Is there a quiet restaurant out there?
October 6, 2012 5:12 PM   Subscribe

Do quiet restaurants and bars exist? Any recommendations wanted.

It could be, of course, that I've just seen too many movies, and Mad Men. But I'm so tired of sitting down in some fancy place expecting a wonderful time and not being able to converse, having everything drowned out in a roar of sound. And then I see these lovely places on tv and in the movies where everything's so quiet. Is this even possible? Or is it just a convention of movies and tv? Have you been any place like that? Will take recommendations from anywhere, although realistically I would probably not be able to go anywhere that isn't in the eastern U.S. or Canada.
posted by JanetLand to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
IME, higher end places are much quieter.
posted by k8t at 5:26 PM on October 6, 2012

Burp Castle is famous for the shushing if people get too loud.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:48 PM on October 6, 2012

Restaurant reviews on yelp have an entry for noise level, so you can see which restaurants have a quieter environment.

Modern trends in upscale dining default to a relatively loud noise level, and that's what you'll find when you go out to the newest hip restaurant, but there are plenty that maintain a quiet ambiance.
posted by deanc at 5:57 PM on October 6, 2012

There's a Facebook page called "Bars without Televisions" where people can add entries. In my experience if the place existed before the 80s and has never added a television then they probably don't have music either, so unless the place is packed, you'll be able to hear your dinner partners.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 6:01 PM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yes. You're definitely looking for places with carpeting or lots of soft furnishings.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 6:02 PM on October 6, 2012

Look for the kind of restaurant where people in business attire spend large amounts of money impressing each other. A swank steakhouse, for instance. Fancy-pants country inns of the sort that name their chefs on their web pages are another good bet. I think Heart_on_Sleeve has it: you're looking for things like upholstered chairs, banquettes, carpeting, white tablecloths, possibly a cluster of small rooms instead of one big open space.

You can search for the word "quiet" on Yelp and probably on other review sites.
posted by Orinda at 6:22 PM on October 6, 2012

Also, to clarify, there's (at least) two kinds of fancy restaurants: you can think of them as "new money" and "old money" restaurants. New money restaurants have trendy menus, flashy decor, and loudness, with which they try to attract a younger clientele or just sound as busy as possible, thus projecting popularity. Old money restaurants are the ones that never "ditched the pile carpets, soft tablecloths and plush velvet booths" as mentioned in the afore-linked article. You want old money.

The article I just linked to also mentions that Yelp lists a noise level rating for each restaurant along with the basic data on price range, parking, etc. I never noticed that before. Look up some restaurants you're familiar with and see whether you agree with the noise level rating.
posted by Orinda at 6:35 PM on October 6, 2012

J&G Steakhouse, W Hotel; Washington DC.
Voltaggio; Frederick, MD.
Vidalia's; Washington DC
Blue Duck Tavern; Washington DC
Restaurant Nora; Washington DC

What do all these have in common? EXPENSIVE. But sooooo worth it.
posted by matty at 6:44 PM on October 6, 2012

I share your dislike for loud places. For too many restaurants loud = trendy = successful. Also if a place is so loud guests can't talk then they linger for less time, so the restaurant can turn the table faster. It's deplorable.

I tend to ameliorate the problem by going out to places that are expensive, are no longer fashionable, or are popular with an older crowd. Weeknights are better of course, and anything without a bar in the same room as the dining room will generally be quieter. Booths are better than tables.
posted by Nelson at 6:48 PM on October 6, 2012

I've had two close friends who each had a parent who was hard of hearing. Both of them have talked to me about trying to find restaurants that would make it easy to spend time with their hard of hearing parent.

As people above have said, going to more expensive or 'old money' places is a good idea. In addition to that, my friends found that going to restaurants on off days, or at off times was helpful. I recently had a 'great restaurant recommendation' from one of them, and it ended me up in a carpeted basement with no other patrons on a Tuesday at ~5pm. There was no TV, and no music playing. If there had been either, I'm certain that no one would have minded if I'd requested that it be turned off or down.
posted by jpziller at 7:00 PM on October 6, 2012

You don't need to spend a lot of money to go to a nice restaurant or lounge that is quiet. What you want to do is go to the bar or restaurant in any nice hotel in your area. Hotel bars and lounges are almost always quiet. It's a nice hack...
posted by jnnla at 7:37 PM on October 6, 2012 [7 favorites]

jnnia has it. Hotel bars and restaurants are great places for quiet evenings out. They tend to be expensive (at least the good ones), but depending on the city, they may not be excessively so.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:00 PM on October 6, 2012

Bourbon and Branch, a delicious but pretentious bar in San Francisco that requires a reservation and password, will throw people out if they get too loud.
posted by asphericalcow at 8:04 PM on October 6, 2012

Like you, I can't stand the trend towards more volume in restaurants. A few of the quiet places that I've really enjoyed:

Violet Hour, Chicago.
Topolobampo. Chicago.
L'Espalier, Boston.
Rialto, Boston.
Orso, NYC.

Most of these are very good but fairly expensive; I'm not from any of these cities and when I travel I like to eat and drink well.

But I'll point out that any town worth its salt will have quiet, intimate places where locals hang out. In my town, Lawrence KS, you'll find me many afternoons enjoying a quiet drink and reading a book at the Pig. Your town, I'm sure, has a similarly awesome place.

I'd disagree strongly with asphericalcow on Bourban and Branch, by the way. The one time I was there it was unbearably loud, to point it made conversation impossible. I don't plan on giving it a second try.
posted by jacobian at 8:34 PM on October 6, 2012

In Toronto I recommend The Atlantic. In Los Angeles, I'd recommend Musso and Frank and Salt's Cure.
posted by dobbs at 9:59 PM on October 6, 2012

What you want to do is go to the bar or restaurant in any nice hotel in your area

I was going to suggest this, and specifically in Maine, I've had good luck finding quiet at The Armory in the Regency Hotel. The handful of times I've been there, it was quiet and gave us (the illusion of) privacy.

In general, I suggest that you want to find the kind of hotel lounge that has some armchairs and/or plenty of little corners, both for the sound baffling effect and for the psychological effect that slightly formal, cozy, old-school design has on the potentially more boisterous patrons.
posted by Elsa at 8:18 AM on October 7, 2012

You don't need to travel out of state.

If your favorite restaurant is really loud typically, then try going earlier in the evening (before 6:30, or after 10:00), or during a weeknight.

Less popular restaurants will have fewer people and consequently less noise. Unfortunately less popular restaurants are usually less popular for a reason.

Just because a restaurant is fancy or expensive is no guarantee that it'll be quiet. And I honestly wouldn't trust Yelp reviews. There are no standards for review there.
posted by rq at 8:57 AM on October 7, 2012

There are lots of quiet restaurants, possibly in your neighbourhood - can you be more specific on location?

Also, they don't need to be expensive, or not very good - my favorite Indian and Ethiopian restaurants in Toronto (dinner under $20) are both very quiet (part of why I like them - in addition to excellent food).
posted by jb at 10:31 AM on October 7, 2012

I often write in bars and restaurants, so I've become an expert in figuring out quiet.

Good signs for quiet:

Empty. A bustling restaurant at the height of the dinner rush is going to be loud. There are just lots of people in there, and well, what are you going to do? At one point I became a regular of a restaurant in my neighborhood simply because it seemed like nobody else ever went there.

Lots of textiles, wood, and other porous decor to absorb the sound. This is why fancy restaurants tend to be quieter -- all those white table cloths and velvet drapes. Even in a less upscale place, look for curtains, wood, exposed brick, and general stuff that isn't made of tile, glass, or metal.

Look for restaurants that cater mostly to take out orders. For some reason where I live, people tend to order out Thai and Indian more than going out to eat those cuisines in a restaurant (no idea why this is the case). So I try to make a habit of eating in at those kinds of restaurants as opposed to the bistros and burger joints people like going out to.

Pubs. Pubs are great for this, especially in off hours when there's no game on. A dead quiet pub on a Saturday afternoon with a good book is the best place in the world.
posted by Sara C. at 11:06 AM on October 7, 2012

I just had dinner on Friday (happy anniversary to us!) at Bondir in Cambridge, MA. We spent the first course remarking about how quiet it was in there - it was extremely pleasant. It's very small (only 28 seats!) so that might be something to consider in your search. It was also one of the finest meals I've had in a while. We had an early reservation at 6 and I noticed that the noise level had bumped up to the quiet side of moderate by the time we left after 8, but we were still able to converse easily.
posted by hungrybruno at 7:36 AM on October 8, 2012

« Older can't find this song!!   |   To tip or not to tip Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.