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You don't have to shout in Lark.

Anyone who’s dined out in the last half-decade has experienced the explosion in restaurant noise—a trend owing to fashionably unupholstered interiors, ever louder music, and restaurateurs who believe that the noisier the scene, the greater the perceived popularity. (Some restaurateurs hire consultants to design noise in.)

Still, no issue more reliably galls diners than excessive restaurant noise. Even the young and the hip confide that they’d like to hear their companion occasionally. You already know the places to avoid. How about 20 spots where the food’s terrific and the ambience goes easy on the cochlea?

Downtown, head for El Gaucho, Il Terrazzo Carmine, and Tilikum Place Café. Thierry Rautureau’s new Loulay impossibly manages crazy crowded and quietly intimate, all at once. Hotel restaurants make good bets, as they often have the resources for noise reduction. Quiet ones downtown are Andaluca, Tulio, the Georgian, and ART.

In Pike Place Market, conversationalists should beeline straight for the Korean-fusion gem Chan, or Marché Bistro and Wine Bar, which serves French classics in the elegant shell of the former Campagne.

Indian food lovers should make for the creamy mid-century Shanik in South Lake Union; sushi lovers the classy Nishino, at the gateway to Madison Park.

Also in the neighborhoods: the beautiful Book Bindery on north Queen Anne, the small-plate Lark in the Central District (whose sheers drape around tables, enhancing noise control), and the underheralded little beaut Nell’s near Green Lake.

Across the pond in one direction lies Greg Atkinson’s French performer, Restaurant Marché, on Bainbridge Island. (No relation to Marché in the Market.) Across the pond in the other live a few quiet Eastside destinations: the other El Gaucho and Bis on Main in Bellevue, the impressive Lynn’s Bistro in Kirkland, and the Northern Italian legend Café Juanita, tucked into that north Kirkland neighborhood.   

Where else?

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