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.

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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 something 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

Rangoli — 67 decibels

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Rangoli is a moderately priced Indian restaurant located on the Upper East Side. We  stopped by for lunch after an appointment nearby.  Rangoli offers a very reasonable lunch special–50% off if you eat in and pay cash–a veritable bargain for the area.  Our meal was both inexpensive and very tasty.  If we lived or worked in the area, Rangoli would be on our regular rotation.

The front of the restaurant has a bar and small dining area that is somewhat separated from a larger back dining by a wooden column.  It’s not a true separation, but it does break up the space.  We were seated in the back dining area.  At the beginning of our visit, the room was absolutely quiet.  No surprise, as the place wasn’t that crowded–there were maybe five other tables occupied and many had only one patron. That said, two customers compensated for the lack of a lunch companion by talking on their phones the entire time they were eating. Yes, it was annoying, particularly since people tend to talk a bit louder on their phones than to a nearby companion, but it didn’t move the meter that much.

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The flooring throughout the space is tiled, but tablecloths and upholstered booths and chairs probably helped to absorb or diffuse some of the sound.  Indian ballads played in the background, and while it was a hair louder than it needed to be, the decibel reading shows that the space was perfectly fine.

Overall, conversation is easy during a lunch visit, but we really can only guess as to what the soundscape is like during a busier period.  While Rangoli would no doubt be noticeably louder when packed, we found the staff to be very accommodating and think a request to lower the music volume would be satisfied.  At the minimum, it would be worthwhile to give Rangoli a try.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 11:00 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 72nd and 73rd Streets), New York, NY 10021

WEBSITE

Rangoli Indian Cuisine

Ani Sushi — 72 to 76.3 decibels

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We have visited Ani Sushi on a number of occasions to take adavantage of their very reasonable lunch specials. Located on busy Montague Street, Ani Sushi is one of the best lunch time options in the immediate area. Their food is always fresh and service is first rate. The only issue we have with the place is its soundscape.  Specifically, they play club music that is louder than it should be.

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It’s inevitable that the introduction of music would make Ani Sushi louder than it should be because the design choices ensure a live space. There is a wall of glass in the front that reflects a lot of the sound back into the front room. The seating in the front overlooking Montague Street is odd and a little uncomfortable, as all the seats face forward, requiring you to sit beside your dining companions.  It’s awkward if you want to have a conversation.

Since the noise level is also louder in the front of the restaurant, we suggest you aim for the handful of tables located opposite the sushi bar. They are in a small sort of niche, which seems to help with the sound level.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Now about that music…  It’s the same with each visit–loud, jarring pop and generic dance music.  We know we are in a Japanese restaurant but it sounds like we are in a discotheque as the sound track features B-side disco tunes from the past.  It doesn’t make much sense, and, sadly, it makes the space merely tolerable when it could be so much more.

In the end, Ani Sushi is worth the visit because of their very reasonably priced, delicious lunch specials and friendly, attentive staff.  Just try to avoid sitting in the front dining area if you can, and your dining experience should be manageable.  We haven’t eaten at Ani Sushi at dinner, but expect the soundscape to be similar and note that they offer dinner specials too.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.

Friday: 11:00 a.m. to 10:45 p.m.

Saturday: 12:00 a.m. to 10:45 p.m.

Sunday: 12:00 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.

LOCATION

(betw. Henry and Clinton Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11201

WEBSITE

Ani Sushi

Clark’s — 73.7 decibels

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Clark’s is a diner in the heart of Brooklyn Heights, located directly across the street from the Clark Street 2/3 subway station. It is almost always bustling, with tables of two, four, or more that cycle in and out quickly.  Clark’s offers the usual diner classics–burgers, sandwiches, salads, and extensive breakfast options–along with chicken, steaks, and seafood entrees.  The food comes out quickly, so the staff are constantly moving.

The main dining area runs the length of the space along a glass wall on the Henry Street side of the building, and the floor is tiled. Despite the presence of hard, reflective materials, the sound level was more than tolerable when we visited during a very busy lunch service. It was noticeably louder when we first entered because the place it was packed and one nearby customer had a particularly loud voice. That can’t be helped and can happen anywhere.  After  she left, the space was almost pleasant.

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When packed the place sounds a bit live as the sound from people talking bounces off the glass, but it is less obvious if the room is only half full. Classical music played softly in the background, and while not necessary, the volume was fine.  Even when the place was full it was at least tolerable.  We think Clark’s is a safe bet if you are looking for a good quick meal in Brooklyn Heights.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 8:45 p.m.

Sunday: 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of Henry Street), Brooklyn, NY 11201

WEBSITE

Clark’s

Shopsin’s — 73.3 decibels

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Shopsin’s is a genuine New York City institution.  It’s been around since 1971, though it has had to move twice due to criminal rent increases. The owner, Kenny Shopsin, is famous (or is that infamous?) for being unconventional.  It used to be that if you asked too many questions or otherwise got on his last nerve he would throw you out of his restaurant. But he may have mellowed. To get a flavor of his character and approach to food, you could pick up a copy of his cookbook: Eat Me.

The original Shopsin’s space was on Bedford Street in the West Village.  It kept “interesting” hours, as in no one really knew what the hours were. There were lots of unhappy neighbors when Shopsin’s lost their lease and had to move to Carmine Street.  And then they had to leave Carmine Street. Fortunately, Shopsin’s found space in the Essex Street Market and it feels like a good fit. Yes, the space is much smaller than either of the earliest spaces, but there are  about six small tables and some stools by the counter.  Maybe you’ll have to wait.

Once seated you will be given an odd, rambling menu that reads like a Dr. Bronner’s label–voluminous doesn’t come close.  Seriously, there are 100s of items to choose from, and it’s hard to know where to start.  Order something savory, and a tray with seven hot sauces will be placed on your table.  Because you should have choices.  Prices are interesting, with some items costing more than you would think, others less.  Nothing really makes sense at Shopsin’s, and that’s the point.  It exists to give voice to Kenny Shopsin’s take on life. In fact, he was chatting with a regular when we were there, talking about running a business and how difficult it had become, the decline of work, automation, etc.  It was fascinating and we didn’t feel guilty listening in. (not that we could avoid listening in).

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We tried one of Shopsin’s signature sandwiches called the Jewboy (and yes, there’s a Jewgirl). It was tasty but had hot sauce which wasn’t included in the short description on the menu.  It wasn’t head exploding hot, but tongue tingling at the least.  So if you can’t handle hot sauce, just ask if it’s included in whatever you are ordering.

So what is the sound level like? The soundscape of the place is perfectly fine. The only real sound came from Kenny Shopsin holding court, Shopsin’s staff  making and serving the food, and people entering the market (Shopsin’s is by one of the entrances).  We thought it was comfortable.  During our visit about half the tables were taken at one point, but even if full we think the sound level should be fine.

Shopsin’s is not a typical restaurant.  It’s a one-of-a-kind place worth experiencing if you want to have a taste of what New York City was like and still can be.

HOURS

Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Wednesday through Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (in the Essex Street Market), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Shopsin’s

Ridgeway Diner — 71.2 decibels

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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

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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.

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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

Pomme Frites — 74.9 decibels

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The menu at Pomme Frites couldn’t be simpler: Belgian fries, poutine, sauces, garnishes, and beverages.  It’s a place to visit with friends for some very tasty fries, a couple of dipping sauces–and the choices are extensive–and a beer.  Given it’s location and menu, it is almost always filled with NYU students.

During the day and early evening, the soundscape is fine, even when crowded.  At night, though, one must assume that throngs of drunk students will ensure a “livelier” soundscape.

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Music played in the background during our visit, but it was louder in the back by the kitchen.  For the most part, the soundscape was dominated by voices.  Since we stopped by in the early evening, those voices weren’t that loud–everyone appeared to be sober. Overall, we found the noise level to be pretty good given the circumstances, but caution that it was early in the evening.

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Pomme Frites occupies a small space with a limited menu that is perfect drunk student food.  Expect a tolerable soundscape during the day, but proceed at caution at night, particularly after the bars empty out.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 a.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. W. Houston and Prince Streets), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Pomme Frites

Cafe Grumpy (Chelsea) — 68.9 decibels

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We were wandering around Chelsea and jonesing for a coffee when we spotted Cafe Grumpy.  We’ve read that it was known for good coffee, so we stopped in.  There was music playing a bit louder than we liked in the front of the space where you order, but as we soon discovered, the place is a lot bigger than it looks from the street.

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One thing we noticed immediately is that there weren’t many laptops visible.  Then we saw a sign by the cash register stating that the cafe is a “no laptop zone.”  When asked, the server told me they “aren’t Nazis about it” but they want to cultivate a “social place.”  Still, while I didn’t see laptops deployed on tables, I did see that most people were by themselves reading or writing.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Since the front of the space was louder than we liked, we went to down the long narrow corridor connecting the front to a back room that was noticeably quieter. We had our coffee in this space,  finding it basically calm though we could hear someone washing dishes in the nearby dish room. There are french doors at the very end of the space that open on to an absolutely serene garden.  How serene?  You can hear birdsong.

If you are in Chelsea and want a coffee and a really quiet space, go to Cafe Grumpy, avoid the front space,  walk to the back room, and don’t stop until you are in the garden. It was lovely. Sadly, the Xelerator hand dryer in bathroom is not.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

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

Sunday: 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 7th and 8th Avenues), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Cafe Grumpy — Chelsea

 

Local & Vine — 76.5 decibels

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We stopped by Local & Vine for happy hour one Tuesday evening.  Local & Vine is located in Hudson Square, the real estate branded neighborhood that also could be called West Soho or South West Village. The area is pretty quiet in the evening after the nearby office buildings empty.

Local & Vine wasn’t full when we arrived, but it slowly filled up. There was music was playing in the background throughout our visit.  It wasn’t overpowering, just a hair louder than we would have liked.  Despite all the hard surfaces, including a lot of glass, the space didn’t feel that live, and we were able to carry on a conversation comfortably throughout our visit.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Overall, we have to say that the soundscape was perfectly fine for a bar.  And the lighting was just right–dim but not dark.  Local & Vine offers ten or twelve small plates that you can order with your drinks.  We tried a couple nosh options and thought they were just ok.  But very reasonably priced happy hour specials featuring three two-for-one options (wine, beer, and mimosas) made up for the middling munchies.

If you are looking for a place downtown to hang with your friends, Local & Vine should be on your short list. It’s a relaxed spot and you can actually have a conversation without screaming.  It would also be a great first date venue.   Recommended.

HOURS

Monday: 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Tuesday: 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Wednesday: 12:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 4:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Thursday and Friday: 12:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 4:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Saturday: 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Sunday: 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

LOCATION

(at the corner of Dominick Street), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Local & Vine