I've had some good experiences with my Friday night dining circle during the last month. Among those was a visit to No. 246 in Decatur. I wrote a first look about the place soon after its opening, but when I tried to visit with my friends, there was a wait comparable to the one for the constantly rescheduled Rapture. So we left. Now, the restaurant is accepting reservations.
I'm not going to review all the dishes we ordered, but everyone's favorite, including mine, was the agnolotti — almost fragile ravioli with butternut squash, mascarpone, local mushrooms, browned butter and shaved hazelnuts. If you don't want to make it your entree, do as I did and order a half-portion as your starter.
We suffered everyone's usual complaint here: the deafening noise. I was hoarse five minutes after sitting down. I know, I know. You're going to blame my aging eardrums for the discomfort, but it's a very common complaint.
The Wall Street Journal published an article on the subject last year. Although it too makes mention of age, there's plenty else involved, including an odd assumption by some restaurateurs that noise is positively experienced by most diners. Says one chef: "I don't think of it as noise. It's excitement. The new consumer is looking for energy, a good vibe."
If a restaurateur doesn't consult an accoustical engineer, the boxy, spare architectural style of most contemporary dining venues guarantees auditory discomfort. No. 246 has nearly all of the features that amplify sound. The Journal offers diners these tips:
Audiologists offer advice for finding a quieter dining experience:
Sit in tables in alcoves, which provide a barricade against sound waves.
Avoid sitting by the bar or kitchen.
Avoid sitting near large parties, who tend to talk louder.
Ask for additional light and look at your dining companion. Without realizing it, we read lips.
Ask management to turn the music down, even if you get dirty looks. Not only does this reduce noise, but people will then talk more softly.
Look at photos of the restaurant ahead of time. No carpet or tablecloths and boxy dimensions should raise red flags.
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