Is loud the new normal?
Recent visits to Dandelion and Barbuzzo brought this question to mind again. Is loud the new normal?
A comment about the food and service.
We loved the food and service at Barbuzzo and will just have to endure the crowds and noise.
Dandelion is a lovely venue with excellent service and interesting menu choices. We did find some items underwhelming. A Pimm's Cup that could have been anything other than a Pimm's Cup. Pimm's #1 is an English staple and next to Champagne the most consumed drink at Wimbledon.
The fish and chips were excellent, their version of Bangers and Mash was less that great, the Welsh Rarebit was tasty but unrecognizable and the English Cheeseboard was quite nice but British not English, other selections were not English Classics so we give most of them a "good enough" We were seated on the 3rd Floor in a lovely room which was promised to be a bit more quiet. . It was deafening at best.
The new normal?
To be fair both visits were on a weekend evening which adds to the customer count also to the drink fueled talk. We like the busy, happy vibes the vibrant atmosphere and expect some volume but is loud the new normal?
"Is loud the new normal?"
Yes. If you want a quiet restaurant, you need to pony up the bucks for somewhere like Lacroix or one of the chain steakhouses. Some of the BYOs are quiet on off-nights but Starr places like Dandelion are loud by design. If there aren't enough people eating to make a din, they will turn up the music.
Philly has a lot of great restaurants in the 25-40pp price range but the tradeoff is that they are all loud, either by design or because they pack so many people in.
We often go to dinner with friends and want to be able to talk.
There are some great places we avoid because they are just too noisy for us.
One of our favorites, Meritage, has moderate noise but we can talk there. We ask for the back room or for a quiet spot.
The back room at Route 6 has lovely booths away from the music.
We often go to Passyunk Avenue; you can talk at Paradiso, Le Virtu (ask for a quiet table), and Tre Scalini.
Japanese restaurants are wonderfully serene. In Philly, we go to Shiroi Hana before concerts, and we are regulars at Fuji in Haddonfield. Mikado, on Route 70, is very good.
In the northeast, Moonstruck is lovely and quite because it is divided into small rooms.
Bistrot La Minette is another good choice, with the Sunday prix-fixe a real bargain.
I'm sure I am forgetting other places with sound that we can tolerate, but we do make that a condition of where we choose to eat.
We are seniors and I'm sure that makes a difference.
However, even our grown children don't like too much noise.
I'll second that. We are also seniors, and our children also cannot tolerate a noisy
environment in a restaurant. That is the killer for us: it has become the #1 priority.
We sometimes eat very early, to get a jump start on peace and quiet even it doesn't last.
We like Fuji in Haddonfield, Chun Hing in Bala, but avoid the places that are predictably noisy.
My daughter, the epicurious oenophile, was visiting from SF the week after Labor Day and wanted to go to Alla Spina as Bon Appetit had touted it as one of the best new restaurants of 2012.
Knowing it had been identified as noisy by Craig LaBan, we asked for a quiet spot and got a booth in the back. While we were there another senior with a young couple were seated near us as they'd had the same request.
The other senior and I agreed it was nice to hear what you think.
PS Alla Spina small plates especially lamb speck were excellent. If we'd have room for dessert, Route 6 next door had better desserts.
Zahav is the restaurant that we got to most frequently when we have guests. During our most recent visit, the manager came to our table to say hello and said "I know we usually seat you in the other area...I hope this table is quiet enough." I think they keep track of that request for future visits.
Interesting thoughts and suggestions regarding less loud options for good dining and good conversation. . I have taken notes. We are not seniors, well at least I don't think so. Like others here noted we also have heard much younger diners say they are annoyed with the excessive noise and being unable to talk at a conversational volume. As stated by other hounds; avoidance of loud can be a function of time, place and price. Thus we are provided a decibel level rating by most professional reviewers. Out of town guests taken to some "hot" spots for dinner have observed that the noises level is extreme and questioned if it is a Philly thing! I have always responded; no just booze fueled talk I guess.
The idea that noise makes dining more of a "scene" is not unique to Philly but I think that trend combined with the BYO culture here--which requires maximizing every square foot to generate revenue because of slim margins--exacerbates it.
Maybe it is a Philly thing: Laban puts a decibal measurement in every review. I don't think the NYT does this.
I suppose the operative word may be "scene". The hosts in my travels probably do not most often take me to those places that would be described as the "scene". But in fact to those which would be more likely to enable talks at a conversational level. Loud can be found anywhere I am sure however it does seem to me to be a prevailing factor in my recent choices in our energetic and fair city. Interesting thought on the BYOB effect.
In regard to "loud" restaurants interfering with conversation it can depend on what kind of conversation you're looking for. So yes if I'm meeting someone and want to get to know them better then a noisier restaurant wouldn't be the best option. However at say French bistros or trattoria with chockablock seating the noise or "buzz" can be disarming. I've often found myself opening up to conversation with guests at the next table; which would be less likely to happen in a more formal setting.
So where intimate one-on-one conversation is more difficult in these style restaurants a more communal atmosphere between guests can be encouraged.