Are Restaurants Getting Noisier?

Categories: Bites & Dishes

Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail laura.hahnefeld@newtimes.com. Miss a question? Go here.

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Open Table
There's always a buzz when it comes to the culinary world. But lately, the buzz seems to be happening inside restaurants -- in the form of noise-- and it's getting louder.

Recently, the Los Angeles Times did an unscientific sound check of 12 restaurants and bars in the area and found many with a decibel level akin to sitting next to a running lawn mower. No wonder diners (as well as restaurant critics) are saying, "Turn it down!"

Do Valley chefs and restaurateurs agree? I asked a few and this is what they had to say:

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Chef Ephraim Gallor
Taps Signature Cuisine & Bar

NO: Restaurants have gotten quieter, silent even, what with everyone texting each other instead of actually talking.





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Eric Flatt
Co-owner, Tonto Bar & Grill/Cartwright's Sonoran Ranch House

YES: This is our biggest gripe when we go out to eat. The problem is this: Most restaurants do not have carpet. Oddly enough, this was just a debate for us. Cartwright's was up for new carpet, and we were thinking about changing it up to wood floor. Everyone said, "No way, it's too noisy!"


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Lisa Khnanisho
Owner, Tryst Café

MAYBE: Over the last five to eight years, I've seen an increase in urban- and industrial- style restaurants. That design inherently produces a noisier environment. It has to do with the physical design (materials like steel and bare flooring). That kind of environment gives people the permission to be a little more carefree in the volume of their conversation.

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Chef Stephen Jones
Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails

YES: As the dining scene becomes more casual, dining rooms become noticeably louder. Hard woods equal loud dining rooms. They are very beautiful to look at -- open ceilings, big giant bar tops and the fancy lighting -- but none of these capture any sound, they just reflect it off each other. Personally, I'm into it.


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Christopher Gross, Chef and Owner,
Christopher's Restaurant & Crush Lounge

NO: I was at the American Institute for Food and Wine convention in New York and attended a seminar featuring top restaurant designers from all over the world. One of the questions was directed at a designer who had done a popular French brasserie in New York. He was asked why it was so noisy when the brasseries in Paris were not. He replied that the difference is not due to design, it's because New York brasseries are full of Americans! I guess we enjoy ourselves more here and show it.



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12 comments
lechef892
lechef892

I agree with everyone else - why haven't the chefs addressed the music issue? Can we do a follow up article? Take a poll? You don't have to be in your 60s to enjoy taking at dinner! :)

goodeats
goodeats

We eat out quite a bit, and enjoy the restaurant scene in the valley from Postinos through Christopher's to 32 Shea through Elements at Sanctuary.  One thing I am noticing - more noise. Yes, the very cool and aesthetically pleasing decor is one reason, but I can't believe all these chefs ignore the MUSIC that is too loud.  Not in all of the places (and not in all the places mentioned above), but it is increasingly hard to have a conversation, even with the 20-something set.  Blue Hound is the worst I've been to in a long time.  The very loud bar is far too close to the restaurant to have that kind of music/tv bombardment. Beckett's is loud, but I do think that one is decor-oriented (although I love the looks of the place).  PLEASE, turn down the music....if I want to see a concert I'll do that AFTER dinner.

Karen Stone
Karen Stone

BUT, Fox admits that at least in Zinburger, it pipes in bkgd noise! I hate it and don't eat at Fox places because of that.

tickie2
tickie2

This is a constant topic among friends as we try to find a restaurant where we can have a lunch or dinner meal and not have to lean across the table to hear or be heard.  It's a genuine problem for those who are not out to see or be seen.  We are in the 60+ set, have the money to go out, and yet are challenged to find a environment where a conversation can be enjoyed.  So, we usually go early (does not always work out).  We were recently in one the area's most noted French bistros, arrived to an early meal  at 5 PM; the house was empty and our table in the back corner (the good news) was right under the music speaker (bad news).  Server started to look annoyed after our second request to turn down the music.  I am dumbfounded at the remarks of the chefs above who say it is not really a problem.  We gave up on the Gross place after once visit at 6 PM, lathough the older location at Biltmore was very pleasant.

winorama
winorama

Restaurant reviews in the San Francisco Chronicle rate not only food, service, atmosphere and "overall," but also noise represented by the number of bell icons, or in extreme cases, a "bomb" icon.

Steve Weiss
Steve Weiss

I love that comparison between the restaurant noise and a lawnmower. :-)

Chow Bella
Chow Bella

Might just have to do that, Steve.

Steve Weiss
Steve Weiss

Chow Bella, make it nice and scientific, there's gotta be someone you can sneak into places with a decibel meter!

Dani Cutler
Dani Cutler

Postino's East was the worst place I have been in regarding noise. I kept looking for the dance floor, it was that loud. I don't want or expect total silence, but there has to be a balance. How is losing your voice from yelling during dinner a positive experience?

Cheyenne Rowell
Cheyenne Rowell

Yes, the construction of the dining room plays a part but I have assumed that many restaurants have automatic volume on their audio equipment. The volume goes up the louder the dining room gets. Could this be true? Problem with this is, the louder the music the louder you have to talk to be heard and so the cycle begins. This is the main complaint my wine/book club has when we go to restaurants. We can’t chit chat without yelling.

Dean Palmer
Dean Palmer

Funny you bring this subject up - I started putting earplugs in my pocket when I went out a few years ago on the 'off chance' I might end up in some super noisey environ which was starting to happen albeit rarely. Today, these noisey scenes seems to be an almost even money bet, which finds us either leaving, or modifying our arrival time to avoid the worst of it if we reeeally love the place. I would love to see a 'valleys noisiest' list...

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