Café Mailbag: Why are restaurants so dang loud?


Q: As a frequent restaurant-goer, I have some questions. In what manual of restaurant rules is it decreed as mandatory that: Patrons of whatever age or gender are to be referred to as "guys"? Annoying rock music is to be played, and played at high enough volume, as to make conversation difficult if not impossible? Servers are to interrupt your meal and conversation to inquire if everything is all right? Since these things seem to happen almost everywhere these days, I can only conclude that someone in authority has told restaurant owners and managers that they must be done no matter how annoying they are to customers. G.K A. It wasn’t us. That’s for sure. That said, your complaints are legitimate, shared by many, and something managers and owners should surely consider. ... I suspect, though, that this type of painful informality is part of the current trend toward more casual dining. “Formal dining” – wherein you book your table, get all dressed up, and maybe celebrate some important life passage in intimate, genteel surroundings—has become mostly a thing of the past, done in by the fact that few restaurants nowadays can survive as “special occasion” spots, only. As a result, most restaurants try to broaden their appeal, hoping to draw in younger diners who typically would frequent the city’s more casual chains, bars, and taverns. The upside is that dining out – at even our better restaurants – hardly requires more forethought than a trip to Marc’s. The downside? The days of “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen” are behind us – probably even at the Ritz, where that now quaint-sounding phrase was coined. As when facing any irksome aspect of a business, you have two non-mutually exclusive choices: Complain, or take your money elsewhere. If you decide on the latter, here are a few of the region’s more “grown-up” spots – with relatively polished service, a reasonably intimate ambiance, and not much in the way of an annoying sound system: John Q’s Steakhouse (55 Public Square, downtown), Johnny’s Downtown (1406 W. 6th St., Warehouse District), Gusto! (12022 Mayfield Rd., Little Italy), Red the Steakhouse Richmond Rd., Beachwood), and ‘Stino da Napoli (19070 Old Detroit Rd., Rocky River). (For details and more ideas, visit the Scene’s Restaurant Guide Of course, you’ll pay for the privilege of being addressed as “sir:” None of these spots are exactly cheap. For less expensive options, you also might want to consider trying some of the area’s traditional ethnic eateries, where staffers are likely to hail from more reverential cultures, and the general ambiance is somewhat less youth-oriented. Plus, there’s the benefit of the built-in language barrier: Your server could be calling you anything, and you’d probably never know the difference. -- Elaine T. Cicora Read Elaine Cicora's restaurant reviews, food news, and comprehensive dining guide on the restaurant page at


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