No one will argue that Western New York doesn't have a vibrant eating and drinking scene. But nothing is perfect. Here are some complaints I hear:
SOUND! Readers complain that sometimes the so-called background music is so loud, they can't talk to each other. Yes, asking that the music be turned down sometimes works. So does moving to a table farther from the speakers (or the bar). While the weather is good, you can ask to sit outside.
But there is another side to the story. Some readers dislike restaurants that are too quiet. It just isn't a festive ambience for them; instead it's a downer. (Also, to be cynical, some restaurateurs may think that utter stillness doesn't encourage drink reorders. If you don't have to yell, your throat doesn't get dry.)
Some diners find silence is inhibiting. No matter how quietly they speak, their voices seem to reverberate so that even the chef way back in the kitchen can hear them. And – horrors – it might even encourage a server to enter the conversation unasked.
True, most complaints about noise tend to come from older diners, but younger people often seem to feel the same way.
Ditto the following complaint, though this particular email came from a senior. Here's Joe from Grand Island:
"Ms. Okun: Actually, I have three ‘pet peeves' regarding current restaurant etiquette. These involve things that servers say to customers.
"First, it seems that in almost every establishment we visit, whether informal or fine dining, the waiter/waitress will greet us with ‘Hi, guys, my name is --- and I'll be your server tonight,' or, ‘How are you guys doing tonight?' I'm trying not to be an old fuddy-duddy, but when servers who are younger than our children call us ‘guys,' it just doesn't seem right. Maybe in a sports bar I wouldn't mind, but otherwise I don't see what would be wrong with ‘Hello, my name is ...,' etc.
"Second, when we are almost finished eating, more and more frequently instead of a simple ‘Are you finished?' or ‘Can I take your plate?', we are asked: ‘Still working on that?' or, even worse, ‘Still workin'?' Again, the degree of informality, especially in nicer restaurants, doesn't seem right.
"Last, and certainly not least, is a phrase that I don't recall existing even 10 years ago, but now is ubiquitous when we leave cash for the check: ‘Do you want some change?' This one is my biggest complaint. Why not just bring the change back, as was done for decades, instead of assuming or hoping that I will leave a huge tip by not asking for my change back? Once, at lunch, my check came to less than $9, and I put down a $20 bill. The waitress actually asked me if I wanted change!
"In summary, are these just the complaints of a cranky AARP member, or do I have a point?"
Joe, I can sympathize with your complaints. Each of the points you make is valid. And you're the customer, the guy who is paying, so you have a right to speak.
But in all practicality …
This brings us back to the SOUND thing again. Sometimes it helps to just turn a deaf ear.
Send questions and comments about dining out to Janice Okun at email@example.com. She will respond in this column, which appears every Wednesday in the Taste section of The Buffalo News.