Loud Restaurants

By Elise Maclay


Dining out is one of the most interesting and delicious ways to study contemporary anthropology.  Trendlets appear hesitantly, flame out suddenly. Trends build and hang on until they become mainstream.

What goes around comes around.   Sometimes. Sometimes not.

Either way what we eat where and when tell us a lot about the era we live in– and we live in an unprecedentedly noisy era. Modern restaurants are loud because everything else is:

Television, especially the commercials. Music. Movies. Politicians.

Cities. Even churches and  libraries have broken their vows of silence

and their once hallowed halls echo with  uninhibited chatter. You have to climb a mountain to regain a sense of awe.  It’s not our fault.  We did it while we were trying to make life easier.  Building a log cabin with an axe is a lot quieter than building a city with jack-hammers and cement mixers. For better or worse, noisy machinery is replacing hand labor on our once bucolic farms.

Quiet?  We are so unfamiliar with  it we are afraid of it, equating it with emptiness, loneliness, the very feelings we try to avoid  As a restaurant critic for almost twenty years, I have seen trends come and go but one thing remains constant: In every era restaurant goers want to go where the with-it

people go– royalty, celebrities, stars–yea, even restaurant critics.

Call it the lemming effect. It has never  been as powerful as it is in today’s America where independence and doing-you-own-thing get lip service while social-media-driven Pied Piper behavior leads an amorphous “everybody” to the loudest restaurant in town.