When visitors came last week from Arizona, I took them out to two restaurants: Dough and Rosario’s. Both were appreciated, but at one point during the evening at Rosario’s I asked them if the restaurant seemed loud compared to the restaurants they visited in Phoenix. They said, basically, OMG, yes.
“This is more like what a busy nightclub sounds like,” said my sister-in-law.
“Right,” chimed in her 16-year-old daughter. (This led to a discussion on just how my niece happened to be familiar with the noise levels in nightclubs. That was entertaining.)
I’ve been in San Antonio for so long now that I’ve gotten used to loud restaurants. But when I first moved here 21 years ago I had the same reaction that my visitors did: Why is everyone shouting?
After a few years I was shouting right along with ’em. Once, at a restaurant in Seattle, where 15 of us from SA were having dinner during a business trip, the host wisely separated us from the restaurant proper. Even though we were out of the way at a table in the back of the bar, the noise level was such that customers leaving the restaurant stopped to look in at us with expressions of disbelief.
So, what to do if you really want to go to a restaurant to have a conversation?
A few tips: Find a place that has some fabric. That is, carpeting instead of cement flooring, upholstered chairs and banquettes. A place with smaller rooms, such as The Lodge Restaurant at Castle Hills, might be a good bet on a slow night, but in my experience when this restaurant is busy that doesn’t seem to make a whit of difference.
Another strategy is to sit outside. At Dough, it’s generally busy and noisy inside. But when six of us were seated at a table out on the sidewalk one comfortable evening earlier this summer, we were gratified that we could speak in our normal voices.
It would be great if popular restaurants could set aside at least one room designed to muffle, rather than amplify, sound. The fact that a noisy restaurant seems more popular, and therefore more successful, could be a reason that restaurateurs don’t do this.
I still don’t know why restaurants in Texas seem to be so much noisier than in other states, but I like to think it is because we just have that much more fun.