Noodles. Noise. Neighbourhood.

Last night Catherine and Oliver and I decided to go up to The Noodle House for dinner, taking advantage of it being open on Sundays now. Upon arrival we were surprised to see the parking lot almost full, which is rare; we wondered whether we’d be able to get a table.

Once we got inside we found one big long table set up along the back of the restaurant surrounded by about 30 people. Our waitress explained that “the Chinese community” had gone up to Summerside for the big air show, and had come back to The Noodle House for dinner. She apologized for “all the noise.”

And there certainly was noise. And laughter. And kids running around the tables while simultaneously eating bowls of noodles. And babies crying. And a general sense of a lot of happy people eating together and thoroughly enjoying the experience.

And so we weren’t bothered by the noise, but rather enlivened by it. It was so nice to be eating with Oliver at a restaurant where “being on best behaviour” wasn’t the order of the day.

Which made me think: when we go “out to eat” we often cast the experience as “getting away from the kids,” and, perhaps as a result, the environment of many restaurants here in Charlottetown is quiet and sedate — more like a funeral home than a carnival. Everyone’s supposed to keep to their own table, look straight ahead, and not cause a stir.

I expect that the police would be called if, say, a bunch of kids went running around Sirenella with bowls of spaghetti in tow.

Now I’m not knocking the value of “getting away from the kids,” and I don’t think we need to transform our restaurants into hedonistic free-for-alls. But it was nice to eat in, or at least beside, a raucous community bubbling over with energy; brought back memories of our better meals in Spain and Portugal. And reminded me that eating out is as much or more about the experience, the theatre, as the food.