Dining out in Comfort and Quiet

I was wondering if many of you enjoy fine dining once in a while or for special occasions? I’m finding it more difficult these days , with uncomfortable chairs, no tablecloths, piped in music that’s way too loud , AND menus that can’t be read because the lights too low! We love trying new places but sometimes want the retro meal experience when you can converse . Sometimes we will have the older generation with us, which makes it all the more difficult. I’m wondering how it is in the different regions of the country. If you know of one in the Seattle area, please let me know.


Great post. It started me thinking…

We haven’t purposely had a dinner out for a date night, or “special occasion” in years. The two of us have kind of gravitated to a mid-day time slot to have our main meal prepared and served in a nice restaurant. For us there are too many pluses to this leaning. Not trivial is the kitchen is never out of a signature dish or special at 2-3PM; and if the restaurant we’re visiting offers shellfish apps, we can seriously do gustatory damage without putting the kitchen in the weeds.


I read that Times article as I was having brunch at one of my usual places here in Berkeley. I ordered my usual scrambled eggs (cooked in butter!) with home fries (tapas-style patatas), wheat toast and a side of avocado. As usual, I ate the nicely crisp potatoes and eggs, then spread the avocado on the thickly sliced toast. Quiet music was playing and I lingered to finish the rest of the newspaper.

Novelty can be overrated.


The incident that made me think of this topic was a dinner w/ my bff as well as my millennial daughter & her fiancée. We were in a trendy suburb of Seattle & the two mills were very invested in trying this new resto. Ok, we are easygoing & were just along for the ride so to speak. Once we got in there it was so clattery you couldn’t even hear yourself think, let alone speak. In the universal language of needing something to drink, I think pink sparkling wine was passed around. Then it came to ordering & guess what?? I couldn’t see the fine print in the very low lighting. Think we had to use the flashlight functions on our I-phones. Thank god for technology. What followed once we could see were a lineup of some very odd dishes. I opted for the prawns, cauliflower and almonds. Mind you these were all discrete elements of what should have been a cohesive dish. My Bff didn’t enjoy her food & I think the two mills themselves were somewhat underwhelmed. As it tuned out I was raked over the coals for not making conversation with my table mates and why didn’t I pick up the whole tab?? Told them it was impossible to converse without YELLING!

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We like to entertain and in our extended family we take turns. While we will always enjoy dining out, pulling a meal together, creating a relaxing atmosphere, selecting music and controlling the comfort for all is very appealing. Old or young, the vibe can make or break a great dining experience.


I think fine dining is somewhat on the wane. At least the white tablecloths, cushy chairs, and hushed murmurs variety. Tablecloths and upholstery take time and money. Hard surfaces that bounce sound around are lower maintenance and look more modern.

In Seattle, I’d only consider places like Canlis, Loulay, or Altura to be fine dining. I admit I’m a bit out of the loop on restaurants these days, can I ask where you went?

It’s hard to find traditional fine dining anymore what with people in torn jeans and yoga pants (or worse) everywhere. That said, we dine out about once a month and I agree it’s often hard to find a place that doesn’t blast music or has no soft surfaces to absorb sound.


I can’t agree more and I LOVE fine dining experiences and finding them are becoming more rare. I think it has a lot to do with the causal nature of our society anymore. I get a kick out of watching baseball games in the 50’s into the 60’s men wore suits to go to baseball games! We were a society that appreciated formal appearances, that has changed a long time ago.

My favorite restaurant for the past 50 years is a real throw back. Table clothed dining, big private cushy booths, indoor palm tree’s large Casablanca like fans and a pianist on weekends. The service and ambiance is always fantastic, unfortunately the food is a bit hit or miss, especially at their price point. None the less I love it anyway and I do accept the spotty food just to soak in the overall experience.

I couldn’t agree with you more, unfortunately I have nothing to offer you for a Washington State referral.


I completely identified with the piece in the Times when I read it yesterday. Loud thumping music puts a restaurant on my do no return list. I like a comfortable chair and hate backless stools and high tables.

I don’t mind paying a high price for genuine “fine dining” and do so frequently but I’m not a fan of small plates at high prices with the suggestion to order several per person. There is no value for the diner, only for the restaurant.

I don’t really care if there is a tablecloth or not but I care a lot if there are cloth napkins instead of paper (I don’t mean at a pizza place or a tortilleria) and I like the utensils and glassware to be clean.

I also tend to avoid places that won’t take reservations unless I know the wait will be reasonable. In NJ most places don’t have a bar to wait in since liquor licenses are severely limited.


The men also smoked cigars at the games; and people dressed up to board an airplane. Things noticeably changed when you saw people wearing gimme/baseball caps at the indoor restaurant table.

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We like home too – usually the “ambience” is perfect, the beverages often better and certainly more to our budget, though “service” tends to be hit or miss, and you usually recognize and want what’s on the plate. That said, we’re always open to new favorites when going out.


Your plan sounds good; we will have to gravitate in that direction. & at lunchtime I should be able to read a menu at least.

Your brunch sounds sublime and to make it even better you were reading a real newspaper!

Great article. I find a few things now,that I’m older. I can no longer tolerate the noise and stuffing too many people into a room. I don’t want to wait in a crowd for my table. And if we are dining with friends, I probably want to hear them. We have a few places we go where we are treated like we are special, and we tend to go back to,those. At one place in particular, when the bartender sees up coming up the path, starts making my husbands special margarita (which I have dubbed the Frankarita) and it comes to,the table, our favorite table, when we sit down. That’s extreme, but we want good food, but we want to be comfortable. Don’t give me a bench to sit on, and, at 5’2” I prefer grounds level to a high top! Please pardon the random commas. Typing on the iPad and I keep hitting them!


I’m rather loathe to give you the name. I think they were just opening up at the time and could have made some improvements since then. A couple baffles could help mitigate their sound problem & perhaps they’ve lightened their lighting!

I will give you their name and hopefully in the meantime things have improved In many ways.

The name is Little Brother in Kirkland Wa.

Never heard of it, Kirkland restaurants are even farther off my radar than Seattle …
the photos online look more casual neighborhood bistro than fine dining. But looks like it would be super loud, better for a brunch spot or weeknight dinner than a special occasion.

I’ll admit, the last time I went out to dinner I couldn’t read the menu. But this was at Monsoon, a place I’ve enjoyed for years. I don’t think they have changed anything, I blamed my eyes getting older … suddenly I understood why everyone my age and older carries a pair of reading glasses!

I need to check the date on our Marriage License, but we’re coming up on our 40-something Anniversary quite soon. Said that, to say this…

I’m of two minds–do we choose fine dining (which we have very little experience with); or do we choose a favorite (which we have a half dozen of).

I love that when you’re a grey beard like me, this kind of a decision is the most stressful you need to make in any month.


Just a little disclaimer to say we weren’t by any means looking for fine dining on that particular evening. What we were looking for was a place to talk while dining on some decent food. I didn’t care that it was bench seating, I can be uncomfortable for a bit. But it was just an ordeal to find something on the menu you wanted to eat (yes I had my glasses on ) convey that very painfully to the server x4 and wait for something delicious to come out of the kitchen. Spot prawns on cauliflower pieces with whole almonds just didn’t float my culinary boat. Oh there may have been fresh fennel fronds on there too. We do like to try new places, we eat fairly casually most of the time, will say sometimes if the millennials are really hot to try a new place we will know where not to go lol😜


Understandable. If you are looking for fine dining on the eastside, Cafe Juanita has always had an excellent reputation … tablecloths too!


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