Sssshhh!

An alert — and acoustically assaulted — “06880” reader writes:

Can “06880” start a movement for restaurants that provide a quiet environment?

There’s not a single good restaurant in town where one can go with a friend, and enjoy a meal in an atmosphere conducive to relaxed dining and conversation.

I know this isn’t a problem limited to Westport. I don’t know when “buzz” became the hallmark of success, but it’s time to revert to a more civilized standard. Enough!

This is an issue all my friends comment and complain about constantly. When one decides to skip dessert in order to escape the assaulting noise, something must be really wrong!

Maybe your “voice” will be strong enough to start a successful campaign for change. Maybe there’s a town noise ordinance — or there should be!

So, “06880” readers: What do you think? Is this a real issue? Are there restaurants you avoid — or seek out — because of noise? Where do you go for a “quiet environment”?

Click “Comments” below. Bon appetit!

Yogi Berra once said of a New York restaurant: "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

Yogi Berra once said of a New York restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

 

63 responses to “Sssshhh!

  1. Thus, we mourn the loss of the Blue Lemon, the best restaurant westport ever had, it could be argued.
    Quiet, consistantly fine food and wonderful staff.

    • Jennifer Albuck

      Have you tried Bryans other restaurant? Rorys in Darien has great food, including some of my old favorites from blue lemon. As long as you don’t go during peak times(or perhaps a big sporting event) it is surprisingly quiet considering the size. My husband and I love to go for a late lunch/early dinner- they don’t close between lunch and dinner, so the 3-4pm-ish time is great!

  2. Penebenne

    Rustico Il filamente

    And of course

    Wspt pizza

    > >

    • Thanks for the quiet restaurant list. I agree with all the comments. We’ve decided to eat at home since the buzz blitz, especially when dining with friends or family that we haven’t seen in a while and hope to catch up with over a pleasant meal.

      • Alas, home is where the quiet is, and that is where I cook, dine, and visit with family members & friends most of the time. Embrace the buzz, embrace the music and the fine food of this vital, cosmopolitan, metropolitan community! And there are many “quiet” establishments, many – while at same time there are others that revel in the noise and excitement of everyone being out “together.”

    • All good selections MF. Every restaurant has its time and place.

  3. We went to The Pearl once, when it first opened. Stayed for a drink and ran for the door. So noisey, even tho it was early and fairly empty.

  4. As I age and my hearing becomes less acute, the noise level in restaurants is one of the first things we consider when deciding whether to sample the food. If I were creating an environment that attracted people to my food, I would address this first, after the kitchen and the dining room were welcoming. We went to a restaurant for a dinner with older friends last month and it was an effort to be heard all evening. We won’t be back any time soon and it’s a pity. Everything else about the place was terrific.

  5. I agree that the Blue Lemon had great food and was quiet. By contrast, Le Penguin, in the same space, has created a very noisy restaurant. I find Positano has consistently delicious food and a very comfortable noise level.

  6. Couldn’t agree more. For some reason, lousy acoustics and blaring music is supposed to suggest”excitement”.
    Had Some family out to dinner that I hadn’t seen in years. Went to a Parker Mansion. Excellent Dinner, but it was so loud in the bar that we couldn’t talk. They did turn the music down a little. But acoustically terrible. Bad interior design. Haven’t been back since.

  7. Very interesting observation as my wife and I enjoyed a very nice meal at the new Bocca formerly Acqua in downtown westport just last night.

    We both commented that the food was excellent but the sounds of other diners talking made our conversation inaudible. I suggested that the renovation should have included sound deadening materials since the walls floors and ceilings are all hard surfaces.

    But then we were reminded of the quest for Buzz that restaurant owners are going for today. I dislike it and it ruins what would otherwise be a nice evening out.

    Having just returned from a business trip to MGM Grand in Las Vegas the same effect is evident. Including this need for constant music played loudly everywhere you go.

    It’s all an annoying trend that I hope ends soon.

  8. We eat at Rustico when my parents visit. They have never complained of the noise and love the coziness of the restaurant. I would suggest to give it a try!

  9. It’s so true. I dread going out to eat now. I don’t think it’s healthy to eat in such noisy environments. Perhaps restaurants think we want this awful noise. I’ve also noticed that one loud person elevates the noise level as others raise their voices to be heard. I was raised to use quiet restaurant voice. Now I go around town and have to listen to loud inane cell phone conversations in addition to loud families and groups in restaurants.

    It’s everywhere. We are on vacation and in a lovely restaurant was a well dressed family with their chairs pushed out making the wait staff’s job nearly impossible. Their table manners were visual abuse. They acted like they were trying out for some mindless reality show.

    The wait staff who have worked there for years were so offended. I must say I did wonder if they were from Westport! The next day I asked if things were getting worse at our lovely vacation spot. The staff’s point of view is that the new affluent traveller is loud, narcassistic and unbearably rude.

    Perhaps it’s time to ask for a more civilized way of life?

  10. This is a tough one. It’s very difficult to tune out “loud talkers,” bad acoustics, and irritating music at high decibel levels in venues everywhere. Forgive me parents, but your adorable children should be seen and not heard in pricey restaurants, and in their seats, if at all possible. I’m always amazed that little kids are running around in Starbucks with all of that hot coffee in the way! If a restaurant is too loud for us, we ask for another table or leave and mention it to the management. And there’s always take out…..Bon Apetit!

  11. For a quiet enjoyable meal, go to Tutti’s

  12. No. It’s not a problem.

  13. My husband took me to Artisan (in Southport, but close enough) for my birthday. It was so noisy, that the two couples at the table next to us, had to shout to each other to carry on a conversation. We asked for another table but it was just as noisy there. I read somewhere that restaurants deliberately plan on noisy acoustics because younger people feel it’s exciting.

  14. Rustico!

  15. I agree! Noise is a real problem in many of the restaurants. I know there are things they can do to help the acoustics if they wanted to do them. So I think the restaurants like the “buzz”. I love a good ambiance and a little hum is welcome. But, when a group of 4 or 6 can’t carry on a conversation it’s too much. And, no, I do not have a hearing problem!! I am in my 60s, however, and that may make a difference!

  16. Tutti’s, yes. Also, my favorite place in town is Tiger Bowl. Then there is Rio Bravo. We went to Bar Taco once, sat down, couldn’t even hear the waitress, asked that the music be turned down, were told that could not be done and we left and went to Matsu Sushi. Seems the only quiet places are the non-American ones. Blue Lemon was the best. Classy place, just like the gentleman above said. Miss it a lot. Best choice – get a nice bottle of wine, cook a nice chicken, and stay home.

  17. Many of the newer, local restaurants have thrown ‘ambiance’ and ‘intimacy’ to the wayside. Interior design, or lack thereof coupled with how many tables can you squeeze together leaving ample butt room for egress appears to be the ‘Soup of the Day’.

  18. Beth Orlan Berkowitz

    I agree that restaurants are using poor acoustic materials inside which makes it extremely difficult to carry on a conversation with even just one person across the table from you. I have been out with my 20 something year olds (3 of them) and their significant others and have found all of them to be turned off by the noise levels in most of these restaurants too. Their comments were that they would rather beable to have a decent conversation along with good food and good service (especially if they are paying for dinner) in a comfortable atmosphere and then go out to listen to music in a loud place when they want to dance and socialize with their own peer group.

    This is going on everywhere, not just in Westport as we have recently been to Scottsdale & Sedona, Arizona, NYC, Boston, Memphis and all over most of south Florida.

    I have found most people do NOT prefer to read lips or scream to have eachother heard while having a good meal.

    A lot of the problem occurs when only one or two groups come in (to a quiet) restaurant and they are loud talkers and laughing loudly and then everyone around them start to increase the volume of their conversations as well. I have even seen the staff raise the music to “balance” these louder (rude/narcissistic) groups, which may drown out the specifics of those conversations, but make it even more difficult for the rest of us to converse.

    When will the restaurant owners start to understand this is made worse by the materials they choose to use to remodel the spaces?!?

  19. There are a few different issues here… A) Poor design and or material choice for the establishment
    B) A busy, popular, or bar area that spills into, is next to , or adjacent to the dining room
    C) Music just to damn loud
    D) Loud Diners
    a) Forget how to use there indoor voice
    b) Diners who grew up in a generation of loud and don’t know how to modulate
    E. Put together 40-100 plus diners in a confined space and it will be loud regardless

    I have worked in both homes and restaurants… and noise is a constant issue..

  20. Noisy: Harvest and Parker – go for lunch, but not dinner.
    More peaceful: Finalemente in Westport, and Match in Norwalk.

    The Y’s Men had a conversation with Matt Storch (of Match) recently, and noise was one of the main topics of conversation.

  21. Silence is good but from way back in late 1970’s up through now, a thing everyone I know likes about Westport, Connecticut (a quality that really separates it from The Other Westport in New England 😉 is that its not quiet, it’s the Fairfield country town where people ‘laugh loudly’, i.e., I would keep embracing that quality and definitely wouldn’t stifle it, it’s mostly a good, welcoming thing 🙂 Susan Farley

  22. I firmly agree with the sentiment that we need restaurants where the noise level allows us to enjoy the company of the people we are dining with.

  23. What is your reader or you Dan asking for?
    Cut the “buzz”? What’s that mean?
    Don’t speak at all? Wait until you’re outside to say Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, or talk about your kids, upcoming vacation, or the beautiful sunset you just saw?
    I do understand that some patrons are loud talkers and/or make cell calls from their table vs stepping out which I believe is proper. But that won’t eliminate the “buzz”. I believe the only zero “buzz” place to eat may be one’s home.

  24. Re noisy restaurants: If the “restauranteur” wants to run a bar, then I say he can turn up the volume as loud as he wants to; if he/she wants to allow customers to enjoy a good meal and social conviviality – including conversation without shouting – then they should create the appropriate environment. If I mistakingly go to have a meal at a bar disguised as a , “restaurant”, e.g. Harvest, then I don’t get fooled a second time. I suggest installing the “db Meter Pro” app on your phone; it proves how many local restaurants operate in the sonic red zone.

  25. If you make reservations for 6 PM or before, you can usually get some conversation in before the noise elevates. This was true in Boathouse.
    We also like Tutti’s, Finalemente, Rustico, Matsu Sushi.
    Adam’s Rib and Bogey’s in Norwalk.

  26. I have “Staples hearing” (tinnitus thanks to the concerts I went to way back when and use of 1960s headphones) so this is an issue for me. One solution is to pick your spots within a restaurant – for example, at Pearl, ask to be in the outer porch area. Harvest has has decent sound in the wall nooks, especially inside one area that actually is walled off (on the far right as you enter) – ask to sit there if noise is an issue. Harvest also has great food and friendly staff. I didn’t want to like it because it replaced Mario’s in that hallowed spot, but owner Kleber and the staff won us over. Finally, during summer months the outer wall opens up, so those outside spots are great for hearing – same for Pearl when its porch opens up.

  27. A new restaurant (The Loading Dock) opened in my town of Belmont , MA. The acoustics were very harsh and so I posted a negative review of the place on Yelp, pointing out the problem. The manager read my entry and agreed there was an issue. Within weeks the problem had been fixed with acoustic tile. Try damning some of the places mentioned here with postings on Yelp. It might help.
    ADW Staples 1956

  28. Here in NYC I discovered Cafe Centro (at the northern exit of Grand Central on 45th Street) for Saturday night dinners. Not only can you hear yourself think – very rare in NYC – but there’s a $29 fixed priced menu on Saturday nights (you have to ask for it). I guess this is more of a weekday business dinner place so they are trying to fill the tables on Saturday night. Plenty of space between tables too.

  29. Our favorite restaurant is Bruculino in South Norwalk. In addition to consistently excellent food and service…chef Joe Bruno invested significantly in the acoustics. It’s such a pleasure….in a full ‘buzzy’ restaurant, you can have a great conversation and even hear the wonderful jazz music in the background. Delightful!

  30. Yes Bruculino ! Couldn’t agree more. The best combination of excellent food, service, and AMBIANCE in the area.

  31. Must go to Rothbard.

  32. Agree. … a quie cafe….Westport library!

  33. Le Penguin, Rothbard, and Pink Sumo

  34. A “movement?” Come now. This is a matter of consumer choice. If a place is too noisy, just don’t go there anymore. Most local restaurants don’t make the grade in many ways; value for money being at top of the list. With Westport’s $16 burgers and $12 glasses of wine, it’s cheaper to eat at a neighborhood place in NYC, and the food is usually much better.

  35. I recall reading about how the Hard Rock Cafe became a fantastically successful business based on the idea that the louder the music, the more and quicker people ate and drank (particularly the latter) and left to make room for the next party. The answer to why something seems to go against what customers want, is usually to “follow the money.”

  36. Let’s not forget that The Boathouse, which is open to the public, is also consistently less noisy. And now that we’re anticipating warmer weather, their deck overlooking the Saugatuck is a really nice spot for dinner and a conversation.

  37. Amen! I couldn’t agree more with this post about restaurant noise. We frequently walk in to a restaurant and turn around and walk out because one couldn’t possibly have a conversation over dinner. When we do stay, I repeatedly ask staff to turn down the music. They say they will and then don’t do it. It’s a real problem. Let’s start a movement to turn down the music!!!!!

  38. To me, it depends on my mood and who I am with! I love Black Duck for the energy it creates and its informal menu. For a romantic quieter dinner, I’d go to some of the ones mentioned above plus The Cottage or Harbor Lights.

  39. Tutti’s is the closest I’ve found to a family run restaurant in Italy. No blaring music and manufactured ambiance here.

  40. Try Paella in Norwalk. Delicious tapas, friendly service, and usually comfortably quiet. Very occasionally there’s a private party in the main dining room. Then we sit in the bar area–also quiet.

  41. Tutti’s is one place we love because we can hear each. Alos Finalmente.
    Went with four others to a rival Italian restaurant around the block from Tutti’s. Terrific food. Will never go there again. Had a headache for two days.

  42. Ellen Lautenberg

    I agree that it’s an issue at many restauranta in town. There are certain places we don’t go to because of the noise level. It’s not so much people talking as the acoustics, design, packing tables in close together and loud music.
    Restaurants should definitely consider this seriously, especially since many of them don’t last here …..maybe they would have more longevity if people wanted to return because they hear each other?

  43. I’m extremely hard of hearing, but the noise level at bartaco was so high even I couldn’t stand it. My husband has excellent hearing and even he couldn’t hear our waiter and had to shout to get things ordered. Another place noisy beyond belief is Mama’s Boy in Norwalk. Although we were seated in the “quiet” section in the back, the noise level was nausea-inducing. I don’t know why they bother with music since it can’t be heard even sitting two tables away from the band. (Lousy service, too.) Boca wasn’t too bad — we sat in the first floor bar area (couldn’t handle all those stairs) — the background music was a little loud but not so bad we couldn’t talk and the chairs are very comfortable. Oak + Almond in Norwalk is great — no problems there even when it’s really busy.

  44. Home is my favorite… As a former restaurant owner never Sat eve..

  45. Absolutely true. It seems like a loud dark bar scene is almost required for any new restaurant. We looked forward to Welk opening for a great place for local seafood, but I found it impossible to hear the person sitting right beside me. The food was pretty good and if the atmosphere had been tolerable we would have returned. I tried taking out, and the noise was so bad the hostess and I had to shout to just do the pick up. Similar problem at Tarry Lodge. For a experience-quiet enough to have a conversation and very good food, are Pink Sumo and the new little Thai place.

  46. This blog is starting to sound like a restaurant promo so I’m just going to go ahead and agree with everyone that dining out can be stressful and why not hire my catering company In Good Taste, LLC to entertain your friends and family in the privacy of your home 🙂

  47. One of the problems I find is the music played in so many of the restaurants. Not only is it incredibly loud, but whatever they’re playing (I say “whatever,” because you can’t distinguish one song from another) has the same loud frantic beat. No wonder people have to shout at each other to be heard. I hope some of the restaurateurs are reading this and take the hint.

  48. I agree noisy restaurants need to change.
    The newer the restaurant, the noiser it is. One of my favorite restaurants is Spotted Horse
    But I will not eat there unless I can be seated
    Outside. What’s the point of spending time
    With friends and family if you cannot have
    A conversation.

  49. Wes and Pris Hawk

    We are so glad someone wrote about this problem and hope it will help with this problem which has gotten worse and worse. We have had many a dinner out ruined by groups who act as those they were in their own homes, screeching at each other, getting up and down all over the area – as though they were at a party at someone’s home. It happens more and more at what are everyone’s favorite local restaurants. Can someone do something to make what use to be an enjoyable experience, a stomach churning disturbance. Who has contact with the managers? We truly hope this well timed post that appeared here, can bring about a solution to this problem.

  50. Dan, thank you for gathering our voices on this issue! Can you present these comments to local restauranteurs, or will the new yuppies succeed in overtaking our town? Everywhere you go you lose your hearing and voice trying to talk to people over the planned high decibel levels. Sadly, the worst for this is our favorite restaurant group for great food and menu at a fair price – Spotted Horse and Gray Goose (we only sit outdoors). Vespa is a nightmare typical of the empty hall, no décor, stripped down, overpriced NY trendy restaurants where you cannot take people to enjoy company and speak. Pearl followed the same formula – noisy, empty black rooms (and unimpressive food) instead of Westport coastal charm for the spectacular water location. How can you take friends out for a nice evening to talk?

    We have no answers for a lovely atmosphere as well as good food for guests. As is, we have to leave Westport to go to an unglamourous location for food so superior and fine acoustics – Aji 10 – in the former Meigas location on Wall St., Norwalk, owned by the fabulous Peruvian chef brothers, David and Omar, who developed a following at Splash just before the management debacle closed it down. We also like the food and calm, not the parking lot view, at Taberna in Fairfield’s Brick Walk. Let’s take action!

    • Dan, It’s obvious from  numerous comments , that there are a lot of unhappy people here, who used to look forward to eating out locally and now don’t do it. My suggestion and request to you,  is this: That you write up a column, as you do weekly, for the Westport News, and use that and any other method you have, expressing the terrible situation that has taken over the restaurant world here, and then we’ll all hope that the owners and managers will get the message and do something about it. Spread the word to them Dan, please. Thanks.

      • Thanks, Priscilla — much appreciated. But with so much on my plate (ho ho), I’ll pass this task of notifying restaurant managers and owners to someone else. Any volunteers?!

  51. Yes, Priscilla. Okay, so we comments participants would have to volunteer. Not daunting at all. The question is if Dan agrees with this perspective or not. Could Dan promote a poll to all 06880 readers with a simple vote: “Do you think too many restaurants are designed to be too noisy to enjoy conversation with friends, or not, vote – Yes or No. And 2: Have you chosen to reduce your use of certain restaurants because they are too noisy? Yes or No.

    Word the question any way you like, promote it and volunteers like us can take that poll result to restaurant owners starting with the worst offenders. Like our political activism these days, it’s all about the numbers, not a handful of old-school complainers. We’d have to prove that our numbers are large enough to have an economic impact on their business – if they actually need and want us, that is. (They may be fine without us) Telling them that we will support their improvements. Heck, we could celebrate with a night of 06880 reservations and share table conversations! How many followers do you have now Dan, and what number might you guess would care to respond?

    • We could jusy photocopy the entire column (with replies) and bring it around to the offending restaurants. Hopefully, they would take the hint.

      • I’m with Bobbie. This story generated a tremendous number of responses, almost all with the same perspective: We love to dine out, but most places are too loud for our taste (ho ho). Just print out the comments and show them to the offenders!

  52. Last comment, since there are bigger issues for us all. However, I respectfully beg to disagree. Change only comes from many people, and making an economic impact. There are high costs associated with restaurants renovating. It requires a poll for additional petitioners. However if Dan or any of us don’t ask to place this question in any of our town media, then another way of demonstrating – and having fun together at the same time – is for some of our 48 anti-noise supporters today, plus others Dan can invite or we can network, to choose 1-3 dates over the next months to go out en masse to dinner together, to show the huge impact of people we represent that are interested in bringing their loyal business to restaurants that reduce noise levels for conversations. .,Dinner anyone?

  53. Estelle T. Margolis

    AMEN! Please keep this campaign going. We have to have a place to eat out that we can ear each other speak.
    Estelle T. Margolis

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