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ABC Kitchen - recent visit

Just had dinner here for the first time and was blown away by the food. Everything we had was outstanding, and the service was great. But...the noise!! The decibel level was pretty close to intolerable. I think the servers who have to deal with it daily are in serious danger of incurring hearing loss. It was so loud the night we were there that despite the amazing food, we're debating whether or not to return. Is it always like this? What do others think?

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  1. Yes, it's loud. Lots of hard surfaces. The last time we went, it was for brunch, and the noise was not so bad. It may also depend where you sit.

    1. I was there a couple of months ago, and while it was certainly a lively room with a noticeable din, I'm not so sure I would describe it as "intolerable" or "close to intolerable".

      1. ABC Kitchen is without a doubt one of my favorite restaurants - for dinner, lunch, or brunch. I love that I can go back every 2 weeks and never have to order the same thing or worry about getting sick of the dishes, as the menu also changes pretty regularly depending what's in season.

        In terms of the noise volume, I actually don't think it's too bad. There's definitely a bit of a scene, as with most popular restaurants in the city, but I tend to enjoy that. The front bar area can be especially loud at night, but if you're really bothered by the noise, consider requesting a table in the back dining room that's closer to the Home store.

        1. Going earlier in the evening, mon-wed would be less noisey than the later busier times, the same with a brunch on the early side

          1. I went on a Saturday at lunch and agree that the noise was unpleasant. The food was very good, individually, but I found the eclecticism of the menu off-putting. But that's just me. The real downer was the size (too big) and noise level.

            12 Replies
            1. re: mbfant

              Agree both about noise level and general excellence of food, both here and at ABC Cocina..been to the latter only once but plan to return..only hope is for the few of us willing to dine on the early side......why, why, why do so many eateries think that a noisy buzz is a draw?

              1. re: erica

                "why, why, why do so many eateries think that a noisy buzz is a draw?" I know I'm going to get slammed for this, but I truly think the answer is pretty straight forward. Here goes...

                You will notice that most of the extremely noisy "hip" restaurants cater to primarily younger people, whereas the quieter, more sedate fine-dining restaurants generally have a somewhat older crowd. I'm willing to bet that if ABC Kitchen served the identical, food in a quiet, more formal dining room with tablecloths, fine crystal the younger "hip" crowd would disappear. The reasons, to me, are obvious. The 50+ crowd grew up in families where dinner was eaten together and dinner table conversation was the norm. The younger patrons have for the most part not grown up in this type of environment, and more often than not, to them, "conversation" means a 20 word tweet or text message. Unfortunately, I think many younger people would truly feel uncomfortable in a quiet restaurant where the environment begs for conversation.

                A second reason why noisier restaurants are becoming the norm...studies have shown that table turnover increases as the decibel level rises. Thus the restaurant benefits financially.

                I love the food at ABC Kitchen, but unfortunately for me, the incredible din destroys the experience. BTW although I'm 50+, my hearing is perfectly normal...but I truly love a relaxing environment where great food can be accompanied by serious conversation in a normal tone of voice.

                  1. re: MrGrumpy

                    Excellent article. Agree about the noise level at Montmartre--too loud! Unfortunately, now that Chef Tien Ho is no longer at Montmartre, I doubt I would go back since the noise level was too loud--much better in the garden, but I was told that they have plans to enclose the garden which may create the same noise problem.

                  2. re: josephnl

                    While I agree with your sentiment that noisy dining rooms may not be conducive for families or appeal to an older crowd - I think it's an over-generalization and quite cynical statement to say that younger patrons prefer noisy restaurants because quietness would beg for conversation and therefore cause discomfort.

                    I'm in my early 20's and have been very, very fortunate to have dined at a plethora of restaurants in the city. That said, I enjoy lively hot spots such as ABC Kitchen just as much as I do more calm and "sophisticated" places; say, Tocqueville and 15 East. However, I am never on my smartphone (texting or checking Facebook) during dinner, nor do my dining companions ever feel the need to be on their phones during dinner.

                    My opinion is that younger people do tend to enjoy louder dining rooms because it actually provides an opportunity to socialize and talk about just anything with your friends, without coming off as rude to the tables next to you. Hey, if it's Friday night and you're having a few cocktails or glasses, is it really a crime to just let your hair down and enjoy good food in good company without having to worry about being on your best behavior?

                      1. re: zeeEats

                        Of course I admit that my comments are an over-reaching generalization, and certainly it sounds like you are one of very many folks who are obvious exceptions...nevertheless, there were more tables near us with smartphones being used than not. Sure, I too occasionally become louder in a restaurant than I should...nevertheless, I still don't quite get how an environment where shouting is necessary for any conversation enhances the experience of dining on great food such as that served at ABC Kitchen, and several other terrific restaurants. There are plenty of clubs, bars and other spots where noise is not only expected, but is the norm and perfectly acceptable.

                        1. re: josephnl

                          I see your point... though I'm not sure if any restauranteur/ owner opens a restaurant in the city with the intention of attracting a boisterous crowd. Though I do realize exceptions with restaurants that blast loud music themselves, such as Charlie Bird, Toro, and Gabe Stulman's restaurants. However, plenty of restaurants do not play hip hop in the dining room yet still manage to get pretty boisterous during peak hours purely from the fact that so many people try to get in. ABC Kitchen falls into the latter camp, IMO.

                          Obviously the more popular and busy you are on any given night, the more likely it'll be very loud. I highly doubt any restaurant owner or staff is going to tell their customers to quiet down. That said, even some of the hottest spots in the city can be pretty calm from Sunday-Tuesday. So again, I think it really depends on the situation. I can think of many instances where I've enjoyed a serene meal at a hot spot (think: The Dutch, L'Apicio, even ABC Cocina) and had more lively experiences at more sophisticated restaurants (think: Piora, Neta). Heck, I've even sat next to annoying diners at EMP; so you never really know.

                          1. re: zeeEats

                            I'm sure that you are correct in that not many restauranteurs want a boisterous crowd...if you mean it in the sense of rowdy, unruly, or raucous. But...many restauranteurs nowadays are intentionally creating a noisy (which they diplomatically call "energetic") environment by playing very loud music, removing carpeting, tablecloths and other sound-absorbing materials with the intention of attracting a younger clientele. We can disagree as to why some younger folks find this appealing, nevertheless it's definitely not an accident that many newer restaurants such as ABC Kitchen are extremely noisy, and intentionally so. See article referred to by Mr. Grumpy http://www.grubstreet.com/2013/07/ada...

                            1. re: josephnl

                              Oh I'm not saying that it's an accident, but a understandable and rational business/marketing strategy.

                              We can agree to disagree about the appeal of "energetic" restaurants. Hey, I don't mind if more people like you begin to shun some of the more popular restaurants in the city that I happen to love; it'll only make wait times more bearable for the rest of us "rowdy" kids.

                        2. re: zeeEats

                          this whole trend to louder dining places - hard surfaces, music and clamor- has been going on for years since well before smart phones or even cell phones were commonplace.I agree that it is purposeful and designed to attract a young iively crowd and turn tables. Weve had plenty of experiences over the years in restaurants where the food was excellent but you couldnt even understand the person across the table or next to you without straining to hear. Really offputting.

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            But why do you think it's offputting to you and me...but obviously not offputting to many younger people who seem to love the noise? I expressed my obviously controversial opinion above, but no CH has expressed a concurring view. I know it's not that my hearing is going (it's been tested and is fine). I just cannot understand why anyone would enjoy having incredibly delicious food as is served at restaurants such as ABC Kitchen and love an environment where it's necessary to shout to have a conversation.

                  3. Just an FYI, I read an article that studies were done showing that people eat more and more quickly in a loud environment. Probably a stress/flight reaction.

                    So it benefits restaurants to have a boisterous environment a) the place looks more popular and lively b) people eat more and finish quicker

                    I personally really, really DISLIKE loud eating environments intensely. It's not good for the ears, stomach or conversation.