Tom & Jerry’s — 84.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Tom & Jerry’s looks like a fun place to meet friends for a drink.  Located on Elizabeth Street north of Houston, it’s right in the thick of things and yet it isn’t overwhelmed by car or human traffic.  But we wouldn’t suggest you meet your PETA buddies there–the righthand wall sports a number of taxidermied hunting trophies (click the photo above to see the stuffed bear on the righthand side).

We stopped by on the early side of happy hour for a quick drink before another engagement.  The bar’s space is physically comfortable (taxidermy excepted) and one could imagine aimlessly hanging out with friends, except for one glaring flaw: the music volume was set at 11.   Simply put, Tom & Jerry’s is entirely too loud.   A nearby table of workmates was shouting at each other just to be heard.  The shouting wasn’t the cause of our discomfort–and yes, we were not comfortable–it was the music.  Setting the music volume this loud makes absolutely no sense, because scoping the crowd it seemed clear that Tom & Jerry’s is the place you go to hang out with friends or work buddies, not hook up with a stranger (although later on the scene could be much different).

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were terribly disappointed because we wanted to like Tom & Jerry’s, but a potentially comfortable spot was ruined by unnecessarily loud music.  It’s possible that the volume is manageable in the afternoon when the bar first opens and crowds have yet to gather.  Try your luck, if you wish.  As for us, we must recommend that you avoid.

HOURS

12:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (betw. E. Houston and Bleecker Streets), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Tom and Jerry’s

Han Dynasty (East Village) — 75.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The East Village location of Han Dynasty was less than half full when we arrived for lunch, but it quickly filled up and was at least half full by the time we left.  Overall we found the space merely tolerable, which raises concerns for the noise levels when the space is packed.  Han Dynasty has lots of hard surfaces with few few elements that could absorb sound, though unframed art work may have mitigated noise a hair.  Once again there was one overarching factor for the less than optimal soundscape: the music was too loud.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Yes, it could have been worse–our ears weren’t bleeding, after all–but we found the space to be  rather live, and the music (odd choices, by the way) just dominated the soundscape.  There were lots of work groups in the place and they were chatty, but their voices were manageable.  If the music were lowered a couple of notches, the space could have been comfortable.  It was, instead, merely tolerable, and that depended, more on less, on the song that was playing at any given time.

Han Dynasty offers very reasonable and tasty lunch specials.  If the place is packed and the music volume is as loud as it is at lunch, the noise level  probably will be intolerable.  That said, we tolerated the noise level during our visit, but wish it was better.  Why not aim for comfortable?  We suggest that you proceed with caution.

HOURS

Sunday through Wednesday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Thursday through Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 12th and 13th Streets), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Han Dynasty–East Village

Veselka — 72.4 to 78.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our first lunch time visit to the always crowded Veselka clocked in at 78.7 decibels.  The reading was higher than expected (we would have guessed that the sound level was in the lower 70s), but we were seated at the counter within a few feet of the open kitchen and our decibel meter obviously picked up all of the nearby sounds (staff chatter, occasional china noises, and a cook singing softly to himself).  We were also right next to the area where the waitstaff pick up dishes to deliver to their customers.

Even being in the worst possible seat in the house, the sound level wasn’t that bad. The fact that Veselka does not play background music really helps.  On our way out,  we quickly recorded the sound level in the nearby dining room.  It was 72.4 decibels, which was more than acceptable.  The lesson here is that at Veselka you must balance your desire to be seated quickly (counter seats are easier to get) against your desire for a quieter meal.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

On our second lunch time visit, the meter registered 75.9 decibels, which again was higher than we would have guessed.  There are a lot of hard surfaces in the restaurant, including big windows looking out on 9th street, but the absence of background music makes a huge difference because the space was mostly comfortable.  If background music had been playing we think the reading would have easily been ten points higher.   With music, the crowded room–there was a wait when we arrived–would have been unbearable.  Without music, the noise level was mostly manageable, with the bulk of the sound coming from the many conversations throughout the room that were conducted at reasonable levels (i.e., no screamers).

One other plus: No electric hand dryers at Veselka; only paper towels are provided in the restrooms.

And finally, although we focus on sound levels and comfortability, we would be remiss is we didn’t note that Veselka offers one of the finest bowls of borscht in the city.  They are also noted for their tasty and filling pierogis.

Attention restauranteurs, this is how you run a busy but comfortable space: kill or aggressively reduce the volume of background music.  It’s an easy thing to do and it offers immediate relief.

HOURS

Open 24 hours a day

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Veselka

Paul’s Da Burger Joint — 74.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We stopped by Paul’s Da Burger Joint despite its name because we read that it had been around for at least 25 years, which is starting to be a real milestone for New York City restaurants.  We assumed that the good reviews on various restaurant sites, coupled with the 25+ year history meant we were going to have some pretty fabulous burgers.  But we were wrong.  There’s no compelling reason to come here.

Background music was playing softly when we entered, which was encouraging. There’s an open kitchen, so you’ll hear the annoying grill sounds along with the cooks and staff chatting but it’s manageable.  Shortly after we were seated the waitress took our order. Then, inexplicably, someone raised the volume of the music–a classic rock radio station–when a song by Meatloaf came on.  On purpose.  Just our luck, it turns out it was a block of Meatloaf.  While the volume wasn’t set at 11, it was too loud.  And it was Meatloaf.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

A really tasty burger could have made up a bit for the soundscape, but what we got was just meh.  The burger looked good but it had an odd taste, or, more accurately, not much taste–it was more like a chopped steak than a burger, and not in a good way.  The space smells of beef fat and whatever oil they use to fry their french fries, and it didn’t smell fresh.  So we thought to ourselves, why come here? Streecha is around the corner, Veselka is nearby, and if you want a good old-fashioned burger, walk nine short blocks to Joe Jr. to taste what a great diner burger should taste like.

In short, there’s no reason to eat here: the place smells of stale fried beef fat, the burger is fairly tasteless, and the music is too loud.  Ok, one reason to eat here would be that you’ve completed an East Village bar crawl, you drank way too much, and you need to put something–anything–in your stomach right this minute.  Otherwise, avoid.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 7th and 8th Streets), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Paul’s Da Burger Joint

Double Wide — 70.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We went to Double Wide for brunch one Saturday because one of us was craving biscuits with gravy, something that isn’t readily available in New York City.  But Double Wide had it and it was delicious.  And, as you can see from the meter reading, the soundscape was perfect!

Not so fast.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The absolutely wonderful 70.9 dBC reading was taken in Double Wide’s small back patio, which was blissfully calm during our visit.  But to get to the back patio you have to walk through the  oh-so-loud bar first. That is, small back patio aside, the rest of the space is too damn loud.

So during the warmer weather months, you can enjoy your biscuits and gravy and conversation with your companions if you can score a seat outside.  And that is fine, because Double Wide is not a place you should eat at every day.  Why? Three words: loaded tater tots.  And yes, they were appallingly delicious.

HOURS

Monday through Wednesday: 3:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Thursday and Friday: 3:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.

Saturday: 11:30 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. Avenues A and B), New York, NY 10009

WEBSITE

Double Wide Bar

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

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

Tim Ho Wan — 83 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

It’s really hard to get a table at Tim Ho Wan.  This New York City outpost of a well-known and well-rated Hong Kong dim sum chain always has a line.  Probably because it is the least expensive restaurant to earn a Michelin star.  So if you want to go, expect a wait.  And don’t forget to  bring your ear plugs, because the noise levels are uncomfortably high.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Is the food good?  Yes, that’s why it’s jammed. But we won’t be visiting again. In the end, no matter how good the food is, it’s impossible to enjoy your meal–don’t even try to have a conversation–when the music is so loud (and unforgivably bad).

The other customers didn’t seem to care about the noise level, but since the age range appeared to span early-20’s to mid-20’s, we weren’t surprised. It was clear from the moment we stepped in that we were not in their preferred demographic.  The music made that quite clear.

Maybe the folks behind this popular chain might consider opening an adult location where the grownups can have a nosh and a conversation? Until then, avoid.

HOURS

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

Friday and Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

LOCATION

(at the corner of E. 10th Street), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Tim Ho Wan

B & H — 71.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

B & H is a longstanding kosher dairy restaurant located in the East Village.  Essentially it’s pescatarian, as they don’t serve meat but fish is on the menu, and it’s really more of a lunch counter than a restaurant.  An open grill is located behind the counter which runs the length of the space; the counter is lined with stools.  Someone decided there was enough room for a handful of small tables for two that hug the opposite wall (there isn’t), so navigating your way in the space is a challenge but it’s worth it.

Soups reign at B & H. A big bowl of whatever soup you choose (choices include hot borscht, mushroom and barley, vegetable, and matzoh ball) is only $5.50 with bread and butter.  Definitely get the bread–it’s soft and slightly sweet and comes pre-buttered.  Service is very efficient and friendly.  If you order soup, your order will be placed in front of you within a minute or two.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We found the space to be calm even with the counter man shouting phone orders to his co-worker.  A radio played in the background but the volume was very low.  There were some sharp kitchen sounds of dishes being thrown into a bin, but basically the soundscape was  comfortable.  And even though we visited on a Monday night, the place was pretty packed, so we think the reading and this review reasonably reflects what one can expect when B & H is busy.

If you want to experience a bit of old school New York City, come to B & H. After you finish your meal, head on over to nearby Moishe’s Bake Shop (where everything looks kind of stale but it’s actually pretty good).

Highly recommended.  Cash only.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Frirday and Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. St. Marks Place and 7th Street), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

B & H Dairy Kosher Restaurant

 

Raclette — 78.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The restaurant was packed when we got there, even though our reservation was set for a time squarely between the end of brunch and beginning of dinner.  Yes, the place is that popular that a reservation is a must.  As a conseqence, the small space was louder than we would have liked, at first, but the noise level improved.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

About halfway through our visit, the sound level became a lot better.  The tenor changed after a couple of tables left and someone appeared to have lowered the unnecessary music.  In fact, the room was perfect. The second half of the visit made up for the first half, helped in no small part by the food.  If you love cheese–particularly melted cheese–Raclette is a must visit.  Perfect on a cold winter’s afternoon.

HOURS

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

Monday through Thursday: 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Friday: 12:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

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

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Raclette