Cafe Himalaya — 72.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were wandering around the southern fringe of the East Village when we spied Cafe Himalaya, a restaurant offering Tibetan and Nepali home cooking.  We’ve walked past the place many times but never went in (though we’ve been meaning to). Checking Google Maps we saw that the place had really good reviews and thought we would try it for a quick nosh.  We were not disappointed.

What a calm experience. The meter reading was higher than expected, because we felt absolutely comfortable in the space.  A couple of casement windows were opened to allow for cross ventilation, but they also allowed some street noise to enter.  Fortunately, the restaurant fronts not very busy 1st Street, though East Houston is nearby.  Perhaps it was luck, but we didn’t hear much traffic noise during our visit. We suspect the reading was higher because of a low hum coming from some unseen mechanical device–perhaps a neighbor’s air conditioning unit?  In any event, the hum was the only potentially annoying sound in the space.  We say potentially because we weren’t actually annoyed by it–it sounded like white noise and we could easily ignore it.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Cafe Himalaya is a small place with about 25 seats, half of which were taken during our visit. Despite chatter, it was really relaxing.  Music played very softly in the background and didn’t  intrude.  In fact, you would have to really focus to hear it , at times, and we suspect it probably was coming from a radio in the kitchen for the benefit of the cooks.

Service was straightforward, and we enjoyed an Inexpensive lunch.  Cafe Himalaya offers five lunch options for only $7.50. We tried the Gyathuk Ngopa, which was delicious but had some unadvertised heat.  So if you aren’t a fan of spicy food, be sure to ask your server whether your meal packs some heat.

Cafe Himalaya was a happy find and we will be sure to return.  It’s not often that you can find a tasty and inexpensive meal in a comfortable space.  We enthusiastically recommend a visit.

HOURS

Tuesday through Saturday: 12:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Closed Monday

LOCATION

Street (betw. 1st Avenue and Avenue A), New York, NY 10009

WEBSITE

Cafe Himalaya

Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier — 71.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier is located in Red Hook, Brooklyn, just a few blocks away from the ferry station for the new South Brooklyn ferry route.  The park includes a fairly large expanse of grass at the water’s edge, perfect for a picnic (grab a small key lime pie at Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies next door), an afternoon nap, or to catch some sun.  Or you could you could enjoy some free kayaking courtesy of the Red Hook Boaters (it’s free, but they do ask that you help with a little beach clean up afterwards).

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We won’t say that the park is totally quiet, because it isn’t–you’ll hear the occasional airplane flying overhead and ferries and other motorized boats pass by–but most of the sound you’ll hear is the wind and water lapping against the jetties coupled with occasional snippets of conversation from people nearby.  A space doesn’t need to be totally quiet to be serene.

Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier is lovely and comfortable place. No doubt the park is busier on weekends, and an increase in human activity will mean a concomitant increase in sound, but during the week the park is perfect. We recommend it.

HOURS

Dawn to dusk, everyday

LOCATION

(betw. Coffey and Van Dyke Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11231

WEBSITE

Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier

Barking Dog — 71.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We visited Barking Dog, a restaurant located on the Upper East Side, for lunch one March afternoon.  It a place peopled by regulars–the neighborhood place for breakfast, a quick lunch, or to have a family meal.  American comfort food prevails and it very nicely executed.  We enjoyed salads, which were very fresh and filling.

Music played in the background during the whole of our visit. It wasn’t that loud, but, as usual, was unnecessary. Still the space wasn’t too live and the reading was perfectly acceptable.

Overall we found the space to be pleasant though it would have been better without the background music.  It wasn’t very crowded during our visit, so it’s hard to estimate what the sound level will be during a busy evening or at brunch.  We assume that it will be tolerable at worse, but proceed with caution at the very busiest times.

HOURS

7:30 a.m. to  10:15 p.m. every day

LOCATION

(at the corner of 77th Street), New York, NY 10075

WEBSITE

Barking Dog

The Little Sweet Cafe — 71.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Little Sweet Cafe is a self-described “taste of France” in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn. It was very quiet when we stopped by on a Monday morning.  Most of the other customers were getting coffee and treats to go, but eventually all four tables and the three stools hugging a shelf were taken.

Even after the placed filled up, the space was comfortable. Jazz played softly in the background, and the volume was fine though the music was unnecessary. The place would have been perfect without it and could have easily clocked in at under 70 decibels.  But even with the music the reading was perfectly fine, and it was easy to have a conversation.  Except for when the barista was making espresso drinks, and a mercifully short visit by a mother and toddler, both of whom were speaking very loudly to each other, the soundscape was mostly mellow.

The Little Sweet Cafe offers a variety of coffees, pastries, and crepes, with a few savory options at lunch.  It was a tad noisier during the morning rush, but quickly calmed down afterwards.  Recommended.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. Atlantic Avenue and State Street), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

The Little Sweet Cafe

Edward’s — 73.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We visited Edward’s for a quick lunch one February afternoon.  Edward’s is a neighborhood restaurant serving classic American comfort food–burgers, chicken fingers, pasta, and salads.  The place was about half full when we entered, but was a bit busier by the time we left. The front of the space has a bar to one side and tables on the other.  It is somewhat separated from back dining area by a short divider.  There are high ceilings, unfinished floors, and banquettes lining the back dining area.  Given the decor we thought we should be pretty comfortable during our meal.

But we weren’t as comfortable as we anticipated.  Why?  Guess.  Yes, once again a perfectly fine space was marred by music that was too loud.  It wasn’t horriblly loud but it was completely unnecessary.  And the problem wasn’t simply the volume, it was also the type of music that was playing–fast paced, with a horn section, absolutely not calming or relaxing.  Whoever chose the music needs to be reminded that Edward’s is  a restaurant not a club–we just wanted a meal, not a dance with a stranger.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

As a consequence, we are concerned about what the sound level is like when every table is taken. So for now, we will say the space is tolerable but it could have been better.  Edward’s might be a good spot if you are dining with children.  It looks like a kid-friendly space, and we saw a couple of moms with strollers in the front of the house.

HOURS

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

Tuesday through Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

LOCATION

(betw. Duane and Thomas Streets), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Edward’s

Dot & Line — 74.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Dot & Line is a new coffee shop in a coffee shop-poor part of Brooklyn, Boreum Hill.  We visited on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  The space is fairly small–there are only three stools by the front window–but as it wasn’t crowded when we arrived, we had our coffee there.

The coffee was very good, and the barista could not have been nicer.  The only downside was the music. The volume was louder than we liked, and it increased when someone’s favorite song came on.  But–and important but–after the volume increased the barista asked if the music was too loud for us.  Imagine that?  While we would have preferred if it was lowered, we let it slide as no one else seemed to mind, but we were thrilled that lowering the volume was an option.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Although there is limited seating, the place was busy during our visit as there were a lot of customers who stopped in to get coffees to go.  The weather was particularly pleasant so both the window and front door were open, letting in the not so not bucolic sounds of Bergen Street.  But it wasn’t that bad.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

In the end, we were able to read a book and it appeared that for the others conversation was easy.  Yes, it could be quieter, but it’s not a place to linger and work on your laptop–there’s not enough room for that.  So in the end, the very good coffee and fabulous service tip the scales in favor of a visit. Dot & Line offers a limited menu of sweet and savory treats that appear to be very popular.  If you are in Boerum Hill, we recommend that you check it out.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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

Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

LOCATION

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

WEBSITE

Dot & Line

 

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

Utsav — 75.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were in midtown craving an Indian buffet for lunch in one of the few parts of the city where  they still happen. We love a good Indian buffet, and Utsav did not disappoint. There was a great selection of dishes (vegetarian and non-vegetarian), accompanied by desserts, salads, appetizers, and chutneys. Yes, we did try a little of everything and were completely satisfied with our meal.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

And we were not alone. The place was packed and, given the design choices, it wasn’t exactly  calm. Among other things, the dining area is one large room with no dividers to deflect or segregate sound.  At least there were some textiles in the space–curtains framed the windows running the length of the room, and there were upholstered banquettes spanning the middle of the room–but it’s not clear that they offered much sound absorption or diffusion.

But considering how busy the place was, we thought the noise level was perfectly acceptable.  And we must note that the reading reflects that there was one large and chatty table near ours. Once they left, the space got a lot quieter.

Utsav is a popular lunch spot, so this was its busy time. We think the reading was respectable and feel comfortable recommending it as a midtown lunch option. We were advised that dinner tends to be less crowded and is noticeably quieter.

HOURS

Lunch 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily | Dinner 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily

LOCATION

(entrance on 46th Street betw. 6th and 7th Avenues), New York, NY 10036

WEBSITE

Utsav

Zucker Bakery — 71.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Only one way to sum up our visit to Zucker Bakery–what a great place! Zucker is a very relaxed and quiet bakery cum coffee shop located in the East Village. When we first entered it was clear the space would be perfect–and it was. Halfway into our visit another baker joined the crew. He, unlike the others, was a bit of a Chatty Cathy, but everyone else–staff and customers–was pretty quiet.  As a result, his chatter didn’t change the overall vibe of the place.

The space is homey and comfortable, and though music was playing, the volume was low and the music choices were perfect–very relaxing tunes that were not at all jarring.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There were other people present in the small space, but they mostly stared at their laptops, nursing their cups of coffee. They appeared to be regulars, and they really set the tone.  Zucker Bakery is a great place to sit and do your work, or to grab a coffee and treat to go.  We enjoyed a first-rate cortado, and the almond sandwich cookie with chocolate halvah filling the counterwoman recommended was pretty fabulous.

If you live in the neighborhood, this is your favorite coffee shop.  We highly recommend a visit.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 1st Avenue and Avenue A), New York, NY 10009

WEBSITE

Zucker Bakery

Bread & Butter — 77.1 to 81.3 decibels

Photo credit: Jeanine Botta

By Jeanine Botta

When it comes to nutrition and healthy eating, salad bars have a bad reputation, and concerns are often justified. People tend to make unhealthy decisions that cancel out healthier choices, selecting all the right vegetables before adding hundreds of calories worth of salad dressing and fats that should be eaten sparingly. But if you make smart choices, you can eat well and get your recommended daily requirements of fruits and vegetables that real world American diets often lack.

Working for several years in Midtown, I’d sometimes fit twenty minutes at a gym, thirty minutes at a salad bar, and a quick walk into my lunch hour. Then my company’s headquarters moved to North Carolina and the rest of us started working from home. How I missed the salad bar! Suddenly I had to be more responsible for buying, cleaning, and preparing my own vegetables.

Bread & Butter on Fifth Avenue is the salad bar I visited most often during those years, and even now I’ll go there sometimes for a quick meal. During peak hours, the food is fresh, the recipes are good, and there are abundant healthy choices. Like most salad bars where food is weighed, prices are on the high side. But without having to tip a server or buy, clean, and prepare fruits and vegetables, you save money and time, and boost consumption of those foods.

When I measured sound levels at Bread & Butter, I was surprised the decibel reading wasn’t  lower, because I’d always considered both dining areas to be moderately quiet. Upper and lower levels each feature a television set and piped in music set at low volumes, and on the lower level, sounds of voices at high occupancy can block out television and music. I measured sound sitting directly under a speaker and sitting several feet away – where you can’t hear the music – and obtained similar sound level readings.

If you prefer a predictably quiet sound level and prefer to avoid any amount of broadcast sound, you’ll be taking your chances at Bread & Butter. It is quieter before noon and after peak hours, but after the lunch rush some food selections are not replenished when they run out. Food is also replenished less frequently in the salad bar, there are fewer food selections, and the lower level may be closed on weekends.

But if you’re happy with moderate sound levels in a busy Midtown eatery, the ease of communication is usually decent at Bread & Butter on Fifth Avenue, especially on the lower level.

HOURS

Open 24 hours

LOCATION

303 Fifth Avenue (at the corner of 31st Street), New York, NY 10016

WEBSITE

Bread & Butter