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Let’s make a list of obnoxiously loud restos

For some reason, the concept of many new and otherwise worthy Camberville restaurants seems to feature a ridiculously loud ambience (by means of hard surfaces, extremely amplified music, or usually both) which all but precludes any normal conversation while dining. Recent posts have cited First Printer, Painted Burro, Highland Kitchen, and others as extreme examples. Obviously, many people are drawn to such an environment, but many others appreciate a moderately-priced dining option that doesn’t involve shouting to be heard. As a service to BOTH camps, I’d like to assemble a list of Camb/Som places to either patronize or avoid, depending on one’s tolerance for noise.

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  1. Bukowski's in Inman (except in the summer when they open the front up). I don't expect it quiet there, but some nights it has stopped all conversation and made dealing with the waitstaff difficult.

    2 Replies
    1. re: yarm

      Second. I would love to go there more often, but it is just miserable. That single reason has made me cross it off the list forever, even though I would probably be a regular otherwise. I haven't noticed the same noise level at the Boston branch.

      1. re: DoubleMan

        This. I like Bukowski's food just fine and would love the beers, but the music is ear-damagingly loud even at 5:30p when nobody's there (but me).

    2. Abigail's was pretty loud when I went - lots of shiny concrete and glass!

      1. Unless they made some changes recently, Posto (Davis Sq).

        7 Replies
        1. re: emannths

          I love Posto but the owners seem to be confused about the difference between "lively" and "ridiculously loud". At both Posto and their new Painted Burro restaurant, they've removed everything that can soften/baffle sound, put in lots of hardwood floors, and then play club music during the busiest times. I mentioned on a separate thread that during my most recent visit to Painted Burro, my server had to go over my order by just showing me her notes, because she couldn't hear me and I couldn't hear her over the din.

          1. re: Boston_Otter

            Agree 100% on Posto. Enjoy the pizza, but find the noise and music overwhelming. We were there this weekend and had trouble conversing at normal volumes (note: we're not old)

            1. re: jackal

              Posto hasn't changed - we just went for the first time Sunday night and couldn't talk at all, luckily it was just my husband and me and we didn't mind! Had we been with friends/family it would have been really annoying. Too bad because pizza was very good.

            2. re: Boston_Otter

              Quick followup on this thread... the owners of the Painted Burro seem to have turned the music down quite a bit between my last visit and a recent one; I was actually able to hold conversations with my tablemates.

              1. re: Boston_Otter

                I gave up long ago on Posto and Painted Burro because of the volume. (note: I am old)

                1. re: l0b0SKI

                  Was this before they moved the Painted Burro bar next door to the old Spike's location? I find that the volume in the main dining room is a lot more reasonable now.

                  1. re: dfan

                    that would be great news. I'll check it out soon as I can.

          2. All star sandwich bar if you are sitting near a speaker.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Madrid

              I've sat at virtually every table at ASSB and never have had a problem. Where is the speaker?

              1. re: Blumie

                walk in, turn to the left where the tables are, and it's the first table right next to the restrooms, in the corner. speaker right above that table. You notice it more when the restaurant is about half empty.It might just be me and my DC; we have a special needs child who's very sensitive to ambient noise and even when we aren't with him, it bothers me now as well.

                1. re: Madrid

                  Sat there last time I was there. And on this day, I think the theme (they have some gimmicky kind of "theme" iPod playlist, which is different every day) the theme was really bad early 80s electronica. We were seated at that table, and we had to leave half-way through our meal, it was so grating and loud.

                  1. re: Small Plates

                    glad to know I'm not completely crazy! I actually stepped out after we ordered to get some spices at Christina's, so I missed a lot of it...otherwise I'd probably left half way through.

            2. While not in Camberville, Trade is obnoxiously loud.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mkfisher

                +1 - the acoustics seem almost designed to physically crush you with loudness while eating, and I'm not super sensitive to noise.

                1. re: LeoLioness

                  Second this after our first (and likely last) visit their on Saturday.


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: hiddenboston

                    For a place that was bar/restaurant/bowling alley, I didn't think it was too bad (and that was prime time on a weekend). Maybe it depends on where you're seated, or who your neighbors are.

                    1. re: emannths

                      There was a little kid in the booth next to us who kept hammering the bench seat as hard as he could, and a few others nearby who were laughing really loud about something (hopefully not us!). The pizza was excellent, though.

                  2. Blue Inc. Really enjoyed my meal there, but my wife and I had to go out for post dinner drinks with the other couple we were dining with in order to have a conversation.

                    1. Agree with someone above about Bukowski's in Inman. I'd add to that Anchovies (late night, at least) and Lone Star Taco Bar. We were all yelling at each other across the table "what?! Conversation was difficult to impossible.

                      1. Firebrand Saints is pretty darn loud. And spendy! I got the whirred celery root with dates mezze as a side dish (so larger than the mezze) and it was $12 !?!

                        1. Another one from the Boston side of the river: the din at Tico was pretty stunning the last time I was in there. Too-loud house-ish dance music was a major factor.

                          Also, no "wicked loud restaurant" discussion is complete without including the first floor of Grill 23 when it's busy. The front, street-level bar at Towne is also deafening.


                          2 Replies
                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Second for Tico. I like the food, but you need to yell to be heard across the table.

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              Happy's is also unbearably loud. Everything about that place is just trying WAY too hard. Which is too bad, I was very excited for it to open.

                            2. JM Curley on a recent Friday after work...really painful. This was in the main room, not the little one off to the side, which I prefer.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: robwat36

                                I agree with you there. The waiter there had to lean in and put his ear only inches from my mouth, so I could scream my order to him. After all that, the food was lousy as well. I won't be going back.

                              2. Also Boston: The din during busy nights at Scampo and the music at Citizen Public depending on where you're sitting.

                                1. Another not in Camberville, but very loud -- Legal's Harborside, 1st Floor

                                  1. downstairs at Russell House was very loud on a Saturday night.

                                    Trade was deafening.

                                    I have to agree though, that Grill 23 might set the bar.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ChinaCat

                                      Not in Cambridge but Smith and Wollensky was the loudest place I ever dined. We could not hear each other at all. I went early on and have never gone back.

                                    2. Gaslight. Food is good, but noise level ranges from just plain loud to painfully deafening.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: nightsky

                                        Not in the OP's designated geographical region but the music at The Cottage in Chestnut Hill is so loud you can hear it right out into the parking lot. And it's twice as loud inside. I really don't see the reason for this.

                                        1. re: suepar

                                          for that matter, some Bertucci's locations are also very loud....one of our son's favorites and we prefer Bertucci's to his other favorite, the 99!

                                          1. re: nightsky

                                            Go in the summer and sit outside, there's much less noise.

                                          2. I'll add Tasty Burger to the list. Last Monday, it was pretty difficult to speak to the waiter or my dining companion. Although the previous time I was there, we sat in the alcove around the corner by the pool table and the volume was not an issue.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: yarm

                                              +1 on Tasty Burger. So loud that the bartender (who was the most disinterested service person I have seen in a long time, constantly with his back to the patrons while watching TV) couldn't hear my order, so of course it was completely wrong upon arrival. Not even an apology for the screw up.. .

                                            2. surprisingly, Clio. The worst ever. None of our four could hear anyone else at out table. (IslCreekOB is 6? times bigger but intimate conversation is no problem there.)

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                We surmise that the oyster shells along the walls act like auditory tiles to dampen the sound reverberations at ICOB. I've never had it loud in Clio, but I generally go earlier in the week (I could imagine them upping the music on the weekends).


                                                1. re: yarm

                                                  What I don't understand is why as it gets "later", it gets SO much louder! I was at Abe & Louie's last Saturday at 6:30PM & the noise level was OK, but by 8PM we pretty much had to yell across the table to be heard. The bone-in filet was very good, but the place has slipped since they were sold. Can't quite put my finger on it, but it just wasn't the same.
                                                  Went next door to Max Brenners for desert with my sister-in-law (while my hubby & brother-in-law were having "desert" - cigars & scotch - at Cigar Masters) & that place was even louder - we ended up hurrying desert up & headed for the peace & quiet of Cigar Masters. I think all of the places on that Boyleston Street strip are really loud for some reason.

                                              2. I love, love, love the food at Highland Kitchen, but I find it obnoxiously loud. Also, dbar on Showtunes Tuesdays was unbearable. I now realize that it's a weekly thing there, and so avoid going there for dinner (I think only a late dinner would run into the showtunes) on Tuesdays, but still, the first time I was blindsided by it.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: lipoff

                                                  Funny, I was just about to post saying that Highland Kitchen's noise level is fine with me, and I consider myself pretty intolerant to noise. I was just there Monday for fried chicken night and had a pleasant conversation - I don't recall having to raise my voice or say "what?" a lot . Certainly I'd claim that Bukowski and The Painted Burro are at a whole qualitative level above it, noise-wise.

                                                  1. re: dfan

                                                    HK's noise level is highly variable. I usually go earlier on weeknights without a problem, but on the rare weekend visit, it is pretty loud.

                                                    1. re: Bob Dobalina

                                                      I love Highland Kitchen, but tend to go there with my sons and their younger ears. My husband loves the food but feels like we can't carry on a conversation, which is the whole reason we go out together.

                                                      That said, I can't wait to return.

                                                2. Redbones is pretty loud-which worked in our favor last night considering we were there with our 7 month old whose favorite new activity is shrieking at a blood curdling pitch and then laughing after getting a reaction from anyone who notices...fortunately the chattering and clanking of dishes and forks was able to muffle the high pitched screams long enough for us to enjoy a quick bite. I was anxiously looking around to make sure we weren't disturbing anyone's meal, and I honestly don't think anyone noticed, so it must be pretty darn loud in that dining room!

                                                  1. Since this post got resurrected, let me add Legal Harborside, 1st floor, where the noise at lunch left four ladies of a certain age shouting to be heard. we finally gave up. Such a handsome room. Such a great view. Such a horrible shrieking!!!! (the food is another problem, discussed elsewhere).

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: teezeetoo

                                                      I definitely second Legal Harborside 1sr floor. It's the first place I thought of.

                                                    2. The Painted Burro is a lot better now that the bar has moved next door.

                                                      1. Newly opened Mission Sushi & Wok, very nicely, turned down the volume at our student lunch this past Monday. With all the hard surfaces, this really helped.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Taralli

                                                          How did you like the food there? I've heard pretty decent stuff about it...

                                                        2. Boston: Neptune Oyster because of all the tile. Dbar after 6 or so when they crank the music up during dinner. I get that it's also a club, but that's way too early.

                                                          1. Cinquecento is deafening when it's crowded.

                                                            Steel & Rye booms when it's busy, but the dining area to the left of the host stand a couple of steps down is a bit quieter.


                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                              All places are louder now that texting has replaced conversation.

                                                            2. I have to add Sam's at the waterfront to this list. I went for the first time on Friday evening with 3 friends. The weather was appalling, so there was no outside seating, and the room was packed. It was nearly impossible to hear what my friends were saying. I had to strain to hear everything, but know I missed plenty. Too bad, as I enjoyed my food.

                                                              23 Replies
                                                              1. re: kimfair1

                                                                Just curious, will you go back or does this make it "one and done" because of the noise level?

                                                                I wonder how we get this message to to the management?


                                                                1. re: BostonZest

                                                                  don't know about others but in general I won't go back. part of the pleasure I take in eating is the sharing of both food and conversation. no matter how good the food, if I can't have the sense of comraderie it isn't worth it to me. on the plus side, two recent dinners filled both functions nicely: Oishii in the South End and Deuxave. I also never have a problem at Rendezvous or Erbaluce which is why they stay on my permanent rotation or at inexpensive places with great food like Shanghai Gate or YoMa. I don't think management cares as long as they are filling the house and I do think it's a generational difference and younger diners don't seem to mind either the noise levels around them or the amount of noise they make themselves.

                                                                  1. re: BostonZest

                                                                    It's not like these things happen by accident, certainly not above a certain price level. Noise level is a conscious, deliberate design choice, like the menu and the furnishings. Driving away people who don't like loud restaurants is partly the point, I suspect.


                                                                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                      i agree with your point though given the failure rate of restaurants; i am surprised that the owners are willing to alienate people.

                                                                      So what makes people who dislike loud noise bad customers? i guess that this demographic is older; is that the point of the noise? Why not have face control as in London or Moscow?

                                                                      This makes more sense in night clubs where lovely young women cause men to show up. But at restaurants? Are these places also to see or to be seen?

                                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                        Does that make sense? The people who don't like noise are often the people with fatter wallets.

                                                                        1. re: bcc

                                                                          I don't think the calculus is "hates noise = bad customer", but more like, "loud = lively = fun in the minds of our target demo."

                                                                          Some places are loud and do well. The market has room to support a lot of different concepts. But it sure seems to me like a trend that is growing, not shrinking. I'm reminded of this NY Times story: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/nyr...


                                                                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                            your article states that older clients cannot tolerate loud music as well, and thus noisy places are more hospitable to a younger demographic.

                                                                          2. re: bcc

                                                                            if your aim is to target the beautiful people, then you have to exclude some rich old farts.

                                                                            Restauranteurs are not idiots; they must be making reasonable decisions or they will not last; this is a tough business..

                                                                            1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                                              I do think it is both conscious and probably a reflection of what the restaurant's owners themselves think of as "hip." Just as TV shows and movies believe the profitable demographic is young and male. There's probably more "crossover" among generations on entertainment than on restaurant ambience. My generation was raised on Le Pavillon and La Grenouille as the standard and it's hard to imagine a line of walkers and wheelchairs taking up the bar seats at Momofuko!

                                                                              1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                                                I do think it is both conscious and probably a reflection of what the restaurant's owners themselves think of as "hip." Just as TV shows and movies believe the profitable demographic is young and male. There's probably more "crossover" among generations on entertainment than on restaurant ambience. My generation was raised on Le Pavillion and La Grenouille as the standard and it's hard to imagine a line of walkers taking up the bar seats at Momofuko!

                                                                                1. re: teezeetoo

                                                                                  the food at David Chang's places is unorthodox and not suited to people whose tastes have ossified. My partner, Bob, and his wife were unwilling to bring their child there due to the noise. Bob's days as a hipster are over.

                                                                                  1. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                                                    My hip bones have ossified, not my tastebuds. And I never considered noise an added attraction at any age. Lots of people of all ages do like action around them and did when I was young. It's personal: I don't like it. That doesn't make it wrong for others and it doesn't mean I'm incapable of embracing other kinds of change.

                                                                                2. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                                                  I wish I were a rich old fart. But I hate noise, and that affects my choice of where to dine. If I mistakenly go into a place that is too raucous, I don't even sit down.

                                                                                  1. re: bcc

                                                                                    I have always hated noisy places, even when I was in the so-called target demographic of these hip places. If it's too loud and shiny, I'm out of there, which is really too bad, because my wallet at 50 is a lot fatter than my wallet at 25.

                                                                                    1. re: bcc

                                                                                      "I wish I were a rich old fart."

                                                                                      i also to aspire to the 1st adjective in there, but not the next 2. :)

                                                                                      having spent many years working in noisy restaurant environments, i do NOT enjoy dining out in them and yes, it is most certainly a conscious design decision.

                                                                                      a few places that are closed, but gaslight has driven me out more than once. the food isn't enough to warrant the decibels, so i have stopped trying to go.

                                                                                      on the flip side, most steakhouses are insanely loud, and filled up with rich old farts.

                                                                                    2. re: cambridgedoctpr

                                                                                      Successful restauranteurs aren't idiots for sure... but some are cheap. Maybe they realize it's loud, but the cost/benefit of making the changes isn't worth it to them (at least at the moment).

                                                                                      As a somewhat related example, a family member works in the kitchen of James Beard nominated chef in the northeast (not in Boston). I commented to her on my last visit that a few tables in the back of the room had table cloths, but the majority did not. She asked the chef/owner, and I guess the reason was that the tables were old so he needed something to cover them. Now this is an owner I know cares deeply about reviews/accolades, and he's too cheap to replace/fix four tables in the back of the room. I can only imagine what lengths he'd go to avoid having to pay for some elements that dampen the noise in the room.

                                                                                      1. re: mkfisher

                                                                                        i can live with an old table better than with noise.

                                                                                        there is a level of restaurant where the tables seem to matter; others are just fine with a minimalist approach.

                                                                                        the previous incarnation of china king - located in a gas station - was so bad that with climate control that i only ate there when the weather was reasonable.

                                                                                  2. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                    Agreed. But in my conversations with management at Cinquecento, my understanding is that they see the noise level as a service problem (resulting in misunderstood orders) and are seeking draperies to dampen down the noise level.

                                                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                                                      I heard this management story about alleged sound-proofing measures in the offing, too, some months ago. Not sure if serious.


                                                                                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                                                        cinquecento and gaslight are the same owners -- i think it's part of their intent to have boisterous atmospheres in these locations. i don't mind lively, but when it tips over into a din i can't bear it while dining or having a few drinks -- to RELAX!! lol.

                                                                                        i still go see plenty of LOUD live music, but that's an entirely different kind of evening.

                                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                          Exactly why I'm skeptical. I like Cinquecento, but the roar can be painful.


                                                                                  3. re: BostonZest

                                                                                    I often go back to a place a few times before I sign off on it but after giving them a few chances I won't go back. I have called mangers about quality of food and service but never thought to call about the noise levels.

                                                                                    1. re: BostonZest

                                                                                      I think it will be one and done for me on Sam's. Had I really loved the food, I may have ventured back, but it was just too painfully loud.

                                                                                  4. Add Lincoln in Southie to the list.

                                                                                    It's maybe 1/3 full but its giving me a headache!!! Yikes it's loud in here!

                                                                                    It's full now but it's freaking deafening and unpleasant.

                                                                                    Food's very good though ...

                                                                                    1. John Brewers Malden being too loud is just one of the reasons we don't patronize it... mediocre food is the other reason