Shorty Tang Noodles — 76.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Short Tang Noodles is an homage to its namesake, who is credited with introducing cold sesame noodles to New York City.  According to Grub Street, Shorty Tang’s cold sesame noodles were considered the best, and his son and grandson have opened a place as a tribute to him using his original recipe.  So of course we ordered the cold sesame noodles when we visited Short Tang’s for a lunch time nosh.

There are lots of hard surfaces at Shorty Tang’s–tile floors, a wall of glass in the front, tiled back wall, and a semi-open kitchen–but the place was tolerable because background music, though unnecessary, was playing at a low volume. Even though one front window was open to 8th Avenue, street noise didn’t contribute much to the soundscape. Maybe it was dumb luck, but 8th Avenue was surprisingly calm during our visit–there were no sirens or honking.  We must note that the restaurant wasn’t full while we were there, and it will naturally be louder if packed, but for a half full lunchtime visit it was perfectly fine.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

So how was the signature dish?  Pretty good, but not life changing.

Overall, the room leans toward live, with competing layers of noise, but it was tolerable at lunch time.  If crowded, it’s likely that the live space will be overwhelmed.  And be aware that voices carry here, so if there’s a screamer among the other patrons, you will hear them loud and clear.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 14th and 15th Street), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Shorty Tang Noodles

The Brooklyn Commons — 62.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Brooklyn Commons is a coffee shop and “radical movement-building space” on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill. Its website proclaims that “[g]roups and individuals are encouraged to use the COMMONS for workshops, classes, educational and cultural events.” Along with the meeting space, The Brooklyn Commons has a cafe that serves coffee, sweet and savory treats, beer and wine, and more.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The space is larger than appears from the street.  There is a seating area and counter in the front  and a large dining and meeting space in the back. The seating space in the front isn’t horribly loud but it is noticeably louder than the back room due to the presence of a flat screen tv, background music, and a door open to busy Atlantic Avenue, where the occasional ambulance screams by. The magic is in the back room.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Ah, the back room.  It’s a large space filled with tables, mostly for two, and ringed by an elevated bench running along the perimeter of the room. Five people sat in various places throughout the space during our visit, each working  quietly on his or her laptop. It was bliss. We could just hear the music, tv, and traffic from the front, but the sound was distant and muffled and it did not disturb the peaceful atmosphere in the back.

What is the soundscape like when if the space is packed? We don’t know, but we are willing to return to find out. It’s presumably louder when there is a crowd, as we could see board games tucked away under the benches in the back.  And since The Brooklyn Commons offers art, educational, and music activities, it’s best to assume that is much louder during a workshop or performance. But during the day, when the cafe is open, the space should be calm and quiet.

If you are wandering around Boerum Hill and looking for a restful spot for a coffee or nosh, we recommend a visit to this relaxed and peaceful spot.

HOURS

The Commons Cafe is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. Bond and Hoyt Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

The Brooklyn Commons

Lan Larb — 73.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were wandering around the edge of Soho where it borders the Lower East Side and City Hall, when we spied Lan Larb, a restaurant featuring classic Thai cuisine.  The Soho location of Lan Larb is a favorite among nearby workers, so we stopped in for a quick lunch. Overall, we found the space to be acceptable–it wasn’t too loud despite all he hard surfaces. That’s not to say the space is serene–it leans towards live–but a drop ceiling may have helped to absorb sound. Otherwise the space is filled with the catalog of noisy design choices: tile floor, lots of glass, and a mirrored wall. But the other wall running the length of the space had rattan mats attached to it which may have minimized reflection.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

As usual, there was background music.  Once again the music choice was at least as offensive as the fact that music was playing at all.  Namely, the music was courtesy of a radio station that featured dance music. Why this genre? We don’t know. There was no obvious reason other than someone must think that the customers enjoy it. They don’t.

Fortunately the other diners were fairly quiet, so the noise level was fine. In the end, Lan Larb is the kind of place you go to for a quick work day lunch.  It’s nothing special, just a good meal at a decent price.  And while it’s not calm, it isn’t terrible either.  You could do worse.

HOURS

11:30 a.m. to 10:15 p.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (betw. Grand and Broome Streets), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Lan Larb

Ahimsa — 69.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Ahimsa is a vegetarian Indian restaurant located on the edges of NYU’s sprawling campus.  We planned a visit to Ahimsa because it offers a lunch buffet, something that is increasingly difficult to find below 14th Street. We arrived shortly after noon and found one other table waiting to dig in.  But we had to wait 15 minutes for the buffet to be stocked (not sure if there was a snafu or if this is standard operating procedure).  Given our early arrival, it’s no surprise that the place was dead quiet at first, but it got louder once a few more people filtered in and background music was turned on. Fortunately, the music–Indian pop ballads–was played at an acceptably low  volume.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Despite a wall of windows fronting the space, the room didn’t feel live. There were some columns and a small nook off to the side, breaking up the space a hair, but we chalked up the overall soundscape up to a mindset. Namely, the other patrons were engaged in conversation, but they  spoke softly to each other, for the most part, keeping the overall volume fairly low. It felt like there was something about the space that encouraged a quieter atmosphere.

That said, the very low reading is due, in large part, to ten minutes or more of dead quiet in the beginning of our visit, and we think a typical lunch reading could be a few decibels higher.  But even if that is the case, Ahimsa is a very comfortable place and it’s easy to have a conversation.  The food was good, and the buffet offered lots of options. Have we had better Indian vegetarian food in the city?  Yes, but Ahimsa’s lunch buffet is well worth a visit and is a veritable bargain at $11.95.  Recommended.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

LOCATION

210 Thompson Street (betw. Bleecker and W. 3rd Streets), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Ahimsa

Pinkerton Wine Bar — 76.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Pinkerton Wine Bar is a live space filled with loud, trebly music.  It’s located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where we were wandering around early one evening. It looked inviting, but shortly after we entered we contemplated leaving because the soundscape was dominated by one very loud guy who was shouting over the unnecessary music. It seemed clear to us that he had early signs of hearing loss.  Well, we all do now.

It’s a shame that the space is so uncomfortable, because the place looks like a great neighborhood bar, the bartender was attentive, and there are $1 oysters all night long (you have to buy a drink for the oyster deal).  But it’s a live loud box.  The bar is just one small open room with lots of windows and a tiled floor.  The only way they could make the space comfortable would require shutting off the music, which we assume is not an option.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Even though the decibel reading was under 80 decibels, we were leaning towards recommending that you avoid Pinkerton Wine Bar. But there is another option–you could aim for an outdoor table. Pinkerton Wine Bar has outdoor seating ringing the place, and the street traffic wasn’t that bad. In fact, outside seating was a lot calmer and quieter than inside.

So our recommendation is that Pinkerton Wine Bar should be tolerable, perhaps better, if and only if you get an outside table. Inside seating should be avoided because the place is too live to be comfortable, particularly if music is playing (and it will be).

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

Friday: 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Saturday: 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Sunday: 1:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of Havermeyer Street), Brooklyn, NY 11211

WEBSITE

Pinkerton Wine Bar

Canal Street Market — 77.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Canal Street Market is a food court/mall (featuring “top retail/design concepts”) that recently opened on Canal Street, in Manhattan’s Chinatown.  It’s a loud and busy place with an interesting mix of food vendors serving mainly Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cuisine, along with some fusion mixes and a couple of sweet options.

The first thing you notice on entering the space is that the music is way too loud. The second is that management very obviously wants a young crowd–the music featured rap during our visit. The soundscape wasn’t helped by keeping the main doorway open to traffic noise from Canal Street.  Canal Street is always loud and chaotic, with constant horn honking and seemingly unending sirens. Trying to find a spot to have a quick nosh by the front of the space is a nightmare if you care about your ears.  It simply is unpleasantly loud.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Fortunately the soundscape is a bit better in the back of the space near the restrooms, but there is very little seating.  Instead, there is a dining area comprised almost entirely of tables and ledges for standing, with just a few areas where one can sit. And while the dining area wasn’t as loud as the front of the space, it wasn’t pleasant, just less annoying.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

In the end, we were happy to leave and surprised that the reading clocked in at under 80 decibels. Despite avoiding the 80 decibel bright line standard–we recommend avoiding any space over 80 decibels–we think it best to avoid eating at the market.  On a busy day with an open door and loud music, the space squeaks by, barely.  The food options have received good reviews, so if you want to visit we suggest avoiding the front of the space nearest Canal Street–go to the back where the standing tables are located and try your luck.  Or grab soemthing to go.

In the end, Canal Street Market is not a comfortable space and some of the food options seemed pricey for a food court. The space borders Chinatown, so you have lots of dining options.  Proceed with caution.

HOURS

10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. everyday (retail market hours differ)

LOCATION

Street (betw. Broadway and Lafayette Street), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Canal Street Market

Blossom Ice Cream — 75.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Blossom Ice Cream is a relatively new shop featuring Thai rolled ice cream.  Essentially, the ice cream is made after you order–the base is poured onto a frozen surface, mixed with some ingredients, scraped into a roll about the thickness of a roll of quarters, placed in a cup, and doused with whatever toppings you request.  It’s visually appealing, and there are some theatrics if you enjoy that sort of thing.  In the end, the ice cream was good, but not great.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Blossom is very live as there is a lot of glass. Dance music was planning in the background when we visited, but it wasn’t too loud.  We thought the sound level was manageable, especially given how live the space is, but then Very Loud Guy came in and shouted his order. With all the glass in this tiny space, he quickly filled the room with his voice, and we found it hard to concentrate on anything other than his banter.

Blossom Ice Cream should be tolerable if other patrons use their indoor voice, but all you need is one very loud person to make it uncomfortable. That said, with only one table for four and two stools,  the space shouldn’t top 80 decibels even when every seat is taken. But why take chances? Order your ice cream to go and try to score a seat on the small bench out front, or walk one block to lovely Cobble Hill Park.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 12:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 12:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Congress and Warren Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11201

WEBSITE

Blossom Ice Cream

Filicori Zecchini (Upper West Side) — 80.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were wandering around the Upper West Side, enjoying a constitutional after a lovely meal at Ayurveda Cafe (to be reviewed soon), when we spied Filicori Zecchini.  We fondly remembered visiting their Chelsea location last year and eagerly went inside.  What a disappointment.  It quickly became clear that this space was not at all like the Chelsea location, which we remembered as a calm oasis (and reading our review later, saw that despite being crowded, the Chelsea location clocked in at a  very comfortable 72.4 decibels). No, this location was loud and uncomfortable.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Why? They were playing loud music in a live box. The front of the store is a wall of glass.  The floors are tiled, the counter area was covered with some shiny, hard surface, and the bean grinding and espresso machines were loud.  Throw in the other customers screaming over all of the above and you have the recipe for not very comfortable experience.

Speaking of experience, we also were confused/amused by a little interchange with the barista.  We had ordered a cortado.  On ordering, the barista said, “oh, water comes with this.  Would you like some.”  “Sure, ” we replied.  And then the barista poured sparkling water into a one-ounce jigger glass.  No, really.  He poured us an ounce of sparkling water.

We’d rather have a tasty cortado and mouthful of sparkling water at Zecchini’s Chelsea location.  This one should be avoided.

HOURS

Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Monday through Saturday: 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

LOCATION

(at the corner of 95th Street), New York, NY 10025

WEBSITE

Filicori Zecchini

 

Ridgeway Diner — 71.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Ridgeway Diner was at least half full when we visited.  It’s located on busy 6th Avenue, so we were concerned when we saw that the front door was open to the street. Our concern was mostly misplaced, as we didn’t hear much street traffic throughout the lion’s share of our meal.  The problem, however, was that ambulances raced by, sirens blaring, at least twice during our visit. This raised the decibel reading, which is an average over the period during which the reading was taken.  It’s hard to blame a restaurant owner for random noise over which he or she has no control, but on opening the door to the street one must assume that an emergency vehicle could pass by. That said, shutting the door may have saved only a decibel or two at best, as the sirens were so loud that they would surely have penetrated into the space even if the door was shut.

Sirens aside, the place was generally calm and relaxed. Why? No music.  Other than street noise, the soundscape of the place consisted mainly of voices,  even with an open service area and a window to the kitchen.  So, despite being in a noisy and busy part of the city, we were able to eat in relative comfort.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Ridgeway Diner is proof that not playing background music yields benefits, particularly for businesses on very busy city streets.  The food was decent diner fare and service was efficient.  There’s nothing particularly interesting or compelling about the place except that it’s hard to find a non-national chain restaurant option in this area, making this relaxed, old-school Greek diner a lucky find.  We recommend it.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 20th and 21st Streets), New York, NY 10010

WEBSITE

Ridgeway Diner

Ninth Street Espresso (Gowanus) — 64.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Gowanus location of Ninth Street Espresso is located In the same space as Threes Brewing, a bar and brewery with food by The Meat Hook. Threes Brewing takes up the ground floor.  It’s a very large, very open, and very loud space–we wouldn’t dream of going there for a beer on a busy night, as we’ve walked by and heard the noise level. But Ninth Street Espresso is open during the day and occupies a separate space near the front of the building. When you walk in, turn to your right and climb the small stairway.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

At the top of the stairs you will see the service counter.  Ninth Street Espresso doesn’t have a long menu. Rathe, it lists just four coffee options: hot coffee, cold coffee, espresso, and espresso with milk. Tell them what you like–we are partial to cortados–and they’ll get you the right combination of espresso and milk.

Along with really good coffee, there are plenty of places to sit. There’s a small space near the counter with a couple of small tables and a sunny window. Walk through to the back and there’s a roomy space with six tables, plenty of chairs, and an unused upright piano with a sign reading “Please do not touch piano,” which was fine by us.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There was music playing in the background throughout our visit. And if you were a Dylan fan, it would have been your lucky day. The volume was a hair louder than we would have liked, but as the reading shows the overall noise level was perfectly fine.  We think Ninth Street Espresso offers excellent coffee in a very comfortable space and recommend it.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 3rd and 4th Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

Ninth Street Espresso