Adam Platt Can't Hear Himself Eat

Friday, July 26, 2013

Adam Platt, New York magazine’s restaurant critic, discusses the rising noise levels inside restaurants and they seem to be getting louder. His article “I Can’t Hear Myself Eat” appeared in the July 22 issue of New York. It can also be found on New York's Grub Street blog.


Adam Platt

Comments [28]

James Lukaszewski from Minneapolis

Noise is a public health epidemic . . .

Better get used to it. The same is true for movie theaters as well. We have a full generation of humans who from the time they were toddles have had a couple white wires sticking out of their ears, and we could hear what they were listening to across a living room, in a car or bus, even a subway.

Video games, all sorts of video and music devices at top volume right in their ears.

Please welcome the first obviously pre-deaf generation. Wait until they are all fifty. 100 decibels won't be loud enough.

Aug. 02 2013 03:40 AM
Maggie Wells from Manhattan

I despair! Is civilization lost? I am afraid to commit myself to dinner in a restaurant. It can start out quiet and then after you've ordered, they crank up the volume!

Jul. 31 2013 11:20 PM
Leonore from Stuytown

How about a noise rating that would be posted in the front window along with the cleanliness rating.
1= can hear conversation; 2=must speak up; 3= come on in if you don't want to converse; 4 = hearing loss central.

Jul. 31 2013 08:35 AM
Joe from Tribeca

A drag for diners, but a health risk for staff. 90 dB is the OSHA max for 8 hours, and 95 dB is the max for 4 hours. Literally deafening your staff to turn a buck is a low way to live.

Jul. 29 2013 11:10 AM
Casey from Kansas City

Extremely loud restaurants aren't just in NY. Kansas City has many that I avoid even if the food is great because I can't hear the person next to me and I lose my voice if I try to talk loud enough to be heard. I don't go back and send them an email telling them why.

Jul. 27 2013 03:02 PM
Chulsoo J. from K-Town

K-Pop. Dear God. Please, please stop playing K-Pop at Korean restaurants for adults.
I love the other 4,000 years worth of Korean music, but not K-Pop.

Jul. 26 2013 02:32 PM
Marie from Brooklyn

At Pok Pok the other night a table of six was set up beside our deuce, in a space where only four could fit. Five fairly drunk and already loud Wall Street males arrived and arranged themselves there. The man closest to me occupied the space between our tables, practically in my lap. Loud, obnoxious, foulmouthed.

On our other side, squeezed beside my husband was a woman with three adult friends and her two infants, at a table for four. The children were in booster seats. She sat at a corner of her table, practically in my husband's lap. The babies kept banging bowls of food onto the floor. Hilarious! laughed the table companions. Wham! The floor at their feet, about six inches from our feet, was strewn with food and bowls and napkins.

At some point a scuffle ensued beneath our table when the drunk Wall Streeters' feet got tangled with my furious husband's. A fight started. Wall Street in our faces. Managers appeared (too late), we were moved indoors, showered with apologies, comp'd drinks, all great.

But why was this overcrowding and obnoxious behavior allowed in the first place? Why are children younger than two eating out with adults in a public place at 8.30pm? Why are drunkards squashed beside civilized patrons?

We're over it.

Jul. 26 2013 01:35 PM

Mr. Platt - the word is "cacOphony" not cacaphony - just saying.

Jul. 26 2013 01:30 PM
Denise from Riverdale

A friend and I were walking along the upper east side looking for a restaurant last night. Our three criteria were 1. no TV 2. dim lighting and most importantly 3. QUIET! We were amazed at the noise level coming from restaurants as we walked past. It's insane.

Jul. 26 2013 01:28 PM
A Musician's Stomach from East Village

My boyfriend and I (both professional musicians) sadly had to stop patronizing to our favorite Japanese go-to because they had a habit of playing Celine Dion's Greatest Hits. The first time, we thought it was a fluke (no pun intended.) The second time, well, Celine me once, shame me twice, well, let's just say we haven't been back.

Jul. 26 2013 01:27 PM
Sarah from Chelsea

I will never go to Olives in Union Square again. The blaring music from the bar permeated the restaurant. It was awful. I don't even remember the food. The same is true of Blue Fin. Both restaurants reside inside W hotels.

Jul. 26 2013 01:26 PM
Elsie from Brooklyn

I think what needs to be said here is that the new generation is more interested in getting drunk than in having a good meal or a good conversation. It's unfortunate that these kids, mostly living off of their parents' money, are dictating how the rest of us have to live in a city that seems increasingly made for the rich and the shallow. I remember when NY used to be for adults; now it's a city that feels more and more like a frat house. And when the partiers stop partying and start having kids, they move to Brooklyn and wheel their children into the bars with them. The partying may stop, but the sense of entitlement just keeps growing.

It would be great if we stopped catering to their every whim, but sadly, they have the money, so the businesses are stuck. I've spoken to waiters who loathe these customers, but are forced to tolerate them. Some restaurants have discussed banning large parties because this generation gets so obnoxious when they start drinking that they drive other customers out. Seems the best way to get a good table in NYC now is to be young, rich, obnoxious and drunk.

Jul. 26 2013 01:26 PM
Craig from East Village

Re the question of noise in restaurants in Paris, I can comment, as I spent prolonged periods in Paris ending in October 2012 and Provence, most recently this June. While there are a few noisy restaurants in Paris, there are many, many more where one can dine in peace and tranquility. This is even more so in Provence, where noisy restaurants are rare, indeed.

Jul. 26 2013 01:22 PM
Nick from UWS

Another hateful trend in restaurants are enormous flat-screen TVs blaring in your eyes, like some kind of torture device from A Clockwork Orange...but that's a different story. Again...walk right out.

Jul. 26 2013 01:22 PM
The Truth from Becky

Sounds like you all are going to low level restaurants, pubs even..try going to more upscale restaurants.

Jul. 26 2013 01:21 PM
Pamela from Queens

I believe that the increasing noise in restaurants is an extension of noise generally in our culture: noisy shows, noisy advertisements in the movies and on television, and noise in our streets generated by people talking more openly and loudly. It is extraordinary to witness people speaking on their cellphones loudly while walking. These behaviors are translating to other areas of our society such as eating establishments.

Jul. 26 2013 01:21 PM
Germany Cricket from NYC

It is simply a means for the restaurant to get more seatings. Also, if decibel levels are actually documented to be so high, then OSHA should investigate and force remediation (sound baffling, fewer tables, etc.).

Jul. 26 2013 01:20 PM
George Showman from Brooklyn

Thank God you're covering this. I think it's a complete abdication of the responsibilities of the host. I've been in some supposedly great restaurants recently and frankly it was a terrible, demeaning experience because of the noise. At this point the chefs/restaurateurs can't claim ignorance -- they are manipulating their customers.

The solution is better interior design. As an architect, I am constantly amazed at how little thought is given by designers or clients to acoustics. There is a whole world between "dead quiet" and "destructive of conversation", full of auditory nuance -- we all just need to NOTICE, then CARE.

Supposedly brilliant food and drink accompanied with bad conversation is not a good meal -- PERIOD. IMHO, at least.

Jul. 26 2013 01:16 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

And why is it that boomers are ALL over all sorts of health issues -- smoking being the most obvious, but SOOO accepting of the health issues associated with noise (and they are far more than just permanent hearing loss) if the noise source is -- gasp! -- Rock 'n' Roll.

Double standard: Rock 'n' Roll ALWAYS gets a pass.

Jul. 26 2013 01:16 PM
Harrumphy from Brooklyn

Is it just me or do others observe the presence of more dogs at venues with outdoor seating?!? I love dogs but they don't belong at a restaurant.

Jul. 26 2013 01:15 PM
Tom from upper west side

Higher decibel levels are not conducive to "lingering," so that tables turn over faster.

I eat out about 5 times each week, and walk right out when the decibel levels are uncomfortably high.

Jul. 26 2013 01:13 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Just like at sports stadiums -- attacking the patrons with all this noise.


Jul. 26 2013 01:13 PM
irwin arieff from manhattan

My wife and I have had to give up on so many noisy places because conversation is impossible and the background noise gives us headaches. We just won't go back, no matter how good the food, decor or service. Do the owners of these places actually think they are winning customers by building in so much noise?

Jul. 26 2013 01:11 PM
Nick from UWS

What happened is that the culture has come to be dominated by idiocy and the stupid, and the majority of all businesses pander to them and their needs for various brute stimulus. The cow-like toleration of ear splitting racket and noise is a indicator of stupidity.

Jul. 26 2013 01:11 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Did you ever pay attention and hear the sound volume snowball as the restaurant fills up, and as patrons begin to speak louder and louder to hear themselves over the growing noise?

It -- if you'll pardon the expression -- feeds on itself!

Jul. 26 2013 01:10 PM
Linda from Jersey Shore

ok I'm 3 for 3 commenting today. There have been 2 times in my life where I have been in a restaurant that is so loud or has such terrible music playing, it has literally made me sick to my stomach. Once it was a coffee house atmosphere that had 2 guys on guitar playing and they were bad but I wondered if it was the repetition of the notes being played that made me sick. Has that ever happened to anyone?

Jul. 26 2013 01:07 PM
Nick from UWS

If there are any loudspeakers in a restaurant playing "music", I walk right out. Immediately. There has never been a more loathsome trend in modern life than this fucking hideous racket everywhere you go. I am not the slightest bit interested in some bus boy's taste in music.

Jul. 26 2013 01:04 PM
Craig Kuehl from East Village

Thank you for scheduling this issue.

Besides turning down the volume of "background" music and improving acoustics, what can be done? Can the city evaluate harm to employees by measuring decibel levels and use that information to enforce controls on volume when they threaten the health of employees?

Jul. 26 2013 12:11 PM

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