Thursday, March 25, 2004

Mute approval

The question of music in restaurants and bars is always contentious. I like to think I hit it up the middle pretty well when I work on Friday nights -- jazz in the early hours, slowly getting louder and more modern as the night goes on -- but I'll admit that bu about midnight all bets are off and we'll get as loud as we need it to be to survive 'til last call. It's a bar, after all.

I've read critics who say that if the music's too loud you should ask the server to turn it down. I heartily disagree. You heard the music when you first came in and you still sat down. Music is part of how restaurants define themselves and who their clientele is going to be. if it's too loud for you (and the place is also pretty much full) they don't want you and your tea-drinking, deep, lingering conversation sort in there. If it's too loud, leave.

Some places, admittedly take the music thing too far. I was in a place in New York with about six specials that had to be delivered orally and the waitress had to come to each of us individually and shout in our ears. We all nodded politely and when she left we turned to each other and asked what the specials were. None of us knew. The music was that loud. Fortunately the food (off the menu) was very good. I always imagine and angry chef demanding to know why the waitstaff weren't pushing the specials.

Eric Asimov at the New York Times suggests that the trend is going the other way these days and that restaurants are finally turning off the music. I hope this isn't entirely true -- with some exceptions, I hate going to places without any music at all. The trick is finding the right level and the right mix, so that patrons aren't annoyed by the chatter from the table next to them but are also often barely aware of the specific song playing.

That's what we try to do. Until power hour at least.