                          1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                                                            The server had no clue why the toilet cleaning was airing and was equally appalled! He said they usually had on ESPN or one of the news channels if there were no sports on.

                                                                                                            1. re: queencru

                                                                                                              My friend and I used to go to bars to watch South Park.

                                                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                That sounds fun Chemical! My friend John and I were at a bar during Conan's last week of his show and that was great in a bittersweet kind of way.. News is too scary and depressing to eat or drink by but I don't mind a game on if the volume isn't cranked and if the screen isn't huge. If the home team is winning there is usually an electric excitement in the air.
                                                                                                                However if the favored team is losing, ulp. Thank goodness I wasn't there but one time my friend John C. had a bet on a game with his favorite team and several vodka and cranberrys in him. Things got kinda ugly when they lost. Don't think he is allowed back at that bar.

                                                                                                                1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                                                                  Yeah, I like Conan. I feel really bad for the guy.

                                                                                                                  About South Park, that was when we were students and most (all) of us don't have cable TV, so we went to a local bar to watch South Park. Unfortunately, the bar was always loud and we cannot really tell people to shut up by saying "Hey, shut up! I am watching South Park here."

                                                                                                          2. re: queencru

                                                                                                            Reminds me of the time we were at a restaurant where the TV was tuned to a hair transplant infomercial with actual surgery footage. Yummy!

                                                                                                            TV-B-Gone: http://www.tvbgone.com/

                                                                                                      2. I don't, I've just written something similar, but if I'm going to have a proper sit-down meal, I'll walk in, check it out, and if I don't like it I leave.

                                                                                                        Seating is important too, I want my own little area for me and my girlfriend, not to share a bench or something.

                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Soop

                                                                                                          That's a pet peeve--sitting too close to another table. My husband and I were seated next to another couple, with only a thin parchment paper wall the length of the tables only. They were obviously on a first date, we could see them on both sides of the paper and could hear everything. Awkward, even if you try not to listen.

                                                                                                          1. re: Soop

                                                                                                            I've gotten good over the years at spying and getting good tables. But once in a great while someone really obnoxious is seated after you, and that can be hard to beat. But some tables seem to be just "bullet-proof" and I always aspire to those best seats in the house.

                                                                                                            1. re: givemecarbs

                                                                                                              There are sometimes places that are arranged really well, and there are sometimes intelligent waiting staff that use common sense when seating people. That's worth extra tip money along with repeat service.

                                                                                                          2. If a restaurant is loud because of the music, I just assume it's too young and hip for me, but if it's loud because of talk and hard surfaces, well, that's when things get fun. My husband once belted out 'Thank you for coming to Loew's! Sit back, relax, enjoy the show!' in a loud falsetto voice in a crowded, deafening restaurant, then pretended nothing had happened. A few tables fell silent, people looked puzzled, then the noise resumed. On another occasion, we pretended we were on a first date and asked each other stupid awkward questions. The table immediately adjacent to ours began to listen in, exchanging smiles. On another occasion, we pretended we had committed a murder and discussed ways to cover it up. The key to alerting people to our little drama was to occasionally say something in a high-pitched voice above the resonant frequency of the room, then falling back to a normal pitch before people caught on. They'd become quiet, then strain to hear where this interesting conversation was taking place. And that, folks, is how slightly geeky middle-aged people have fun in otherwise unpleasant restaurants.

                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                              LOL! OK, now THAT would be fun to watch, Isolda!

                                                                                                              1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                That is so cool. I wish Donna would do stuff like that.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                    Along those lines - I was in a very good restaurant in Amsterdam last week, one of my all-time favorites, albeit on the noisy side. Part way through the meal, someone at another table made one of those "ding-ding-ding" noises by tapping their glass with a spoon like you hear at weddings when someone's proposing a toast. The room instantly went quiet as everyone looked around to see what was happening and began whispering to each other. Took a few minutes for the noise level to get back up to normal!

                                                                                                                  2. I'll never understand the popularity of restaurants where the music is so loud that conversation is difficult or impossible, but obviously some people like it.

                                                                                                                    Some restaurants run their background music through a band equalizer or notch filter set to the human vocal range, which allows guests to feel the beat without interfering with conversation. It makes any vocals in the music sound weird, but few people are likely to listen closely enough to notice.