Are Restaurants Getting Noisier?

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Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail laura.hahnefeld@newtimes.com. Miss a question? Go here.

There's always a buzz when it comes to the culinary world. But lately, the buzz seems to be happening inside restaurants -- in the form of noise-- and it's getting louder.

Recently, the Los Angeles Times did an unscientific sound check of 12 restaurants and bars in the area and found many with a decibel level akin to sitting next to a running lawn mower. No wonder diners (as well as restaurant critics) are saying, "Turn it down!"

Do Valley chefs and restaurateurs agree? I asked a few and this is what they had to say:

Chef Ephraim Gallor Taps Signature Cuisine & Bar

NO: Restaurants have gotten quieter, silent even, what with everyone texting each other instead of actually talking.

Eric Flatt Co-owner, Tonto Bar & Grill/Cartwright's Sonoran Ranch House

YES: This is our biggest gripe when we go out to eat. The problem is this: Most restaurants do not have carpet. Oddly enough, this was just a debate for us. Cartwright's was up for new carpet, and we were thinking about changing it up to wood floor. Everyone said, "No way, it's too noisy!"

Lisa Khnanisho Owner, Tryst Café

MAYBE: Over the last five to eight years, I've seen an increase in urban- and industrial- style restaurants. That design inherently produces a noisier environment. It has to do with the physical design (materials like steel and bare flooring). That kind of environment gives people the permission to be a little more carefree in the volume of their conversation.

Chef Stephen Jones Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails

YES: As the dining scene becomes more casual, dining rooms become noticeably louder. Hard woods equal loud dining rooms. They are very beautiful to look at -- open ceilings, big giant bar tops and the fancy lighting -- but none of these capture any sound, they just reflect it off each other. Personally, I'm into it.

Christopher Gross, Chef and Owner, Christopher's Restaurant & Crush Lounge

NO: I was at the American Institute for Food and Wine convention in New York and attended a seminar featuring top restaurant designers from all over the world. One of the questions was directed at a designer who had done a popular French brasserie in New York. He was asked why it was so noisy when the brasseries in Paris were not. He replied that the difference is not due to design, it's because New York brasseries are full of Americans! I guess we enjoy ourselves more here and show it.

Michael Monti Owner, Monti's La Casa Vieja

YES: People want to see and be seen in brightly lit, wide-open, high-ceilinged places. Also, hard surfaces (concrete, ceramic, glass, and stone) are fashionable. Tablecloths, which deaden sound, are becoming unfashionable. All this adds up to noise.

Romeo Taus Chef and owner, Romeo's Cafe

YES & NO: Steel, stone floors, hip music, big-screen TVs, open kitchens, community tables -- the newer concepts in the culinary field are attracting a younger guest who wants to see and be seen. There has always been a certain hum and rhythm to a restaurant that wants to project a certain image. I believe the guest has an understanding of the concept and can choose the level of excitement according to their moods.

Silvana Salcido Esparza Chef and Owner, Barrio Café and Barrio Queen

NO: It might depend in the style of restaurant and new construction versus old, but nowadays, most restaurant designers figure out ways to deaden and absorb the noise as part of their design. You might not know this by the Barrio Café. There is nothing there to catch the sound but the 1950s popcorn ceiling.

Jon Lane Owner, O.H.S.O.

YES: Deconstruction of buildings, less carpet and drapes, and soft materials has made them [restaurants] louder. I am looking at acoustic panels because our building is all cement, metal, and hard wood.

Jay Bogsinske Chef de Cuisine, District American Kitchen & Wine Bar

YES: The music is louder, so people have to talk louder. Dining has become more of a social event and less family-oriented. To attract a younger crowd and make things high-energy, the music is playing an important role in atmosphere and creating that scene.

Charles Wiley Chef and Food and Beverage Director, ZuZu

YES: The only thing worse than a restaurant that's too noisy is one that's too quiet. If you go into most restaurants now, the dining room might be slower but the bar is packed. People like the animation, they gravitate toward it.

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