Top 5 Loudest Restaurants in Chicago*

Making casual (not quiet) conversation at Tavernita

At the risk of sounding like an old(er) man, I’m offering up a few recommendations this week that are helpful to both the 20-something clientele, as well as the over-40 group. How is this list helpful to diners who wear stilletos to dinner? Well, for one thing, any restaurant that has a thumping soundtrack and a constant din of activity usually has a great bar scene, or at the very least, a long bar where you can lineup and wait 10 minutes before you can flag down a harried bartender to make you a $12 cocktail (or, in the case of Tavernita, have them just pull that cocktail tap). But on the flipside, how would knowledge of these bustling, cacophonous spaces help the over-40 crowd? Simple. If you plan to dine there *on a Friday or Saturday night after 7 p.m., be prepared to shout at your tablemates, because comfortable, relaxed conversation is not in the cards. Best to visit mid-week.


1. Mercadito, 108 W. Kinzie St., (312) 329-9555

Great cocktails, definitely a lively atmosphere and solid “new” Mexican cuisine, but the night I sat in the corner, beneath one of the speakers, I felt my entire body shake to every downbeat; I’ve had quieter moments on the tarmac at ORD getting into a United Express jet.


2. Girl & The Goat, 809 W. Randolph St., (312) 492-6262

As much as I love the soundtrack here – big fan of the Cure – the combination of volume and hard surfaces makes this perennial hot spot a loud spot as well. (Note: GT Fish & Oyster, another part of the Boehm/Katz group, rectified their noise problem early on, installing pads beneath the chairs and tables, which would be a big improvement).


3. Epic, 112 W. Hubbard St., (312) 222-4940

I would have thought the high ceilings would help absorb sound, but the prison-like hard surfaces only exacerbate the noise problem. Having the bar become its own scene, yet keeping it adjacent to the main dining room, probably doesn’t help.


4. Tavernita, 151 W. Erie St., (312) 274-1111

Just went last Saturday night. I kid you not: had to literally yell at my dining companion in our booth, and couldn’t for the life of me hear what she was saying half the night. This post from Facebook fan Mike Foran summed it up: “we were at table across from yours and left with bleeding ears as well.”


5. Slurping Turtle, 116 W. Hubbard St., (312) 464-0466

Love Takashi, hate the hard surfaces. I get it, I get it: it’s supposed to be bustling and the bar is tiny and the Hitachino White Ale is on tap so everyone’s drinking..but I would be happier just going here solo to sit at the communal table and bury my face in my ramen.


 Honorable Mentions:

Chicago Cut Steakhouse, 300 N. LaSalle, (312) 329-1800

In the summer, I adore the patio, overlooking the Chicago River. That’s because sitting inside, amid the din of hard surfaces and clanging glasses, to sit for more than 10 minutes is like standing next to the speakers on stage at Metro. Good thing most of the food here is recognizable, since you can’t hear what the servers are saying as they set it down onto the table.


Sunda, 110 W. Illinois St., (312) 644-0500

Billy Dec sure can pack ’em in. Lots of eye candy, four-deep at the bar, and plenty of hard surfaces to keep the buzz going.


Big Star, 1531 N. Damen Ave., (773) 235-4039

Technically, you could argue Big Star is simply a bar, but with Justin Large at the helm, the food is taken much more seriously than if it were just another honkeytonk. If you’re sitting down inside at one of the booths, and plan on eating, best to just listen to the music and use hand signals.

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