Matryoshka — 64 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

It’s in here somewhere

Finding Matryoshka, an old-school restaurant featuring Russian comfort food, takes some effort–you have to walk through a labyrinthian space to find it, as it is hidden within a Russian bathhouse (the front desk clerk will give you directions).

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

At first, we were the only patrons during a lunch time visit, but other diners followed (including a table of chatty, jovial co-workers).  When we first walked in the waitress went up to the wall mounted tv and lowered the volume on her own initiative, so that the program played softly in the background.  The channel was one we never heard of, OANN, which reported on worldwide weather anomalies, followed by a documentary on the Hittites.  An odd choice, perhaps, but much better than loud, pulsating music.  There is no doubt that the space would have been louder if the room was full, but at 64 decibels there is room to accommodate additional diners.   [When we visited Matryoshka for lunch a few months later, the experience was the same.  There was one loud table but the tv volume was very low, resulting in a reading of 65.8 decibels.]

Matryoshka offers two prix fixe menus at lunch time ($12.95 or 16.95), both of which include a choice of salads (the house salad was simple but very fresh), soup, and an entrée, along with a basket of brown bread and butter.  The food was very good and filling and service was excellent.  We suspect the space may be louder in the evening when fellow diners are more likely to drink, so we will return to get a decibel reading during dinner service.

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

You just don’t find many places like Matryoshka any more.  If you are in the Financial District/South Seaport area, are very hungry, and like Russian food, we heartily recommend that you check out Matryoshka.  It is well worth the visit.

HOURS

7:00 a.m. to midnight every day

LOCATION

88 Fulton Street (betw. William and Gold, closer to Gold), NY, NY 10038

WEBSITE

Matryoshka

Seaport Smorgasburg — 82.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

As charmless as a typical mall food court, as annoying as the original Smorgasburg outdoor locations (though no strollers), the only reason to stop by the Seaport Smorgasburg is if you are a tourist, you are in the Seaport, and you are very hungry. The food is a bit better than typical food court offerings–and a bit pricier, too–but NYC has lots of these food courts now and they all seem to feature the same players.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

In the end, this location of Smorgasburg feels like it could be at any destination space in any big U.S. city.  There was unnecessary music playing a bit too loudly in the background, a constant mechanical hum, lots of hard surfaces, and lots of people.  It’s an uncomfortable space that is meant to get you in and out as quickly as possible.  Our reviews involve actually using the space as intended–i.e., ordering and eating a meal when reviewing a restaurant–so we ordered a few items and waited for them to be announced.  When they were, we went to the quietest spot we could find and ate as quickly as possible.  It was a relief to take the last bite and leave.

There is no reason to plan a visit to Seaport Smorgasburg unless you must (can’t think of why, but who knows?) or you step in to use the public restrooms.  If you are compelled to order food here, take it to go or eat very quickly.  One mitigating factor is booze.  You can buy some.  It may help.

HOURS

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

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

Closed in winter

LOCATION

11 Fulton Street (betw. Water and Front Streets), New York, NY 10038

WEBSITE

Seaport Smorgasburg

180 Maiden Lane – 65.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

180 Maiden Lane’s newly renovated lobby is a privately owned public space (POPS) offering plenty of seating and amenities for the public.  The POPS has only been available from mid-summer 2016 because an extensive renovation was required after Superstorm Sandy.  A couple of years later and the lobby has finally been opened.  It is a clean, bright, and attractive space, but despite an otherwise excellent reading of 65.7 decibels, the soundscape at 180 Maiden Lane could be better.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There is a lot of seating inside the public lobby, and the design of the space is mostly thoughful.  It’s clear that attempts were made to introduce softer objects and materials–plants, trees, and a very comfortable and cushy astroturf in one seating area–that could mitigate the sound amplification caused by all of the hard surfaces, but there is a lot of glass and stone and the space felt live.  The only obvious and loud sound came from the security officers’ walkie-talkies which were set on loud.  Every screech, every beep, every word bounced around the space, leaving us to wonder just how loud it would get if the place was packed (which, we acknowledge, may never happen).

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Since seating is provided throughout the main floor lobby, there are some smaller seating areas that will likely be more manageable than others.  It felt quieter, for example, on the east side, which bordered South Street.  That said, there was a constant mechanical hum throughout the lobby–we think was coming from the escalator leading to the second level, as the sound got louder as we walked towards it.  The hum wasn’t awful but it was constant; it sounded like white noise.

The lobby has one cafe (it was closed during our visit) that offers the usual deli staples of sandwiches, coffee, bottled drinks, etc., but you can bring your own food and drink and enjoy the space.   It was not crowded during our visit, and given how live the space was with a small group of people about, we suspect it could be significantly louder if fully occupied.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

180 Maiden Lane provides two public bathrooms that are clean and disabled accessible.   And it also offers one amenity that no other POPS offers: free charging stations for public use.  Both bathrooms and the charging stations can be found near the Pine Street entrance.

If you are wandering around the Seaport area and want to grab a quick lunch from one of the food trucks in the area, head on over to 180 Maiden Lane to enjoy your nosh, rest your feet, and charge your devices.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

LOCATION

180 Maiden Lane (betw. South and Front Streets), New York, NY 10038

WEBSITE

180 Maiden Lane

Jack’s Stir Brew (Front Street) — 72.7 decibels

All coffee shops are noisy when baristas are using the espresso machines.  This place was no better or worse than any other, clocking in at 72.7 decibels.  The physical space was fine–not too big, not too small, with a handful of tables and stools at the front window–but the background music was louder than it needed to be and favored the higher end of the hearing range, which we found annoying.  The exuberant coffee maker was chatty and loud as she talked over the espresso machine, but her friendliness was genuine and it was clear that she was speaking to regular customers.

There aren’t many options for good coffee around the Seaport, so if you are in need of a caffeine infusion it’s worth checking out Jack’s.  While the place could have been more comfortable, it was not unpleasant, the coffee is very good, and there is a nice selection of baked goods.  Note, however, that this location of Jack’s Stir Brew does not have a bathroom available for customers.  This is inexplicable.  If they only sold coffee for take out we would understand, but the space has tables and seating and it’s not exactly a secret that coffee is a diuretic.  Given New York City’s notorious lack of adequate public toilets, you may want to look for a more accommodating coffee shop.

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

222 Front Street (betw. Beekman and Peck Slip), NY, NY 10038

WEBSITE

Jack Stir Brew