Today The L.A. Times reports that many of our restaurants are just way too loud. Wait, what? We said, TODAY THE L.A. TIMES REPORTS...aw, forget it. Anyway, if you're eating out there, you know it's all true; a lot of our favorite places seem to have pinched pennies when it comes to smart sound-design. From WP24 blasting "Another Brick in the Wall Part 2" in our ears like some sort of anti-Achatz, Proust-defying sense-stumper to the white noise of customer chatter overrunning places like Picca, Rustic Canyon, Mas Malo, and Sunny Spot, a lack of soft surfaces and an excess of open kitchens, exposed tables, and high hard ceilings has us perpetually nodding our heads in agreement at whatever our table mates say because we can't really hear a single word they're saying. EAT L.A. took on the issue at Bottega Louie in April and today our paper of record notes that restaurateurs have surprisingly heard us and are finally attempting to do something about it.
Apparently, the clatter is turning into an issue for readers of restaurant reviewing sites, with noise complaints racking up on OpenTable, Yelp, and The Rundown. Zagat reports that 18% of Angelenos consider noise their biggest bugaboo when dining out. (We're guessing right behind the rising phenomenon of waiters offering their approval of your order by telling you, "oh good, that's totally my favorite appetizer/fish dish/cocktail").
The story goes on to say it's no longer the cool approach just to stick a giant tapestry on the wall or padded booth on the floor for soaking up some of those sound waves. Today, the solution involves "eco-friendly" materials like cork and recycled tires, along with design elements like lowered ceilings, "echo-absorbing insulation" and "noise-catching panels," like ones used at Father's Office and Umamicatessen. Mendocino Farms' new location uses grass patches to mellow out the constant chatter, while Lukshon has opted for quieter kitchen ventilation equipment.
Shortly before putting the cranked-up noise levels onto the shoulders of perennial food industry scapegoats, bloggers and "foodies," the good news finds that even constant rabble-rouser Bottega Louie is doing something about its classic cacophony, with softer undersides to seats and relaying the development that, "servers were trained to pace themselves better so they didn't end up juggling armfuls of clanking plates."
And this, we believe, just might form the ultimate solution, dear restaurants. Stop wasting your money on expensive sound-proofing and don't touch the dial on the latest Fucked Up album. Just get your staff some ballet lessons and maybe we'll all be able to hear each other again.