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Apr 30, 2012 11:20 AM

Loud and louder restos: Maybe I'm getting old, but...

are some restaurants just way too noisy nowadays?

I was at Lazy Ox and could hardly speak with my dining companions. They had the volume turned up high with Hendrix blaring. I'm a fan of Hendrix's but it made for very difficult and imho uncomfortable dining. Then my friend mentioned that it seems to be a trend - noisy and noisier - Bottega Louie and Red Medicine come to mind....

So I'm taking a poll - what do you think is the noisiest restaurant in LA? Would you avoid a noisy restaurant even though the food is good? Or do you think the noise just adds to a convivial atmosphere?

I'm not trying to rap any of these restaurants, but just to find out what everyone's temperature on this is....


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  1. The noisiest restaurants *without* electronically-amplified sounds that I've ever been to were all dim sum places that have mostly Cantonese patrons. Cantonese is often spoken at a loud volume, and families will bring screaming babies along. The grandparents are sometimes hard of hearing, so they end up almost yelling at one another. But that has never stopped me from going.

    1. My worst experience ever was at Izaka-ya by Katsu-ya about four years ago. My dining companion and I had to yell at each other louder than at any club I've been to. In the 10 years I lived in Manhattan and frequently went to designed-to-be loud places, nothing was that bad!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Peripatetic

        "Izaka-ya(da) Katsu-ya(da)" yada... ;-D>

      2. I've got to cast my vote for Bottega Louie. Love the place, but the noise level is truly ridiculous. I also agree that Lazy Ox is very loud, as are Mas Malo, Rivera, and Corkbar - and those are just the ones that spring to mind in my neighborhood.

        I think that restaurant designers/owners think that decibel level correlates with popularity (or that it will in their patrons' minds). That combined with the hard material aesthetic (like all that marble and bare drywall in Louie) make for a lot of a really loud restaurants these days. Personally, I think it's really frustrating and exhausting to have to shout at your dining companions! I love the comparatively hushed atmosphere at places like Hatfield's - so relaxing.

        4 Replies
        1. re: aching

          Oh, forgot to mention the Mozzas - SO LOUD.

          1. re: aching

            I'd definitely second Bottega Louie. I actually like the food there and would like the ambience if I could have a conversation, which I can't, at all. I can barely even hear myself think in that place. I have given up on it.

            1. re: estone888

              Especially when the band cranks into their encore version of Louie Louie.

              Oh no, we gotta go now.

            2. re: aching

              The last time I went to Pizzeria Mozza was with my (then) two year old-- we were seated in a side room (clearly the "child ghetto") and it was heaven.

          2. Busy restaurants make busy restaurant noises, with or without the music in the background (see dim sum example above).

            I love Hatfield's but the space is huge and the restaurant can be 25-40% empty on a Friday or Saturday night (last visit 1-2 month ago) which explains why it is more quiet.

            Recently a friend and I decided against sushi in favor of P.Mozza because as much as I love sushi and even though I just had some Mozza 2 weeks ago, it was as a Wednesday night and we wanted a bit more energetic setting after a long work day. The thought of dining in a hushed setting just didn't seem all that appealing.

            13 Replies
            1. re: Porthos

              > Busy restaurants make busy restaurant noises,
              > with or without the music in the background

              There's a school of thought among some restauranteurs that noise is good, that customers equate it with popularity. To that end, they (or their designers) deliberately minimize acoustical dampening and maximize hard, sound-reflecting surfaces. Notice how places like Bottega Louie are all hard surfaces? If restauranteurs really wanted to do something about noise, they could.

                1. re: aching

                  Because they need durable and cleanable spaces

                  1. re: Servorg

                    I don't think you meant to respond to me? But I'll respond anyway - it is possible to have durable and cleanable spaces that include acoustical treatments. Carpet on the floor would be disgusting, I agree (the only nice restaurant I can think of that has it is Ray's), but there are all kind of wall and ceiling treatments that can be positioned so that there's no way that food can get on them. I've even seen tables that have acoustical treatment on the underside - clever!

                    1. re: aching

                      to concur with and add to what aching correctly stated:

                      just take a look at the sound panels that have been wall mounted at A Votre Sante in brentwood and the cork panels that have been wall mounted at Cafe del Rey.

                      dampening restaurant noise while maintaining the "cleanability" factor is not exactly rocket science.. . . .
                      maybe because we live in LA where so many musicians build their own recording studios, soundproofing material of all sorts is very widely available in this town.

                        1. re: westsidegal

                          The issue of noise being either an asset or a liability is dependent on what camp one is in, whether it's from the perspective of the owner or the customer.

                          Aesthetic factor of panels also plays into the formula. I know a guy who is working on this issue for a few restaurant owners - some small, some with multiple units. He has offered up various options to restaurant owners who are trying to mitigate noise in their spaces but have turned down the obvious ones mentioned. They want noise mitigation that works better with their spaces' existing decor.

                          This acquaintance also has mentioned that as easy as it seems to mitigate noise, it's actually a very complex issue with room size, ceiling height, shape of the room as well as the those factors of adjacent/joining spaces, types/angles of surfaces, sound systems, etc.

                          Accessing acoustic panels isn't an issue in most parts of the US. They can be ordered from just about any place in the country and delivered overnight if need be. I think the real issues are what the motives are behind the noise/volume and ultimately what market segments those factors draw.

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            agree that accessing them isn't difficult as long as you know what you're looking for. in my case, all the knowledge i have about soundproofing comes from my friends in the music industry in LA.
                            when i lived on the east coast, none of my friends knew squat about what to do to control sound (although they did know a lot about financial derivatives).
                            i guess if i lived in hershey, PA., i'd know more about making bad chocolate. . . . .

                    2. re: aching

                      > That's exactly what I said!

                      You're right, I missed that. I blame Monday-itis.

                      FWIW I first read about (and encountered) this practice in the late 1980s while living in Manhattan, so this is an old, old "fad" that is here to stay. :(

                      EDIT: I found the article:


                      Ironically, it was actually about a short-lived trend of making restaurants quieter! How quaint.

                    3. re: Peripatetic

                      But if they're packed day in and day out and require reservations weeks in advance, is there something wrong with that school of thought? Why would they change a successful formula?

                      I think Bottega Louie is too loud for no good reason. But it's hard to argue that the Mozzas, Red Medicine, Gjelina, etc. need to do something about the noise given the extreme degree of their success.

                      1. re: Porthos

                        Oh, I forgot about Gjelina! I took my mother-in-law there for dinner one Saturday night - huge mistake. The food was great, as always, but neither of us could hear a damn thing the other was saying - and I know she hated it because of that.

                    4. re: Porthos

                      Was at Pizzeria Mozza L.A on Sun for lunch, wasn't bothered by the noise level. In fact, I don't recall sound being an issue.

                      Side note, the new pizzas featuring tomatoes from DiNapoli/Bianco (yes, Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco fame) are fantastically delicious. I'm not crazy about the $20 tariff but the pie was terrific.

                      1. re: zack

                        1+ for the noise level and +1 for the DiNapolia/Bianco pizzas.

                        I got the pie with mozzarella di bufala , tomato, Genovese basil & extra virgin olive oil. More flavorful and juicier than the regular margherita. Available at P. Mozza LA and not P. Mozza Newport (as of last week).

                    5. Barbrix is SUPER LOUD. the noise just bounces off the walls...