Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop — 72.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We only visited Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to get a few donuts to go.  Once we walked in, we wished we had time to stay and have a coffee and donut. Peter Pan is an old-school bakery with a service counter, and at least half of the seats were taken while we were there.  And with good reason. Peter Pan has long been ranked as one of the best–if not the best–donut shop in the city.  It’s been around for over 60 years, and nothing about the place has changed.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

If you want to experience a real New York City neighborhood institution, you couldn’t find a better example. There was a constant flow of customers coming in to get donuts to go, but the bustling line wasn’t annoying.  Music played very softly in the background, and the older crowd who opted to eat in talked relatively quietly to each other.  We thought that everything about the place was perfect.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

And the donuts? Yes, they are some of the best in the city.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 4:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Saturday: 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Sunday: 5:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LOCATION

nue (betw. Meserole and Norman Avenues), Brooklyn, NY 11222

WEBSITE

Peter Pan Donuts

Duke’s (Murray Hill) — 79.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Yes, we went to Duke’s in Murray Hill for lunch on purpose.  What were we thinking? In our defense, we were very hungry and entered Duke’s dripping with trepidation. On entering it was immediately clear that the decor was as loud and as the soundscape, but we were hungry, it was there, and our attempt to get a seat at nearby Sarge’s Deli, our first option, was thwarted when no one could be bothered to show us to a table.  Yes, we knew what we were getting into from the get go, but hunger won over common sense–and despite everything, we wanted to believe that we might be pleasantly surprised.  Unsurprisingly, our visit was far from pleasant.

Just four flat screen tvs over the bar?

If you look at the photos, you’ll see at least seven flat screen tvs.  There are more, of course.  All tuned to sports or cable news channels.  If an important game was playing on the tvs, there would, no doubt, have been screaming.  But there wasn’t, thank goodness, because that would have made the loud space even louder.  Mind you, there was no one noise source that stood out. It was the whole package–this sparsely populated space clocked in at 79.3 decibels and it was clear that there was nowhere to go but up.

So how was our meal? The food at Duke’s is ok for what it is, but face facts, no one really comes here for the food. It feels like a frat bar–all beers and burgers (though it is allegedly”southern,” hence food items called “The Old Kentucky Club” and “Billy Bob’s BBQ’D Brisket Sliders”). For people who like this sort of thing–drinking in a crowded bar, watching a game, and screaming at a large flat screen tv–this is the sort of thing they like.  And they should be happy to know that there are plenty of options as to where to direct their screams.

No worries, there are three larger tvs on the opposite wall!

We’re sure that Duke’s is absolutely intolerable at happy hour, late week evenings, and during their “boozy Brunch.” We could barely tolerate it at a fairly empty lunch. The only saving grace were the wait staff, who couldn’t have been lovelier.  Still, that’s hardly a reason to trek to Duke’s.  In short, there is absolutely no reason to go there unless you like to get drunk while watching sports in an uncomfortably loud space. In a word, avoid.

HOURS

Monday through Wednesday: 12:00 pm. to 1:00 a.m.

Thursday through Saturday: 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Last call for food is two hours before closing

LOCATION

(betw. 37th and 38th Streets), New York, NY 10016

WEBSITE

Duke’s (Murray Hill)

 

Sarabeth’s at Lord & Taylor — 62.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Here’s something we don’t often write: it was almost too quiet at Sarabeth’s at Lord & Taylor. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, especially since we could have done without the background music, but this location of Sarabeth’s was not live at all and could best be described as sedate.

Upholstered banquettes lining the walls, a drop ceiling, and some structure kept the room calm.  Except for the unnecessary and inappropriate background music, this was one of the most serene meals we have had in a long time.  And the music–current pop hits that were most definitely not being enjoyed by the older crowd–was a mere annoyance in the otherwise comfortable space.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We understand that some of the larger department stores in Manhattan have cafes, and some of them have been well received. The food at Sarabeth’s was fine for what it was, but no one is going to go out of their way to eat there unless they are shopping beforehand or afterwards. This restaurant exists for convenience.  And it’s worth a visit if you have some shopping to do, as it’s nice to have a civilized lunch in chaotic midtown. Sarabeth’s at Lord & Taylor is definitely a place were you can have a meal and a conversation. We recommend it.

HOURS

11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

424 Fifth Avenue (at 39th Street), New York, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Sarabeth’s

The Gumbo Bros — 72.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We read a really good review of The Gumbo Bros and decided to check it out.  A couple of visits to New Orleans taught us that the po’ boy is the king of sandwiches, but trying to find a decent one in New York City isn’t easy.  Well, it just got easier, because The Gumbo Bros do a great job in bringing the taste of New Orleans to Brooklyn. We’ve tried the shrimp po’ boy and the roast beef, and both wen’t down easily.  Stick to the po’ boys and you’ll be fine.  The gumbo was ok–we aren’t big fans of the stuff, anyhow–and the side of greens was a bit too salty and spicy hot for our tastes, but those po’ boys were pretty fabulous.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

So why the love note to the food and nary a mention of the soundscape?  Because the food was outstanding but the soundscape was not.  There is one predominant source of noise at The Gumbo Bros and that is the loud music that is broadcast throughout the space.  During our visit most of the tables were taken and some people were chatty, but the chatter wasn’t that loud.  No doors or windows were open to noisy Atlantic Avenue, so traffic noise was not an issue (was it drowned out by the music?). Nope, the reason the place was merely tolerable was the music. Now you may note that the reading was only 72.6 decibels, and you would be right.  But the meter was running close to 78 decibels at first, and only went down as the place emptied out.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

In our review last week of Nom Wah Nolita we wrote that sometimes we’re willing to put up with less than comfortable spaces if the food is exceptional.  Well, these po’ boys sang to us, and even though the music was louder than we liked and the space felt live, the po’ boys make it worth stopping in for a noisy nosh. Hey, you’re not going to linger here anyhow. But the memories of that po’ boy you enjoyed? It will visit you in your dreams.

HOURS

11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

nue (betw. Court Street and Boerum Place), Brooklyn, NY 11201

WEBSITE

The Gumbo Bros

Townhouse Diner — 69.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There’s a reason we love to review diners on this site, and Townhouse Diner is a good example why–69.2 decibels. Ah. Townhouse Diner is a simple, straightforward, old-school diner that gets the job done. It’s located near the entrance of the midtown tunnel, but we couldn’t hear traffic noise. Duran Duran played in the background when we arrived.  It’s wasn’t too loud, but the music was trebly and absolutely unnecessary. It was an older crowd, with the exception of one new mother and infant. Trust us, no one was listening to the music or watching Fox News on the very large flat screen. Fortunately, Fox News only offended us visually–the volume was low and we couldn’t hear it.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

In the end, Townhouse Diner wasn’t perfect, but it was more than manageable. If they turned off the tv or the music (or, one hopes, both) the space would have been really comfortable.  As it was, the noise level was more than manageable.  We recommend it for a quick nosh.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

LOCATION

nue (betw. 37th and 38th Streets), New York, NY 10016

WEBSITE

Townhouse Diner

Dudley’s — 79.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Dudley’s is an attractive Aussie restaurant and bar located in the Lower East Side.  We stopped by for lunch on a Monday and it was packed.  Mondays tend to be a bit less hectic as a rule, so we were surprised.  With the tables all taken, we headed to the bar.

The place has a really nice feel and is aesthetically pleasing (at least we thought so).  There is definitely a low-key vibe about the space, but it also is decked out in hard, unforgiving materials–stainless steel, glass, mirror, and tile.  With two sides of the space consisting of windows and a mirrored bar as the third, it ensures that Dudley’s will be loud most of the time. One potential mitigating factor–emphasis on potential–was the unfinished brick vaulted ceiling.  We have found that vaulted ceilings seem to help in other settings, but are unsure whether it diffused any sound here.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

And there was music, of course. The volume wasn’t awful, but given that the space is essentially a small glass box, it would have been nice if it was lowered or shut off entirely. The end result is that we found it tolerable, barely, at a busy lunch, and we assume the sound quality will be at least the same–if not worse–at brunch and dinner.  It’s a real shame, because if the sound level wasn’t a factor we would highly recommend the place.  The staff was laid back, the food was good, and it had the potential to be a comfortable space.

So it would be best to avoid Dudley’s when there is a crowd and to proceed with caution any other time. Happy hour or other boozy times are likely to be a scream fest, so don’t even think about it.

HOURS

Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Monday through Thursday: 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Bar stays open to 2:00 a.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (betw. x and y), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Dudley’s

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

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

Once Upon A Tart — 70.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We wandered over to Soho’s Once Upon A Tart for a quick lunch early in the week. Once Upon A Tart consists of a coffee and bake shop in one space, and a small restaurant in the space next door.  Our review is limited to the restaurant.

About half of the tables were filled when we arrived.  There was music playing in the background–jazz standards–which was a bit loud at first, but the second song was much quieter.  Whether the volume was tolerable depended, in large part, on whether the song featured a horn section.  If yes, the sound bounced around the live space, if not, it was fine.  We aren’t sure but we suspect that the volume was lowered as the tables filled up.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There are five stools lining a bar and eight tables for two plus one larger table for about six in the restaurant.  Design choices result in a fairly live space: terrazzo floor, tin ceiling, glass windows  lining the front, and a couple of large mirrors on both side walls.  It didn’t help that the front door was open to street noise.  That said, Sullivan Street isn’t heavily trafficked so our meal wasn’t interrupted by loud sirens or insecure motorcyclists, but as the restaurant is located between Houston and Prince Streets we could hear the faint roar of the traffic from a half block away.

The reading also reflects the sound emanating from a fellow customer who talked on her phone the entire time.  She was so engrossed in conversation that she even ignored her meal.  Circumstances like that add to the soundscape, but they are arbitrary and, thankfully, not normal. Personally, we find it hard to fault the restaurant for this behavior, as it can be uncomfortable to ask a customer to refrain from cell phone use unless they have a very public policy against cell phone use (rare, but we spotted a sign asking customers to refrain from cell phone use at a downtown restaurant).

In the end, while the space was not calming or serene, it was tolerable.  Given that Once Upon A Tart is located in the thick of Soho, where there are very few reasonably priced eating options, it’s fine.

HOURS

Restaurant: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day

Coffee and Bake Shop:

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

Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LOCATION

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

WEBSITE

Once Upon A Tart

Everyman Espresso (Soho) — 69.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Canal Street location of Everyman Espresso is smaller than the East Village location.  Only a couple of chairs at two small tables and a few benches are available for seating, but they were more than enough to accommodate all who entered on a Thursday evening.

LIke the East Village location, the espresso machine in this location of Everyman Espresso was one of the quietest we’ve experienced.  We assume that Everyman uses special noise-sensitive machines, or maybe it’s because the espresso maker was situated so that the noise making elements face away from the seating area (similar to the East Village location).  Whatever the reason, it is appreciated, particularly since many of the surfaces are hard and more than capable of bouncing the sound around the small space.  Wood slats on the ceiling may have helped deflect sound, but other than a couple of mats on the floor (probably there temporarily to sop up rain), there were no textiles or softer materials to absorb sound.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We liked this location as much as the East Village spot, but note that since it is smaller it doesn’t have a restroom (the East Village location does).  That aside, the Canal Street location of Everyman Espresso is a nice little niche of serenity near chaotic Canal Street.  It’s worth a visit.

HOURS

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

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

Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

LOCATION

(betw. Canal and Grand Streets, closer to Canal), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Everyman Espresso (Soho)