Local & Vine — 76.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

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

Maggie Reilly’s — 72.7 to 73.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Located at the point where upper Chelsea meets Hudson Yards, Maggie Reilly’s is a cosy spot in a restaurant-poor part of town.  There aren’t a lot of options in the area because it is right across the street from the Hudson Yards construction site,  a multi-block project that is in the process of being developed into a mixed used area of large commercial and residential buildings.

We visited Maggie Reilly’s twice.  Our first visit was during a not very crowded brunch, so we realized that it might not be the best measure of the place. There is a bar in the front of the house that is surely loud and boisterous at happy hour or when there is an important game playing on one of many flat screen tvs, but the back dining room is a smaller and quieter space.

The dining area floors are lightly finished wood, and there is an upholstered panel running along the length of the room–there weren’t many hard surfaces. Unnecessary but interesting music was playing a hair louder than we like during our visit, but it wasn’t blaring. One of us finished off a tasty full Irish breakfast, while the other enjoyed a salad. The coffee tasted like it was freeze-dried and not brewed, but it’s a bar not a coffee shop. The staff was friendly and, except for the music, we were happy with our visit.

On our second visit we again were in the back dining room, but this time we came for a mid-week lunch.  Once again we enjoyed our visit but there was one glaring drawback–the music volume was too loud and trebly.  It was a real shame, because the music only served to make an otherwise comfortable space merely manageable.  What made it worse was that, unlike our brunch visit, the music was bland, generic, modern-day bubblegum pop.  Absolutely forgettable and totally unnecessary.  That aside, we enjoyed our very tasty burgers.

Based on our two experiences, we think lunch and brunch at Maggie Reilly’s should always be fine unless there is a big important game or some other event playing on the multiple tvs.  The noise level at dinner will depend on the day, with a greater likelihood that the space will be relaxed earlier in the week. Happy hour, especially later in the week, should probably be avoided, as the place is pretty popular and Maggie Reilly’s offers a special of a sandwich or burger plus a beer for $10 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.

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

Kitchen open daily 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. | Saturday and Sunday brunch served until 4:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 29th and 30th Streets), New York, NY 10001

WEBSITE

Maggie Reilly’s

Nancy Whiskey Pub — 86.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

When we entered Nancy Whiskey Pub we wanted to love it.  It appears to be the perfect neighborhood dive bar–not contrived or styled, it simply is a place you go to drink with your buddies.  And we did fall in love with the place, for five, maybe ten minutes. But after our brief love affair, things quickly turned ugly when a bartender began feeding bills into the jukebox and destroyed what had been a lovely relaxed atmosphere.

No one asked the bartender to play music, so either management requires the bartenders to turn it on at a certain time or maybe she was bored.  We don’t know.  What we do know is that the volume was punishing.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We also don’t know if deafening music is played every day or whether the bartender just wanted to hear some tunes, but when we asked if the volume could be lowered, the bartender shouted, “go upstairs,” which we understood to be “no.”

We did go upstairs and found a smaller space crammed with people who were not quite drunk and already screaming–not surprisingly, this space was only slightly quieter than below. We threw back our drinks and left, emerging onto the comparatively serene street, and continued our search for the perfect bar.

So, sadly, we must advise that you avoid Nancy Whiskey Pub if you cherish your hearing more than finding a genuine neighborhood bar. The prices were good, the physical space  was perfect, but it’s just too damn loud.

HOURS

11:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. every day (sometimes close earlier on Sundays and Mondays)

LOCATION

Street (on the corner of 6th Avenue), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Nancy Whiskey Pub

 

 

Hi-Collar — 71.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We had been meaning to visit Hi-Collar for years but never quite made it there.   That ended on a very hot July afternoon when we found ourselves nearby and went in to cool down with a coffee and, we hoped, strong air conditioning.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

On its website, Hi-Collar explains that the name is a “Fashion-alluding term popularized during the Japanese Jazz Age” that symbolized “Japan’s flirtation with the West.”   By day, Hi-Collar is “a Western-inspired Japanese cafe -popularly known as kissaten – specializing in siphon coffee & Kissaten menu,” but at night it becomes a sake bar.

We were in luck that hot day.  What an interesting place, and comfortable too (the air conditioning was more than sufficient for the heat wave that we had been experiencing).  Hi-Collar was full of Japanese expats enjoying a coffee and a nosh, and everyone was talking softly.

The space is small, just one long counter offering coffee many ways–pour over, aero press, and siphon–and a selection of snacks, including spongy Japanese pancakes that we will definitely try next time as the smell was lovely.  When we entered Hi-Collar, we thought the background music was Sinatra singing his classics.  Well, no.   As we listened carefully it became apparent that what we were hearing was a cut-rate Sinatra–we didn’t know who–and somehow that added to Hi-Collar’s charm.  It just seemed right that they went with fake Sinatra instead of the real thing.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

After wandering around the hot New York City streets, Hi-Collar’s cold brew coffee with a scoop of dense vanilla gelato hit the spot–it was just perfect.  Refreshed, we were ready to brave the sweltering city streets.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Hi-Collar is absolutely delightful– we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.  Yes, it could have been quieter if the music were lowered or turned off, but, frankly, the music added to its charm.  Food is available all day and night, but the kitchen closes one hour before the place does.   And don’t miss a visit to the bathroom at the end of the room.  It’s pretty and offers a dazzling (if obsessive) array of toilet options.

 

 

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

 

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to  1:00 a.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Note: Kitchen last call at is an hour before the closing time.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 1st and 2nd Avenues), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Hi-Collar

 

Corner Bistro — 72.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Corner Bistro’s burger always seems to make the “best burger” lists, no doubt due to its status as a village institution (“the last of the bohemian bars in West Greenwich Village,” proclaims the Corner Bistro website).   We thought the burgers were fine, though not the best we’ve had, but the prices are good (drafts under $5) and the place was surprisingly pleasant at lunch.  The tables in the front were almost all taken when we stopped by, and the bar was about half full.  We avoided the back room because one guy–one very loud guy–made the space noisier than we liked, so we went to the front and took the last empty table.

The Corner Bistro has tin ceilings and corner windows, but the space didn’t feel live or pingy. There’s a lot of wood to absorb and deflect sound.  The tables are fairly close together, but it was fine.   A group of women to our left were great–chatty but not at all loud.  A couple to our right, on the other hand, were loud, with one of the couple  laughing as she spoke….endlessly.  But even with a loud laughing-talker nearby we found the space to be mostly relaxing and would definitely recommend Corner Bistro for lunch.

We couldn’t extrapolate for dinner or later, though, as the room could get packed and the introduction of large quantities of beer could change things.  After all, the following equation is almost always true: people + booze = noise.  That said, we can unreservedly recommend Corner Bistro for lunch, and simply advise that you proceed with caution at happy hour and on busy evenings.

Cash only.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.

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

LOCATION

(at Jane Street), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Corner Bistro

Phebe’s — 70.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We have walked by Phebe’s many times and on one hot summer day we actually walked in.  Immediately we heard music that was louder than we would have liked, and certainly too loud at first, but we suspect that the song that was playing when we entered was someone’s favorite–it featured a long guitar solo and once the song was over, the volume was decreased.  Although things improved once the volume was lowered, we found the music to be fairly trebly which some people find uncomfortable.

The bar was mostly full during our visit, but there were plenty of empty tables.  We sat in a small alcove off the entrance.  There was a small wall separating the alcove from the bar but the sound still spilled over.   An open door let in street noise.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Despite the street noise and music, we would recommend a visit to Phebe’s.   While it was not calm, it was good enough.  Add in great service, good food, and very good prices, and Phebe’s lands on the tolerable list.  That said, we would have assumed that it is probably raucous at happy hour, brunch, and late week dinners, but our excellent waitress told us that brunch is fine if you visit between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.–the space gets a bit rowdier afterwards.  She added that there is a DJ on Thursday and late week dinners are louder.  Phebe’s has a back room and two alcove areas, so you may be able to find a quiet nook even on busy nights.

HOURS

LOCATION

(at the corner of E. 4th Street), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Phebe’s

 

Blarney Stone — 76 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

You just got out of Penn Station and you’re tired, thirsty, and hungry. You know there is a high-end food court somewhere nearby, but you’re not sure where it is. Frustrated you look for the first place that offers something to eat and drink, and there it is: the Blarney Stone. You’ve read that many other locations of the Blarney Stone have closed in the last few years and you think this may be your only chance to experience it.  So suspending disbelief, you wander in hoping that you may be pleasantly surprised. Never stop dreaming.

Sadly, your dream will not be realized at Blarney Stone. Long and short, it’s dark, the music is too loud, and the food is merely adequate. But it will do in a pinch. The music was both loud and odd during our visit–we felt like we were sitting in an airport hotel lounge circa 1993. A couple of regulars lingered at the bar, one of whom slurred a bit too loudly that he couldn’t go to another nearby bar because he got in trouble on account of his drinking too much. Somehow the waitress was cheery despite her surroundings.

Our lunch at Blarney Stone was okay and we got to cross “check out Blarney Stone” off our bucket list. There isn’t much right around Penn Station, so you could do worse. We were there for a late lunch so we can only guess as to how loud the space gets at night. From reviews left at various sites it appears that the Blarney Stone is a good, cheap place to stop off for a drink or nosh before seeing a game or concert at Madison Square Garden. Presumably the place will be packed at those times and could be raucous, so avoid if packed.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.

LOCATION

nue (betw. 30th and 31st Street), New York, NY 10001

WEBSITE

Blarney Stone

Burp Castle — 71.3 to 79.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were told that we must visit Burp Castle because the bartenders were known for shushing the crowd.  Sadly, the rumor appeared to be untrue during our first visit as there was no shushing at all.  We were disappointed, particularly since there was one–and only one–loud guy who threw off the reading.  Once he and his companions left, the place was pleasant.  It was, in fact, the perfect setting for a well-crafted beer and quiet conversation, with its subdued lighting and music played softly in the background.  We must add that the music did not start playing until after the loud table left.  If they had not been present, the place would have been idyllic.

Once Party of Loud left, and even with the music playing, the reading recovered.  In fact, we stopped the first reading, which clocked in at 77.3 decibels, after an hour or so and turned the meter on again to see what the space was like after Boomy McScreamer departed.  The answer?  71.3 blissful decibels.

So why is Burp Castle comfortable?  It has high ceilings, a wool rug, and plenty of wood, all of which help to absorb or deflect sound.  The walls are covered with murals that are appropriate and not hokey, making the space feel like it’s been around for years.  If we lived in this neighborhood, this would be our neighborhood bar.

Burp Castle offers a good selection of interesting beers that are listed on a chalk board behind the bar; the beer menu changes frequently.  There are no food options, but we bet the bartender wouldn’t object if you brought in some nibbly things to go with your beer.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We enjoyed our visit to Burp Castle so much that we followed it up with another a week or so later.  It was louder during our second visit because the place was absolutely packed–standing room only.  That said, the music was turned off as the placed filled up, so the noise volume was created entirely by voices.  And, as rumored, there was shushing from the bartender and at least one patron.  Lots of shushing, in fact, which worked for a few minutes but had to be repeated.  Still, the rumors about this place are true–if you are too loud, you will be shushed (or even asked to leave, or so we’ve been told).  For that reason alone, Burp Castle climbs to the top of the list of our favorite bars.

Even though the reading during our second visit was dangerously close to 80 decibels  we would still recommend Burp Castle.  You may want to give it a pass on a very busy night, but when it’s busy the staff takes measures to keep things in check.  And on a slower night, it’s positively blissful.  Go.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 5:00 p.m. to midnight-ish*

Saturday and Sunday: 4:00 p.m. to midnight-ish*

Closing time is flexible.  It’s more likely that the bar will close after midnight later in the week, but it depends on the crowd.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 2nd and 3rd Avenues), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Burp Castle

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

Pete’s Tavern — 71.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Pete’s Tavern is a long-standing bar and Italian-American restaurant located in Gramercy Park.  It claims to be the oldest continuously operated tavern in New York City (but others make the same claim). It certainly looks like it has been around forever, with an old school tile floor throughout. That floor coupled with exposed brick walls made the front of the house somewhat loud, but the back dining room was fine even though more than half full. Why? There are dividers between booths (we were in a booth) and other structure that likely interferes with sound reflection.

There was, of course, unnecessary music playing in the background, but the music wasn’t being directly broadcast into the dining space.  Rather, what we heard was music spilling over from the juke box in the front bar.  Once again, the music du jour featured one-hit wonders from the 80’s.  Why? We don’t know, but it’s such a common phenomenon that there surely must be a reason.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There are booths and tables available in the front bar space that, while louder, appeared to be tolerable.  As in the back space, there were dividers between booths in the bar area, which presumably helped. If the music volume was lowered in this space, it would have been comfortable.  But that’s not going to happen, so aim for tolerable and you won’t be disappointed.  At least at lunch.  We have no doubt that happy hour and busy evenings will be too loud to enjoy in the bar, but the back room may be able to withstand the aural assault.

Pete’s Tavern is an attractive, old-school tavern and restaurant with reasonably priced lunch specials. The burger was pretty good, but Joe Jr. is nearby and theirs is better (but that’s a high bar). Still, this is a comfortable spot, minus the music.  With the music–and the music will remain–it is a relatively comfortable spot. If you are in Gramercy Park and want to experience a bit of old New York City, Pete’s Tavern is well worth a visit.

HOURS

Sunday through Wednesday: 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.

Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of Irving Place), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Pete’s Tavern