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Martin Withington

As far as music in restaurants goes, this favourite short story tells it all.

Many magazines with restaurant listings not only indicate the average cost of the dinner by the number of dollar signs placed at the end of the descriptive blurb but they also indicate the noise level. I always pay attention to both indicators. Personally, my husband and I hate trying to eat while screaming at our dining partners over loud, jangly background music and other ambient noise. This trend is actually my second biggest complaint about restaurant dining. My biggest objection is being served food that is supposed to be piping hot but has sat in the kitchen long enough to have cooled to luke warm or worse. In France this rarely happens but in the US, I usually tell the server that it is important for me to bring out my order right away. This sometimes works.


You have addressed my pet peeve Music in the background, barely audible is fine but blasting is not. Same with videos, news reports, travel blogs etc. where you are unable to hear what the host is saying above the constant noise. No wonder people are so frazzled.

Page Robertson

Lynn, thank you for sharing our "winter hibernation/football" go-to. Even in Alabama! Perhaps you will buy some packaged young jackfruit while you are over here, either at your healthy grocery or from our favorite on-line source. I did buy it to try it for you, but it is still in the pantry! Our grocery has whole jackfruit, looking like a cross between a watermelon and porcupine. Even on You Tube, it looks too intimidating to try carving. Happy Holidays!

Tammy Straub

Thank you, yes i hate the loudness too!
Here in the west everything is bar, brewery themed and 10 tvs!
If enough people quit supporting then maybe they’ll figure it out!

Don Christian

I too vote for no music or at least very muted classical music. I have a hearing problem and no hearing aid can filter out the blare of loud music. I would rather stay home than sit and smile but not understand conversation in most U.S. restaurants.

Cynthia Bogart Wladyka

We are relocating somewhere between Charleston and Jacksonville - it looks like I need that Brunswick Stew Stew in my cookbook! Thank you for that! I totally agree about the music - a soft background can set a lovely mood but the loud, obnoxious noise will ruin a good meal!


I vote with you for quiet in restaurants! There are many I refuse to go to here in the Sacramento CA area because the volume of the music prevents conversation.

Page Robertson

OOPS, I apologize for not thinking that you have many readers who are not from the south (bless them!), and may not know what pulled pork is. I buy it, usually referred to as from a pork butt, already wood smoked, from one of our wonderful BBQ places(no sauce added). It will be somewhat pulled apart and perhaps chopped, thus the name.

Libby Wilkie

Oh..... I am with you! Cannot bear the music. If we are really lucky they will turn it down (a bit) My husband lost all hearing in one ear (a virus) and has a hearing aid in the other. So it is truly torture for him. We have been known to get up and leave. Same goes for the lack of soft furnishings these days: I totally agree with Ruth Reichl.

Bonnie Groves Poppe

I haven't been to the US for about ten years, but too loud music has always been a problem. I guessed the right answer to the NYT survey, by the way. I live in Provence, and occasionally I have been eating with friends when we have had to ask them to turn down the music or seat us elsewhere. I have also left restaurants right at the beginning if the music is loud and obnoxious. I do not play music while I eat at home, why would I want to listen to it if I'm eating out?
bonnie in provence
(formerly in San Diego)


I once at at a New Orleans style restaurant just outside of Disney Land. The food was incredible, but the music was blaringly loud. We absolutely could not carry on a conversation and the lighting was so low I barely see what I was eating. Now I have some hearing loss, so loud music is a big no no for me.

Susan Leigh Blough

Right on!!!! We just returned from France and loved being able to have ordinary conversations. We are to the point of choosing only quieter restaurants, which limits us to very few choices in Boise. Preferred background music, quiet classical.


Another wonderful post,dear Lynn,accompanied by beautiful pictures.What a perfect combination!!
I couldn't be in more agreement with either you or your readers:no faster way to make me evacuate a place than blaring or obnoxious music! Let's face it--these days(or any days,for that matter)eating out with friends is a special treat,and nobody has the right to destroy that pleasure for anyone else.
I especially enjoyed your book selections,and just ordered (on kindle) My Place At The Table(sounds delightful!)
I have two magazines to suggest for enjoyable reading.FRANCE Magazine(which never fails to be great), and BIEN DIRE,which is bilingual and is a great source of learning on top of the educational articles.

Christine Webb-Curtis

Well, Lynn. You certainly pushed a lot of buttons. And I'm with you--entirely. On the other hand, I haven't been inside (or outside on a patio) a restaurant for about two years. Years ago, maybe even as many as 20, the supermarkets here started playing music in the background. Now they all do. There was a time when my work life/childrearing/wife-ing had me stretched to the limit so I shopped very late at night--sometimes close to midnight. I distinctly remember requesting that the damned music (I didn't say "damned" to the supermarket staff, of course.) be turned off for a while as I was perhaps one of three (on a good day) shoppers in the store. Only once was my request honored. Anyway, thanks for 1) venting for us, and 2) letting us all vent as well. May there be peace at the table. . .


Christopher Tyle

Music in restaurants is, and has always been, a pet peeve of mine. To start, I'm a musician and it's difficult for me to focus on conversation when music is playing, because my poor brain can only concentrate on one thing at a time, so I'm mentally bouncing back and forth between conversation and music. Also, everyone has different taste in music, but apparently restaurants that foist their idea of music on customers never give it a thought. But the problem occurs here in France, too, and it's getting worse. A couple of years ago I went to a restaurant I like in a very small village, and they were blasting some techno-pop from speakers outside the restaurant, in this little bucolic village. Since myself and a couple were the only customers on the terrace, I asked for the music to be turned down. The substitute was some very fast tempo bebop jazz. When I complained, the server (wife of the owner) responded, "but it's Miles Davis" as though that made it alright. Needless to say, I haven't been back. So my vote is for NO music, or very soft classical.

Jacqueline McCargar Rowe

One of my pet peeves as well is going to a restaurant where there is nothing to deaden the noise of the people there, I don’t understand why they do that. It’s very annoying

Michaela K Rodeno

I just finished reading The Thursday Murder Club a few days ago, and am in complete agreement. Original, funny, thought provoking. The author has another one out...
Also agree about loud music in restaurants. I hope restaurateurs get the message.

jay gould

loud music is also a pet peeve, but i have to disagree regarding your comments about the French speaking in lower voices in restaurants. recently returned from Paris, and dining in high end bistros this trip - the French are just as loud as Americans here; as well as being obnoxious towards those sitting nearby so, i would be careful in characterizing something that no exists.

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