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Food For Thought: Are Loud Restaurants The Noisy New Normal?

Restaurant noise necessitates hands-free eating.

Restaurants are definitely louder these days. That's not usually a problem in the joints I frequent where the loudest noises are the screams of the wounded.  But it's been different for Nancy Leson.

"In just the last couple of months, I've been in terrific restaurants where the food is wonderful and I like the decor," she says. "But I can't hear myself think, let alone hear the people I'm with."

I've been reading about this lately and it does seem to be a trend – especially for those places where the supplicants stand hours in line for the privilege of buying $25 hamburgers.

I asked Nance if she thought restaurants were being deliberately designed to create maximum sonic assault. She thinks it's partly a side effect of cost-cutting measures in decor.  "It's the look.  It's also less expensive not to have to put upholstery, or carpets, or linens on the table."  She continued, "You know with hard surfaces, high ceilings, things banging off the walls, loud music, it's just bad.  Only a handful of restaurants left where you can hear yourself think."

One of Nancy's favorite low noise locations is Ballard's Copine.  Other conversation-friendly places include (but of course) Canlis, Holly Smith's Cafe Juanita, Thiery (the chef in the hat) Rautureau's Loulay, and Greenlake's Nell's

It's nice and quiet in many hotel restaurants, too.  Like Trellis at Kirkland's Heathman Hotel, the Four Seasons' Goldfinch Tavern, and Copperleaf at the Cedarbrook Lodge in SeaTac.

Got a favorite below-low-roar dining spot?  Let's hear about it.

I have often lamented that we cannot close our ears with as much ease as we can our eyes." – Sir Richard Steele

Dick Stein joined KNKX in January 1992. He retired in 2020 after three decades on air. During his storied radio career, he hosted the morning jazz show, co-hosted and produced "Food for Thought" with Nancy Leson and wrote and directed the Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen.