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Marsha’s Industry Standard: What's the Hubbub, Bub?

by Robin Garr » Wed Jan 30, 2019 9:59 am

What's the Hubbub, Bub?

By Marsha Lynch

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I see and hear a lot of restaurant goers discussing the noise levels they encounter when dining out. I get it. As I age it's harder and harder for me to hear my companions' conversation in the midst of a noisy crowd. However, I have yet to cross a restaurant off my to-visit list simply because I heard someone, or even several someones, say it was “too loud” in the dining room.

I'm not sure exactly when quiet dining started to become a status symbol. Perhaps the village rich wanted to let their subordinates know they didn't have to swim into the sea of the great unwashed down at the local tavern and could, instead, dine in a members-only club. Maybe if a restaurant could afford all the velvet upholstery, ankle-deep carpets, heavy drapes, tapestries and tablecloths that help muffle the clinking of glassware and silver, it meant the poor couldn't afford to eat there.

Some folks will say a quiet dining room is romantic. I guess that can be true, but unless you're in a practically empty dining room the quiet just means you can easily overhear the conversations of the people at the other tables. Gazing across that LED candle flame into your lover's eyes is nice, until you hear the couple at the next table discussing their tax attorney or their son's poor chemistry grades. Or politics.

Modern design doesn't really embrace a lot of fabric and soft surfaces. And carpets, upholstery and drapes are difficult and expensive to keep clean and hygienic. Imagine you're a restaurateur, and you've just opened your new spot to a monster buzz, only to have someone complain on social media that it was “just too noisy” in the dining room. You've already poured your life savings into this joint, and now you may feel compelled to scramble for money to hang expensive (and fairly inefficient) sound baffles or resort to tablecloths to cover the expensive tabletops you so lovingly picked out during the design phase. Oof! There goes your carefully curated aesthetic.

Who wants to eat in funereal silence? Noisy can be fun! Remember the most fun you've ever had? I do, and it wasn't quiet. Maybe your most-fun memory was a concert, a sporting event, or your wedding reception. A crowded, joyful venue has an energetic vibe. A full, lively dining room can stimulate your appetite, your mood, and your digestion. If you're a people-watcher, that's a guilty pleasure that's a lot less creepy in a vibrant atmosphere, as well.

Do you think it's quiet back in the kitchen? It's not. Oh, sure - we've all heard the tales of tony restaurants where the cooks aren't allowed to speak unless spoken to by the chef. That doesn't sound like much fun. Happy cooks make good food. A restaurant kitchen is an engine room, and when fully operational it sounds like one, too. There's steam, pans clanking, orders being called out, servers arguing with the expediter, and dishwashers ragging loudly on each other the entire shift. It might seem chaotic, but even a well-oiled machine makes a lovely humming sound when operating efficiently. The kitchen door isn't fully a plane that separates the disconnected dimensions of the back of the house and the dining room. The dirty jokes may and should stay behind it, but the energy spills out into the front of the house as servers and captains carry it with them.

I'm not advocating dining in bedlam every single time you go out, but please don't miss some of the best meals you'll ever have because you heard that a certain restaurant has great food and service but a noisy dining room. And, let's face it – gazing raptly into your lover's eyes won't weird your table-neighbors out nearly as much in the middle of all that action as it would in a stodgy country club dining room. Change up your M.O. and embrace the vivacious atmosphere of a place that's really jumping at least once in a while!

Marsha Lynch has worked at many Louisville independent restaurants including Limestone, Jack Fry’s, Jarfi’s, L&N Wine Bar and Bistro, Café Lou Lou, Marketplace @ Theater Square, Fontleroy’s and Harvest.

Read it on LouisvilleHotBytes:
http://www.louisvillehotbytes.com/what-hubbub-bub

Read it also in LEO Weekly’s Food & Drink section today:
http://www.leoweekly.com/category/food-drink/
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TP Lowe

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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: What's the Hubbub, Bub?

by TP Lowe » Wed Jan 30, 2019 10:05 am

I don't think "quiet" is a status symbol for a restaurant. When you go out to dinner with friends you don't want to have to shout, or be shouted at to have a conversation. I definitely will cross a restaurant off my list if it's too loud to have a civil conversation.
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Steve H

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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: What's the Hubbub, Bub?

by Steve H » Wed Jan 30, 2019 11:24 am

Dining out is more than just eating. It is a social experience. If it's too loud to converse, then it is not social any longer. So, I respectfully disagree!

If my only choices are dining out and yelling at Sweetie and companions to be heard or preparing a meal together at home, then we'd never dine out.
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: What's the Hubbub, Bub?

by Mark R. » Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:07 pm

TP Lowe wrote:I don't think "quiet" is a status symbol for a restaurant. When you go out to dinner with friends you don't want to have to shout, or be shouted at to have a conversation. I definitely will cross a restaurant off my list if it's too loud to have a civil conversation.

That's exactly our position as far as noise goes. A dead silent restaurant isn't enjoyable because if you like if you talk everyone in the restaurant is going to hear you but it's certainly nice to have the noise level low enough that you can have a civilized conversation with anybody else at the table without having to shout. It seems like many of the new restaurants seem to think that the higher the noise level in the restaurant the more enjoyable it is to the customers! I don't when that idea but it's certainly not.
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: What's the Hubbub, Bub?

by Leah S » Thu Jan 31, 2019 1:24 pm

I agree that too much noise degrades the overall dining experience, and I will certainly avoid restaurants that are noisy. But then I also don't generally like live music either. We plan to go before it starts and leave when it does. My only exception being Buck's. And then because the music is not constant; it is a delightful interlude.

Now, Marsha, the next topic, please: "Turn on the damn lights", or "Why am I reading this menu by candlelight/phone flashlight?"
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: What's the Hubbub, Bub?

by Gordon M Lowe » Thu Jan 31, 2019 2:56 pm

Good points, Marsha. I don't like really loud restaurants, but that's a personal preference that's hard to define. I see your points, and they are fair. :)
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: What's the Hubbub, Bub?

by Gary Z » Fri Feb 01, 2019 7:56 pm

From a server perspective, I enjoy a little noise. For every guest it irritates, there is another ready to take over that newly opening table. Lingerers have become the bane of my existence.

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