There's no doubt urban eating in America is in the midst of a Golden Age: quality, diversity and creativity are coming to define the foodie movement. Just as chefs are generating tons of buzz, so, too are their restaurants -- literally, reports CBS News correspondent Don Dahler.
Restaurant owner Gabriel Stulman prides himself on creating the perfect atmosphere in his six restaurants around Greenwich Village in New York City.
"Restaurants are an opportunity for me to paint, to make music, to create," he said.
He uses a combination of interesting food, refined cocktails and the right songs to enhance the experience.
"If I can look and see someone bobbing their head to a song that's playing while we're serving them an incredible salmon tartar withsweet corn brodetto-- yeah, that's really cool to me," Stulman said.
Crowds flow into restaurants like Stulman's for a good meal and a hip environment, but one thing they might not be able to enjoy is a conversation.
"We got 45 people in a room, 600 square feet," he said.
New York Magazine restaurant critic Adam Platt said the idea is to create a party-like atmosphere.
"The classic old-fashioned quote, unquote 'fancy restaurant' was a hushed sort of darkened little parlor. Now it's really the exact opposite: It's like a siren," he said. "The noise, it attracts people like, you know, like moths to a flame."
The thought is if you can hear the restaurant from the street, the people inside are having a good time. But for Platt, who works in these environments, it's becoming an occupational hazard.
"I already have hearing loss," he said.
Sometimes, even the chefs are astonished, Platt added.
The noise revolution started about a decade ago, Platt said, when kitchen culture charged into the dining room. Rock 'n' roll replaced easy listening on sound systems.
Bars became larger -- a place for people to congregate -- and as rents increased, restaurants removed the frills, stripping away objects that absorbed sound because they were expensive to clean.
"There are no rugs. There are no table cloths. The surfaces were all very brittle - marble, wood," Platt said.
The room is one giant reverberator.
"We're basically in an elaborate noise box," Platt said.
Noise levels at some of those restaurants hovered anywhere from decibels in the mid 80s, the equivalent of city traffic, into the 90s, a jackhammer pounding away.
Owners like Stulman said they're simply giving people what they want. Despite the possibility of hearing loss, Americans agree and are dining out more than ever.
"You can't come to a restaurant and be alone. This is something that brings people together. And it's something that continues to encourage social interactions and I love that," Stulman said.
Anger over how loud restaurants are seems to break along generational lines. Older people tend to yearn for the days of quieter places, while younger people would feel out of place in the restaurants of old.